The world marks the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR has been instrumental in promoting and protecting human rights, but has weaknesses that require reforms. These include its vague language and lack of enforceability, lack of protection against non-state actors, lack of representation of marginalized groups, and need to be updated to reflect current challenges.
By Thura Nira
The world marks the 74rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, following the atrocities of World War II.
Over the past 74 years, the UDHR has been instrumental in promoting and protecting human rights around the world. It is a fundamental document that outlines the rights and freedoms that all human beings are entitled to regardless of their race, religion, gender, or nationality. However, despite its significance, there are certain aspects of the UDHR that require reforms in order to better address the current challenges faced by human rights defenders.
The UDHR has the following weaknesses.
ONE, the declaration is too vague and lacks specific mechanisms for the enforcement of its provisions. Notably, the Declaration is a non-binding document, meaning that its provisions are not enforceable in the same way as a treaty or a domestic law. This lack of enforceability makes the document is little more than a set of empty promises.This limitation has made it difficult to hold governments accountable for violations of the UDHR, and has allowed some countries to ignore their obligations under the declaration.
SECOND, is the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights only applies to governments, and not to non-state actors such as corporations or individuals. This means that it does not provide protections against abuses committed by these actors, which can be just as damaging as those committed by governments.
THIRD, is the lack of representation of certain groups in the UDHR. The UDHR was drafted by a group of experts who were predominantly from Western countries, and as a result, the document reflects the values and priorities of this group. Hence, the UDHR does not adequately address the rights and needs of marginalized communities, such as indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities.
More specifically, the UDHR does not adequately address the intersectionality of rights and the multiple forms of discrimination that individuals may face based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, and other identities. This has resulted in a lack of protection for marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as women, refugees, and indigenous peoples, who often face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
In order to address these issues and ensure the continued relevance of the Declaration, reforms are needed.
One potential solution is the creation of a binding treaty that incorporates the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and provides specific mechanisms for the enforcement of its provisions. This would give the document teeth and ensure that its provisions are not just words on paper.
The UDHR needs to be updated to reflect the current challenges faced by human rights defenders. The world has changed significantly since the UDHR was adopted in 1948, and new issues have arisen that require attention. For example, the UDHR does not explicitly mention the rights of refugees, the rights of women to control their own bodies, or the rights of individuals to privacy and freedom from surveillance.
Additionally, reforms could be made to expand the scope of the document to include non-state actors and provide protections against abuses committed by these actors. This could be done through the creation of international norms and standards for the behavior of corporations and individuals, as well as the establishment of mechanisms for the resolution of disputes and the enforcement of penalties for those who violate these standards.
Equally, it is important to involve a more diverse group of experts in the drafting and implementation of the UDHR. This could be achieved through the establishment of an advisory council or committee that is composed of representatives from different regions, cultures, and backgrounds. By involving a wider range of voices in the process, the UDHR could become more inclusive and relevant to the needs of all people.
In conclusion, the UDHR is a crucial document that has played a significant role in promoting and protecting the rights of individuals around the world. However, reforms are needed to address the outdated nature of the document, the lack of recognition and protection of economic, social, and cultural rights, the intersectionality of rights, and the lack of enforcement mechanism.