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December 10, 2018

Human Rights First Marks Human Rights Day, 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Washington, D.C.—Today, as the world recognizes Human Rights Day and marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights First President and CEO Michael Breen issued the following statement:

Seventy years after its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a roadmap to a better world. Crafted in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, it grew out of the Roosevelts’ idealistic yet pragmatic vision. They understood that, as the Universal Declaration states, respect for human rights and human dignity are “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

On this Human Rights Day, our nation is at an inflection point. Will the United States continue to champion human rights? Or will we dispense with our ideals in favor of a shortsighted, self-destructive agenda? When President Trump alienates our allies, cozies up to dictators, and denies protection to vulnerable refugees, he undermines the international structures and norms that have helped secure American interests for decades.

I have little doubt that the primary architect of the Universal Declaration, Eleanor Roosevelt, would look to our southern border and wish we were better stewards of her legacy. Of hostility to refugees, prevalent in her day as in ours, Roosevelt said, “We must not let ourselves be moved by fear in this country.” It was in this climate that she championed the Universal Declaration, which enshrined the right to seek asylum. 

Now another group of persecuted people—including many children—are asking only that the United States live up to our ideals. It is a test, of sorts, and we are failing.

So today, as we honor the adoption of this great document and the brave work of the human rights defenders, veterans, faith leaders, and political leaders who have sought to bring it to life, we reaffirm our commitment to deliver upon its promise.

For more information or to speak with Breen, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.