Universal rights and New Zealanders
“There is no single model of democracy, or of human rights,
or of cultural expression for all the world. But for all the world,
there must be democracy, human rights and free cultural expression…
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, far from insisting on
uniformity, is the basic condition for global diversity. That is
its great power. That is its lasting value. The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights enshrines and illuminates global pluralism and diversity.
It is the standard for an emerging era in which communication and
collaboration between States and peoples will determine their success
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
The international law of human rights establishes principles,
standards and goals for the relationship between a state, individuals
All societies, religions and cultures have dwelt on the issue of
what rights and responsibilities an individual has within his or
her community, what he or she can do to others, and what power a
government may legitimately exercise over individuals and groups.
Adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights marked the first occasion that a world
organisation (the United Nations) articulated and agreed a common
set of rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural
– to which people everywhere are entitled. Its adoption was
a landmark event signalling that human rights are a matter of legitimate
The Declaration constitutes “a common standard of achievement
for all people and all nations” based on “recognition
of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights
of all members of the human family” as “the foundation
of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. Many societies
have gone further and included these principles and rights in their
national constitutional arrangements.
The Declaration regards all rights – civil, political, economic,
social and cultural – as indivisible as well as universal;
that is, they are deemed to be of equal importance being interdependent
and interrelated, and therefore requiring the same level of protection.
Today, there is also a growing acknowledgement of the relationship
between governance, human development and human rights.
Recently, in a publication called Development and Human Rights: The
Role of the World Bank, the World Bank wrote: “By placing the
dignity of every human being – especially the poorest –
at the very foundation of its approach to development, the Bank helps
people in every part of the world build lives of purpose and hope.”
A recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) annual Human Development
Report is devoted entirely to the relationship between human rights
and development. In his Foreword, Mark Malloch Brown, the head of
UNDP, writes: “[A] broad vision of human rights must be entrenched
to achieve sustainable human development. When adhered to in practice
as well as principle, [human rights and sustainable human development]
make up a self-reinforcing virtuous circle.”
Today, there is increasing recognition of the close relationship between
governance, human development and human rights.
As with other historic documents, our understanding of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights evolves with the passage of time. The
Declaration is animated by a sense of the dignity and well-being
of all individuals and communities.
Find out more!
This article is taken from the report on the Re-Evaluation of
the Human Rights Protections in New Zealand, commissioned by then
Justice Minister Margaret Wilson from former Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade senior legal adviser Bill Mansfield and others.
Declaration of Human rights influences New Zealand - and New
Zealand influenced the Declaration