Exchange Chambers celebrates International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2020

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document drafted by lawyers from around the world under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States of America. This beautifully crafted document, inspired by and drafted in response to the atrocities of World War II, sets out fundamental truths about the human condition as exemplified by Article 1:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Since the Declaration human rights law developed both internationally and at the domestic level. Indeed, the rights recognized in the UDHR are enshrined in UK Law in the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Celestine Greenwood, a new member of Exchange, believes that as lawyers we are uniquely privileged to be able to “apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination” and that through our practice over the coming year we can bring to life the UN’s 2020 Theme: Recover Better- Stand Up for Human rights.

Celestine is particularly inspired by a much-quoted speech given by Eleanor Roosevelt on the 10th anniversary in 1958 to the UN General Assembly. It is a timeless and timely reminder to us all:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Human Rights must not simply be at the centre of the post Covid-19 world as the UN exhorts but must, be at the centre of all we do.