Did you know that December 10th is Human Rights Day? I had unfortunately never heard of this day until recently. Although I have spent much of my life concerned for the welfare and well-being of others, I was a bit surprised at the relative anonymity of the occasion. As far as I could recall, we never talked about it in school or any of my college courses, and it was certainly never highlighted in my workplace. However, I am proud to currently work for a company that brought this worthy date to my attention and allowed me to share what I learned about it with others in this blog.
The commemoration of this date comes from the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following the horrors of World War II, the United Nations was established to promote global unity, cooperation and, it was hoped, avoid future conflicts. The establishment of a set of fundamental Human Rights was an integral part of the organizational statement of purpose for the document and a cornerstone for its activities – the modern-day equivalent of a “core value.”
Ratified on December 10th, 1948, this remarkable document asserted that all beings shared “common dignity and rights” and that human rights were universal to all regardless of “race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” In total, 30 rights and freedoms were mentioned and codified in the document. While these assertions were quite common in many countries separately, it was the first modern, global declaration of these rights.
Although impressive, we need to be very clear here. While the diplomats were drafting these rights at the UN, the reality for many Americans and other world citizens stood in sharp contrast to the values expressed in the document. In the U.S., voter suppression, racial terrorism, and discrimination against blacks were commonplace. After a wartime entrance into the workforce, women were pushed back into their homes from jobs they found gratifying and purposeful. The LGBTQ community had no rights to speak of whatsoever. Over a million Latinos, Mexican Americans in particular, were branded foreign agents and illegally deported to Mexico in a series of military-style raids throughout the southwest. None of this can be forgotten, yet hypocrisy aside, we should not diminish the importance of the ideals of the UDHR, even when its words belied reality.
Regarding labor, the UDHR set aside specific guidance. It reaffirmed the individual’s right to work, choice of employment, and proper workplace conditions. Equal pay for equal work was highlighted, and what we term a “living wage” was outlined. An employee’s right to unionize was explicitly mentioned. This reflected the predominance of social welfare as a prominent ideology in the post-war era. It was understood that an individual’s quality of life is often directly related to their employment opportunities and situations. This idea has come back into the spotlight since the recent Coronavirus crisis.
Today we celebrate the UDHR in December as a time for people in the United States and around the world to join and stand up for the rights and dignity of all individuals. The theme set in 2020 for the 2021 year we’ve just experienced was “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights,” directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic. While Covid highlighted and exacerbated global disparities in wealth, inequality, and entrenched discrimination, it also confirmed, if nothing else, how we are all connected in a worldwide community and that an injury to one is an injury to all.
In the last 18 months, the additional social strife coinciding with the pandemic created a perfect storm that highlighted the dichotomy between the UDHR ideals and ongoing realities for many of our fellow citizens. However, the silver lining continues to be the exposure of these issues that must be seen, recognized, understood, called out, and discussed so solutions can be found. We can find our common ground and move forward together through this process.
For me, that is the legacy of the Declaration of Human Rights and why it is essential to celebrate and recognize its ideals. When we finally come out of Covid, it would be a horrible shame to return to the same place as before. However, our shared experience has provided us with a roadmap to move forward with a different plan. To do this, we need to be open-minded and willing to accept and embrace differing opinions and lifestyles while sharing in our collective humanity.
There is still a lot of recovery, action, and change needed. It’s up to us as individuals to push for the human cause, as we are all better together. In all of our diversity and uniqueness, we deserve the same rights as a whole. So while we’re celebrating all the usual December holidays, let’s add this “new” one – Human Rights Day. Let us all embrace the hope and promise of a new era – one focused on love, compassion, empathy, trust, and shared responsibility to care for one another.
At Goodwin Recruiting, we recognize that employment opportunities are a path to a brighter future for so many. Our Core Values of being Dedicated to Diversity & Inclusion and our purpose of Enhancing Clients’ Businesses and Changing Candidate’s Lives drive our daily actions and goals. We genuinely believe that we can have an impact and make the world a better place. We aren’t just here to be recruiters. We want to be a part of changing the paradigm. Everybody deserves the same opportunity to make a good living that makes them happy. Let us help you find your happy place.