To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2018, join the UN’s #StandUp4HumanRights campaign to promote and defend universal human rights.
December 10 is Human Rights Day, a day commemorating the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the importance of securing human rights for all people.
This year, December 10 also marks the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these two covenants form the International Bill of Human Rights. This campaign will highlight the value of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
In honor of Human Rights Day, here are 11 of our favorite quotes:
“When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the center of our institution no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” – Nelson Mandela
“We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation.” – Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
“A right delayed is a right denied.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When you deprive people of their right to live in dignity, to hope for a better future, to have control over their lives, when you deprive them of that choice, then you expect them to fight for these rights.” – Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan
“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Our hopes for a more just, safe, and peaceful world can only be achieved when there is universal respect for the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family.” – UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
“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. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” – John F. Kennedy
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel
“There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and no lasting peace or sustainable development without respect for human rights and the rule of law.” – Former UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson
This article was originally written in December 2015 and updated in June 2023.