75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “the common standard of achievement for all people and all nations”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, a landmark document that established a common standard for human rights around the world. Following World War II, which was characterized by terrible atrocities and extreme suffering for humanity, the UDHR emerged. The urgent need to create a global framework for protecting human dignity and preventing future violations led to its formation.
Over these 75 years, the Declaration’s main goals have been to instill justice, equality, and fundamental freedoms in society. It is a cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, serving as a worldwide model for regional, national, and local laws and regulations.
A variety of human rights allude to the work of libraries: Article 12 refers to the right to privacy; Article 26 marks the right to education; Article 27 states that everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community; and of course, the heart’s mission of libraries is reflected in Article 19, which refers to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
In addition to providing access to information, libraries and librarians play a vital role in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide by building awareness, empowering individuals and communities, developing diverse collections, programs, and services, promoting inclusion, and advocating for policy change.
IFLA has promoted human rights through a variety of means, placing the principles of freedom of access to information and freedom of expression at the heart of its values alongside wider human rights.
In 1997, IFLA’s decision to establish the Committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) strengthened the Federation’s commitment to actively promote and defend human rights in relation to information access. This decision encouraged the profession to engage pro-actively with human rights, which was a radical expansion of the profession’s self-concept.
As expressed in the Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services, and Intellectual Freedom, IFLA proclaims the fundamental right of human beings both to access and to express information without restriction.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration, it is crucial to continually defend against ongoing challenges to freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. It is also a useful opportunity to remember their relevance in today’s post-pandemic world, with challenges such as armed conflicts, attacks on press freedom, disinformation, hate speech, censorship, and discrimination.
This decade has been called “The Decade of Action to deliver the Global Goals,” which calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges through global action and building on the progress achieved in the last 75 years. This decade will be the most critical for our generation. This call for action involves all sectors; today, more than ever, the work, ethics, and professionalism of librarians are needed to tackle the global challenges. Upholding and promoting human rights requires ongoing work.