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Universal declaration on human rights



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N E W S R E L E A S E

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u n i v e r s a l d e c l a r a t i o n o f h u m a n r i g h t s

Following is the statement made to the UN General, Assembly on 11 December by Australia's Permanent Representative during the debate to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights =

Mr President,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lays . down in concise form the range of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to which all people are entitled» The rights embodied in the Declaration derive from the promise that the United Nations era - emerging from the Second World War - would see the creation of societies in which all human beings would be entitled to live in freedom from fear and

freedom from want» The Declaration stands today as one of the UN's most impressive and enlightened achievements, .

2» Australian support for the Universal Declaration has never been in doubt» It is a document of immense and unquestioned importance,. As the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs said during the general debate earlier in

this session, the moral authority, of the United Nations depends on our recognising that the United Nations must deal:·..with; .human rights issues in a fair and practical way. This, he said, is something we are particularly conscious of as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration,

3» ■ ' Australia played an active role in the early work of the United Nations which led to the adoption first of the Charter itself, and then of the Universal Declaration, Article 56 of the Charter, under which member States pledged themselves to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the United Nations so as to ensure universal respect

for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms, was incorporated in the Charter at Australia's suggestion. Indeed Articles 55 and 56 provided the essential impetus for the internal! onal community to proceed with the drafting of what was called an International Bill of Rights.

Mr President

It had been the hope of many member States in the first years of this organisation that an International Bill could be drafted quickly, including not only a Declaration

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representing the common aspirations of all peoples of the world, but also machinery to help in the implementation of rights. As is well known, almost 20 more years were required for the drafting of the two Covenants and the Optional Protocol, but this period did serve to help consolidate

the Universal Declaration,

5. The Universal Declaration was adopted in the

Palais de Chaillot, when the United Nations was conducting its 3rd Session in Paris in 1948. It is appropriate that the Universal Declaration should have been adopted in the capital of the country which had proclaimed in 1789 the rights of all people to live together in liberty, equality and fraternity.

6. But we have our own special association with this

Declaration - it was adopted under the Presidency of the then Australian Foreign Minister, Dr H.V. Evatt. I think: it would be appropriate to quote from the statement made'-by Dr Evatt immediately after the adoption of the draft

resolution. He said, and his remarks are equally valid today, that the 1 remarkable achievement1 of the adoption of the Declaration without direct opposition was an answer to those who criticised the United Nations for paying too much

attention to political activities and too little to the field of social, humanitarian and cultural progress. Dr Evatt said that if the work in these social, humanitarian and cultural.fields were carried through progressively, it would gradually result in bringing to an end many of the political difficulties which divided the members of the

United Nations. This work has not yet been completed, but it is fair to say that those predictions have been very largely borne out by what we have seen in the last thirty years. The Universal Declaration has demonstrated that the

social and economic changes which have resulted, among other things, from increases in communication between peoples, have brought with them opportunities for the relaxation of international tensions and opportunities for peoples to

control their own destinies for the good of mankind a:s :a whole.

Mr President

7. I have already noted that the Universal

Declaration comprises but one part of what was seen in 1948 as an International Bill of Rights. My government has already become a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is working

towards ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I should also note that further . instruments are being elaborated within the United Nations system, in order to expand the sense of, and give practical effect to the basic texts set out in the Universal Declaration.

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8ο To this end Australia, as a member of the

Commission on Human Rights, is taking part in the drafting of an international convention On the protection of all . persons from being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We look

forward to the early completion of this'draft. Likewise, we . look forward to v the completion of the draft convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The Commission on Human Rights moreover is drafting a Declaration on the

elimination of all forms of religious intolerance..

9. Australia is a party to the International Convention

on the elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which must be seen as .one of the major achievements of the UN in the human rights field. If there is any area on which :

there is universal agreement it is racial discrimination; ' it is something that no nation, notpeople, no individual’ ' , can tolerate; we are all committed to its early and total .

eradication. . , ■ .

10. Article 8 of the Universal Declaration provides .

that everyone has the right to an effective remedy by . the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by the constitution or by law. I would note our pleasure at having been able to participate

in. a seminar conducted this year by the Division of Human Rights, in response to General Assembly Resolution 32/123, dn the subject of national and legal institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. “

11. In a statement marking the Thirtieth Anniversay

of the Declaration, the Australian Attorney-General said that the Australian Government intended to introduce legislation next year to establish an Australian Human Rights Commission. The Attorney-General said he hoped that the Australian States would proceed with action to embody similar . . '

legislation in the State framework,, Extensive discussions have already taken place with the States about participation , in the proposed Commission. " :

Mr President . . . . ,

12. We have observed that tonight you will be

presiding over a special ceremonial meeting at Which human ' rights prizes are to berawarded to commemorate the . 30th anniversary. The four individuals and the four organisations that are to receive prizes are all well known to us.for their untiring efforts to secure the rights and

freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. · " .

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Mr President,

13. I will now turn briefly to the program for the

celebration of the 30th anniversary year in Australia.

14= My government has decided to implement a

broad program of activities for the anniversary. In drawing up the program,. the government has taken",; full account'of the need to lay emphasis on educational approaches, from within and from outside formal school systems (as recommended by Resolution 3 (XXXIII) of the Commission on Human Rights)

and has also taken account of the guidelines proposed in General Assembly Resolution 32/123.

15= The intention of the Australian program,

which was outlined by our Prime Minister on 20 July 1978, is to demonstrate that Australia re-affirms its commitment to the human rights standards that the international community has aspired to uphold for the past 30 years. The government has prepared discussion kits on the Declaration for use by schoolchildren and also by ethnic

and aboriginal organisations throughout Australia. Translations of the Declaration are being made available so that everybody in the Australian community will have a full understanding of its provisions. This has necessitated the translation and distribution of the

Declaration in over fifty languages. The government has also translated an explanation of the Australian Racial Discrimination Act into over 20 languages. In addition, an explanation of the Racial Discrimination;Act is being

translated into a number of aboriginal dialects for distribution on cassettes. . !

16. The Australian Government is also distributing

posters and other material so as to encourage community debate and discussion. A commemorative embossed envelope is on issue in Australian post-offices. I should note also that non-governmental organisations in Australia have been conducting programs to commemorate the Anniversary. .

17. Because of the importance which my government

attaches to the educational basis of human rights, it sponsored the attendance of four Australian academics at the UNESCO Congress on the Teaching of Human Rights in. Universities, which was held in Vienna in September this year. The reports of the academics who attended this .Congress will enable the Australian National Commission for UNESCO to coordinate follow-up activities. Without appropriate consolidation many of the activities might prove to be of only limited impact and we believe it important that arrangements be made to ensure that the celebrations are not forgotten as soon as the year is past. The discussion kits which are to be circulated:in Australia will be available for use in schools and by community groups throughout 1979 and beyond.

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Mr President

18= I shall conclude this statement by noting

that the Australian Prime Minister, in his statement, made on 9 December, to commemorate this anniversary, recalled the importance of the Universal Declaration as one of the most significant and enlightened achievements of the United Nations = For thirty years it has been a basic document promoting the

aspirations of all nations and all people concerned with fundamental rights and freedoms.

19= It is now our task to continue to work, jointly

and separately as the Charter prescribes, to strengthen” and expand the rights of individuals and peoples in our various socieities. The task is not an easy one, but this debate today serves as an illustratidn of international .

commitment - universal commitment - to the principles which are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."