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Card. Peter Turkson, Archive Zenit

Cardinal Turkson: Marking 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man

Address at International Conference: ‘Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations’

Seventy years have passed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man but many of its aspirations are unfilled. This was at the core of the address December 10, 2018, by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development.

His address came at the opening session of the International Conference on “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations,” underway from December 10-11, 2018, at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The Cardinal recalled that the commitments from 70 years ago were affirmed by the World Conference on Human Rights of 1993, which brought together in Austria representatives of 171 nations and various advocacy organizations.

“Twenty-five years later, it is proper to ask oneself what happened to the hope of seeing these rights realized for all human beings,” Cardinal Turkson said. “It is painful to see that the ideal proposed by the documents in word seems sometimes to falter under the weight of controversial interpretations, of excessive politicization and of numerous defaults.

“Despite the solemn proclamations and the expectations aroused by them, new violations of human dignity have been added, while old wounds have resurfaced and others, such as the case of slavery, have taken on different faces.”

* * *

Cardinal Peter K. Appiah Turkson’s Address

 Eminence,

Excellencies,

Dear Brothers and Sister and Dear Friends,

I have the pleasure of giving you a warm welcome to the International Conference on the theme ”Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations,” which the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development and the Pontifical Gregorian University wished to organize, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (Paris, December 10, 1948) and of the Declaration of the Program of Action of Vienna (Vienna, June 25, 1993) observing, respectively, the 70th and 25th anniversary.

Through this initiative, the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development intends not only to reaffirm the value of the Rights of Man and their centrality in the mission entrusted to it by the Holy Father, but especially to question itself on the state of human rights in contemporary societies, and to explore some new ones for a keener awareness and protection of human dignity today.

Seventy years have passed since the United Nations General Assembly, then made up of 58 States, adopted formally the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, with which the equal dignity of all human beans and the universal and inalienable rights of the person find their solemn recognition at the international level. The universality of the Rights of Man was then reaffirmed and, in a certain sense confirmed, in particular by the World Conference on Human Rights of 1993, which saw gathered in the Austrian capital representatives of 171 States and numerous exponents of civil society, belonging to different cultures and traditions. The Declaration adopted on that occasion constitutes a precious patrimony and a sign of hope for humanity.[1]

Twenty-five years later, it is proper to ask oneself what happened to the hope of seeing these rights realized for all human beings.

It is painful to see that the ideal proposed by the documents in word seems sometimes to falter under the weight of controversial interpretations, of excessive politicization and of numerous defaults.

Despite the solemn proclamations and the expectations aroused by them, new violations of human dignity have been added, while old wounds have resurfaced and others, such as the case of slavery, have taken on different faces.

One notices increasingly, moreover, that while poverties and social injustices grow within Nations, the differences between States not rarely continue to be addressed through the use of force — even of armed force — with inevitable and nefarious consequences for populations that have to pay the painful price. In various areas of the world, heinous armed conflicts persist, fuelled by dark interests, with their procession of unspeakable violations of the right to life and to physical integrity, as well as of other human rights, such as that of access to medical care, education, work, and lodging. Therefore, it is necessary that the fundamental right to peace and that of integral development be recognized and adequately ensured.

Eminence,

Excellencies.

Dear Brothers and Sisters and Dear Friends,

Over these two days, we will be able to listen to reports of representatives of the diplomatic and academic world and of the civil society, as well as testimonies of those that day after day do their utmost so that human dignity is not frustrated. I wish to thank them earnestly for their contribution, which will certainly enrich our works and will be of inspiration for our commitment in the Church and in society.

Before, however, I invite you to listen to an authoritative voice — that of Pope Francis, who wished to send a message of encouragement to all the participants gathered for this Conference.

Thank you for your attention.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

[1] Intervention of the Holy See Representative at the World Conference on the Rights of Man, June 21, 1993.

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