Press Release

International Human Rights Day Statement by the United Nations Resident Coordinator 10 December 2022

10 December 2022

We must urgently shift from economic approaches and models that fuel instability to a new social contract, which more fairly shares power, resources and opportunities and sets the foundations of a sustainable human rights-based economy.

For 74 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has stood as a beacon of hope and a global guide towards development, peace and security. This remarkable document, born out of the brutality witnessed during the first and second World Wars, enshrines the rights of all human beings and recognises the equal worth of every person.

Adopted on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UDHR marked the first time the international community agreed on a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. The UDHR became the blueprint for international, national, and local laws and policies.

In the years following its adoption, the UDHR gave rise to many struggles for stronger human rights protection and helped them to be more recognised.

Article 1 of the UDHR, which states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," fuelled the principles of the Freedom Charter and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Exactly 48 years after the UDHR was adopted, on 10 December 1996, the South African Constitution was signed into law.

The provisions in the UDHR inspired the Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution. South Africa successfully transitioned from a discriminatory regime to a thriving democracy with a globally revered Constitution guaranteeing civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

But the promise of the UDHR and the Constitution is being tested – not for its value, but rather in terms of a reversal in the enjoyment of rights that we are currrently witnessing.

Global economic shocks and uneven recovery following Covid-19 have amplified poverty, inequality and structural discrimination.

Women’s and children’s rights are violated daily through violence and abuse.

More than two-thirds of young people are unemployed.

Climate-related disasters have become more commonplace, claiming lives and battering livelihoods.

As South Africa tackles these challenges, the values and rights enshrined in the UDHR and the Constitution must continue to steer our solutions.

We must urgently shift from economic approaches and models that fuel instability to a new social contract, which more fairly shares power, resources and opportunities and sets the foundations of a sustainable human rights-based economy.

International Human Rights Day, this year, marks the start of a year-long campaign to promote and recognise the milestone 75th anniversary of the UDHR in 2023 (UDHR75) under the theme “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.”

With pushback against the human rights agenda and threats to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the campaign is a rallying call for us to mobilise in defence of human rights and our common future.

Let us stand up for human rights.

Let us invest in human rights.

Let us demonstrate what humanity can achieve when we act with common purpose.

History has shown us that the solutions to present and future challenges are rooted in human rights.

Today and every day, the United Nations stands with the people of South Africa to work towards a more sustainable, just, and prosperous society.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Ayodele Odusola

UNDP Resident Representative
Ayodele Odusola assumed his role as UNDP Resident Representative in June 2019. Prior to this appointment, he was the Chief Economist and Head of the Strategy and Analysis for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa team in New York. He is no stranger to South Africa having previously served as Senior Economic Adviser for UNDP South Africa. Prior to joining the United Nations, Odusola worked with the Presidency of Nigeria (1993-2015). Odusola has lectured in several universities in Africa and has published over 50 articles in national and international journals, editing and authoring books as well as technical reports. In 2001, he was the African Visiting Scholar to the International Monetary Fund.

UN entities involved in this initiative

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labour Organization
International Organization for Migration
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Information Centre
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
World Food Programme
World Health Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative