Declarations of the United Nations

United Nations Declarations (New York)

The Dag Hammarskjöld Library of the United Nations continuously publishes the CONVENTIONS, DECLARATIONS AND OTHER ACTUAL RIGHTS IN RESOLUTIONS OF THE UN GENERAL MEETING (from 1946). Since a German translation service was established in 1975, they have been accessible in German.

The United Nations agreed on international days, weeks, years and decades of commemoration. They are dedicated to specific events and themes or to universal tasks and rights. A United Nations website has been set up for this purpose. Some examples listed on the UN website are given here. The respective memorial days have their own websites.

>International Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27th

On November 1st, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/60/7) rejecting the denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, in whole or in part, as well as all acts of religious intolerance and violence against persons and communities for ethnic or religious reasons.

>International Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace

March 8th

The idea for International Women’s Day comes from the USA and the struggle for civil rights, especially the right to vote for women. In Germany, the socialist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) first proposed the introduction of an international Women’s Day at the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen on 27 August 1910. In honor of the women who triggered the February Revolution in Russia with their strike in Petersburg on March 8, 1917 (Gregorian calendar), the Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow in 1921 – at the suggestion of the Bulgarian delegation – introduced March 8 as a day of remembrance. The United Nations first commemorated Women’s Day on March 8th, 1975, the International Year of Women; other events were held annually on that day.

>International Day of the Disappeared

August 30th

Enforced disappearance is a form of state violence often practised by secret services and private organisations or individuals on behalf of others. Disappearance in secret and/or circumstances unknown to relatives is a violation of human rights and, in the case of armed conflict, of international law. On 18 December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance” within the framework of Resolution 47/133. On 21 December 2010, at its 71st plenary session, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 65/209, an “International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.”

The Day of the Disappeared recalls the fate of people who, against their will, are trapped in places and poor conditions unknown to their families or lawyers. The initiative for this was taken by the Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos (FEDEFAM), an NGO founded in 1981 and active in Latin America. For humanitarian aid organizations that work for the protection of human rights, such as Amnesty International, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the commitment to the disappeared is a focal point of their work.

The ICRC estimates the number of “disappeared” at hundreds of thousands: “In Latin America between 1966 and 1986 about 90,000 people ‘disappeared’. In the Balkans, ten years after the end of the war, more than 19,000 people are still considered missing. In Austria, the fates of over 25,000 civilians and soldiers since the Second World War have not been clarified. Since 1980, Amnesty International has been aware of more than 50,000 cases in which people have “disappeared”, and the estimated number of unreported cases is much higher. In 2012, Amnesty documented 31 countries in which people “disappeared” due to state terrorist measures.

In December 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 61/117 on the protection of all persons from disappearances and declared 30 August “International Day of the Disappeared” and “Day of Remembrance of Victims”: “Both the Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classify “disappearances” as crimes against humanity, thus exempting it from a limitation period and allowing perpetrators to be prosecuted even after more than 20 years”.

>Universal Children’s Day

November 20th

The “Convention on the Rights of the Child” (also known as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989 and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. The aim of the Convention is to ensure that children (young people aged between 0 and 18 years) are perceived as independent personalities endowed with dignity, their own needs, interests and rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by most countries in the world, from which a universal validity of children’s rights can be derived. All EU states have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Deutsche Institut für Menschenrechte in Berlin has published a brochure of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as a PDF file on its website, which contains the wording of the convention and related materials. Further information on children’s rights can be found on the website.

The European Union wants to do more to protect children and their rights in Europe and beyond. On 17 February 2011, the European Commission therefore proposed an Agenda for the Rights of the Child, which proposes eleven concrete measures, including legal provisions and support for the authorities in the EU countries. The proposed agenda is available as a PDF file on the European Commission’s website.

In this context, the European Commission has pointed out that, according to a survey (in 2009), 78% of children are not informed that they have any rights at all and 80% do not know where to turn in case of emergency. A survey carried out in 2010 confirmed this finding and surveyed priority groups such as Roma and Sinti, travellers and young people with “special needs”.

On 20 November 2014, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte) published a press release entitled “Anyone who takes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child seriously must anchor human rights education in education for children and young people”. The press release makes it clear that the problem persists that children and young people have to learn about their own rights and that human rights education is integrated into school and extracurricular educational work. Further information on educational material can be found on the Institute’s website.

On the basis of a current study by the Institute, the Federal Government, the Länder and local authorities in Germany are recommended to explicitly anchor “human rights education with a focus on children’s rights in educational goals and plans, school quality standards, guidelines and programmes for early childhood education”. Beate Rudolf, director of the Institute and co-author of the study, stated according to the press release that “the implementation of the commitment to human rights education in and outside schools (…) in Germany does not (… yet) meet international requirements”. The study makes it clear that there is a need for further action with regard to anchoring human rights education as an educational goal for all age groups – up to and including educational materials – and that “the state’s commitment to the high value of human rights education for children and young people must also be followed by action”. The Institute recommends that “human rights education should be firmly anchored in the training and continuing education plans of pedagogical and voluntary specialists”.

>International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25th

Violence against women and girls is a problem that is growing worldwide. Every third woman in the world is a victim of violence. In 1999, 25 November was declared International Day by the UN General Assembly, but its origins date back to 1960, when the three “Mirabel sisters” from the Dominican Republic were murdered for their political commitment.

>World AIDS Day

December 1st

No new AIDS infections, no discrimination against AIDS sufferers and no more deaths due to AIDS, that was the motto of World AIDS Day 2014. The day is internationally most widely perceived as a day of health.

>International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Dezember 3rd

The Interantional Day of Persons with Disabilities was established in 1982 by UN Resolution 62/127, following the “International Year of Disabled Persons” (1981), and aims to raise awareness of people with disabilities, their needs and well-being.

>Human Rights Day

December 10th

Human Rights Day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10th, 1948. This is an occasion for human rights organizations to critically examine the situation worldwide and to draw attention to current hotspots and human rights violations. The Nobel Peace Prize will also be awarded on December 10th in Oslo (Norway). On this day the Swedish chemist and founder of the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), died.

>International Migrants Day

Dezember 18th (June 18th)

The United Nations has proclaimed June 20th, the International Day of Remembrance for Refugees. The day will be accompanied by activities and actions to draw attention to the situation and plight of 65 million refugees and is dedicated to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons and returnees around the world. The motto of the year 2014 was: “Every refugee has a history”, so that the negative figures published annually on December 18th do not forget human fates. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set up a website for migrants stories: UNHCR refugee stories.
More International Days are available on the UN website.

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