International Human Rights Day: Global And Local Perspectives – OpEd


The 10th of December marked the 75th Human Rights Day. This date holds special significance as on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) officially embraced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), representing a pivotal milestone in the realm of human rights. Subsequently, each year on December 10, Human Rights Day is observed. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, it is imperative to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the global human rights landscape. 

An Overview of the Global Human Rights Situation

Presently, the contemporary world is grappling with a plethora of acute, complex, and severe challenges in the realm of human rights. At this juncture, various interstate and intrastate conflicts are unfolding, resulting in extensive human suffering. The current conflict in Gaza, for instance, has led to the death of over 16,500 Palestinians and the displacement of more than 1.8 million individuals. Similarly, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has claimed the lives of over 9,000 civilians, compelled over 8.2 million Ukrainians to flee their homeland, and internally displaced more than 8 million citizens. The continuing conflict in Sudan has resulted in the death of over 10,000 people, the transformation of more than 1.4 million Sudanese citizens, and the internal displacement of more than 5 million individuals.

Furthermore, persistent wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya, Syria, Myanmar, and numerous other regions have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and created dire humanitarian conditions for millions. Consequently, the fundamental rights to life and security of millions of individuals are being violated with impunity on a daily basis across the globe.

Additionally, fundamental rights continue to elude millions of individuals globally, encompassing the rights to sustenance, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that approximately 828 million people face significant threats to their food security. The World Economic Forum (WEF) states that over 150 million people worldwide grapple with homelessness. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), around 4.5 billion individuals lack comprehensive access to medical services on a global scale. This underscores the persistent failure, even after 75 years since the adoption of the UDHR, to meet the most basic needs of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Moreover, over the past decade, there has been a surge in the prominence of extreme right-wing political movements, leading to a significant uptick in incidents of racism, xenophobia, anti-migrant sentiments, ethnic animosity, and religiously motivated violence. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that more than 10 million people worldwide still lack a recognized nationality. The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery indicate that approximately 50 million individuals across the globe are currently living in conditions of slavery. Daily, numerous political prisoners worldwide endure inhumane, cruel, or degrading treatment. Arbitrary arrests and detentions of suspects remain prevalent globally. Hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide continue to be deprived of their rights to freedom of thought, religion, and conscience, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Additionally, numerous states globally, spanning both democratic and authoritarian governments, are involved in widespread surveillance of their citizens, infringing upon their right to privacy. Therefore, it is accurate to assert that the global community has yet to achieve the realization of human rights for every individual.

Human Rights in Bangladesh: A Local Perspective

Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 following a war marked by severe human rights abuses. Consequently, the 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh incorporates numerous provisions aligned with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Over the ensuing decades, Bangladesh has made significant strides in promoting the human rights of its populace. In the past fifty years, the country has successfully lifted millions of people out of dire poverty. In 1974, the literacy rate was a mere 26%, contrasting with the current literacy rate of 76.8%. Bangladesh has achieved notable progress in enhancing the life expectancy of its citizens, lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, and successfully combating major diseases, such as polio.

Furthermore, Bangladesh has taken substantial measures to empower women. Since 1991, all prime ministers in the country have been women, contributing to a notable increase in women’s involvement in political, economic, and cultural spheres. Notably, Bangladesh has demonstrated a limited incidence of xenophobia, racism, or hostility towards ethnic and religious minorities, contrary to prevailing global trends. The Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord in 1997 successfully concluded a significant phase of conflict in the region.

Addressing the issue of statelessness among the Urdu-speaking community in Bangladesh, commonly referred to as the ‘Biharis,’ the country granted citizenship and voting rights to a substantial number of stranded Pakistanis. Additionally, Bangladesh has been a haven for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees since 1978. Following the mass displacement of Rohingyas from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar in 2017, the country currently hosts over 1.2 million refugees, despite the considerable economic, security, and environmental costs. This demonstrates Bangladesh’s commitment to safeguarding the stateless Rohingyas from the actions of the Tatmadaw

Consequently, Bangladesh has made noteworthy advancements in safeguarding and advancing the human rights of its inhabitants since 1971. Nonetheless, there exists ample room for enhancement in this area. Specifically, the nation should intensify efforts to guarantee freedom of the press, opinion, and expression, while also addressing issues related to the misuse of power and political violence. Similarly, there is potential for further improvement in enhancing the socio-economic conditions of ethnic minorities within the country.

In conclusion, the global landscape is fraught with significant challenges to human rights, and Bangladesh is not exempt from these issues. Hence, as the 75th Human Rights Day approaches, the international community must reaffirm its dedication to safeguarding and advancing the human rights of all individuals, taking tangible actions to fulfill this commitment.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.

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