Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a landmark document in the history of human rights. The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.

This year, 2018, marks the Declaration’s 70th anniversary.

The International Communication Project (ICP) is marking the 70th anniversary because communication is a basic human right, and the Declaration sets out, in one document, fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected.

The ICP celebrates the Declaration as a common standard of achievements that all nations and their peoples should seek to achieve.

How does the UDHR protect communication rights?

Article 19 of the UDHR was one of the first contemporary expressions of the right to communication. Article 19 reads:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

This authoritative statement emphasises that all people have the right to communicate.

All people, regardless of their status, age, or communicative capacity, have the right to receive and convey messages, to hold opinions, and to express themselves.

Everyone should uphold others’ rights to communicate as they interact with people in daily life in order to enhance equality, justice, and human dignity.

While recognising this right, the ICP is built on the premise that communication is vital to life—yet largely ignored as a disability.

The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability estimates that roughly one billion people around the world live with some form of disability. However, this same report acknowledges that people with communication disabilities may not be included in this estimate, despite the fact that they encounter significant difficulties in their daily lives.

Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the Human Rights Commission, addresses delegates of the Drafting Committee on International Bill of Rights (which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) in an opening speech on June 9, 1947 in New York. (Courtesy of United Nations Photo)

Communication as a human right

Humans cannot live or succeed in isolation. We are inherently social. As such, communication defines humanity.

Communication is the most fundamental of human capacities. People need to be able to communicate to fulfil their social, educational, emotional, and vocational potential.

Barriers to communication impair an individual’s ability to:

  • relate to and interact with others;
  • understand;
  • learn, share, and apply knowledge;
  • achieve and maintain good physical and mental health;
  • participate appropriately and safely in purposeful occupations and/or leisure activities; and
  • have fair access to the justice system and other public services.

The opportunity to communicate is therefore a basic human right. Everybody has the potential to communicate.

In 2014, communication as a human right was articulated for the first time in one document when the ICP published the Universal Declaration of Communication Rights. Read and sign the pledge.

The ICP and human rights

While communication as a human right is embedded within Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there still remains a need to raise global awareness of the communication needs of those with communication disorders.

In 2014, the six national speech-language and audiology professional bodies that comprise the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) launched the ICP to help raise awareness of communication disorders around the world.

In 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, the ICP submitted an article to a special edition on human rights of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. This article describes the work of the ICP to date, with an emphasis on the place of communication disorders in current international policy and potential pathways for advocacy.

More about communication and UN goals

Read the newly released ICP publication, “The Importance of Speech, Language and Communication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: A Summary of Evidence.”

Children of United Nations staff members get a closer look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1950. (Courtesy of United Nations Photo)

What can you do to celebrate the UDHR’s 70th anniversary?

The Declaration of Human Rights Day is commemorated every year on 10 December, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration. It is also known as Human Rights Day or International Human Rights Day.

In 2018, 10 December is not only an opportunity to celebrate and promote communication as a human right, but an opportunity to celebrate the Declaration’s 70th anniversary.

You can help celebrate this anniversary and promote communication as a human right in one of the following ways: