Organization of American States (OAS)
OAS Secretary General on International Human Rights Day
Dec 10, 2019 - 4:10:57 PM

On International Human Rights Day we commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, 71 years ago. The Declaration began as an attempt to avoid a repetition of the nightmare of crimes against humanity that took place in Europe and other parts of the world in that same decade, after the horror experienced in World War II that left several tens of millions dead. It more than achieved this goal: it is a historical document that clearly delineates the inalienable rights inherent in all human beings.

As Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), I have dedicated myself above all else to promoting a strong vision: more rights for more people. That motto is our guiding principle, because defending and expanding human rights is a sacred duty that all of us who believe in democracy and freedom must fulfill.

We have made great progress, but we continue to see persistent and worrying patterns of violence. Every year, our Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) receives more and more complaints.

This year I particularly want to express my concern about the violence suffered by people who defend human rights in the Americas. Unfortunately, all too often we are forced to remember what should be obvious: the human rights of social leaders are, as are the human rights of all citizens of the Hemisphere, inviolable.

I want to recognize these leaders and defenders of human rights throughout the Hemisphere. For the OAS, it has been and remains imperative to accompany and support their efforts to promote, assert, respect and protect human rights. This work constitutes a central axis for social transformation and the consolidation of peace, democracy and the validity of human rights in the region.

It is fair to make a special mention of all those women leaders defending human rights, for transforming their realities, for being peace-building agents, for opening spaces that historically have been denied them, making way for more women to exercise their rights every day with a powerful agenda of equality and peace.

Combating violence against these human rights defenders is a responsibility of governments, but also of our societies, our citizens, our companies and the international community. It is a responsibility and a sacred duty shared by all.

Human rights throughout the Hemisphere face dangerous enemies. It is our responsibility to be stronger, braver than them, and to defend the rights and principles we celebrate together today on International Human Rights Day.

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