Select Page

DIGNITY OF LIFE 3 DECEMBER 2018 : 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

DIGNITY OF LIFE 3 DECEMBER 2018 : 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Please watch the video of this event and read the full text of the inter­ven­tions below the programme:


70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Texts of the pre­sen­ta­tions on the 3rd of Decem­ber 2018 in Gene­va at the Palais des Nations

Télécharg­er (PDF, 5.01MB)




Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva


   “The Gen­er­al Assem­bly, pro­claims this Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights as a com­mon stan­dard of achieve­ment for all peo­ples and all nations, to the end that every indi­vid­ual and every organ of soci­ety, keep­ing this Dec­la­ra­tion con­stant­ly in mind, shall strive by teach­ing and edu­ca­tion to pro­mote respect for these rights and free­doms and by pro­gres­sive mea­sures, nation­al and inter­na­tion­al, to secure their uni­ver­sal and effec­tive recog­ni­tion and obser­vance, both among the peo­ples of Mem­ber States them­selves and among the peo­ples of ter­ri­to­ries under their juris­dic­tion.”’  Sev­en­ty years ago, the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights (UDHR) stat­ed, for the first time in the his­to­ry of mod­ern States, the pri­ma­cy of free­dom and the uni­ty of the human fam­i­ly over and above any polit­i­cal or ide­o­log­i­cal divi­sions based on race, sex, reli­gion or any oth­er human char­ac­ter­is­tic. The objec­tive was to defend the indi­vid­ual from the absolute promi­nence of the State, which total­i­tar­i­an ide­olo­gies might “divinise” and thus pro­mote as an alter­na­tive way to build the “city of man”.  The UDHR rep­re­sent­ed a new attempt to erad­i­cate the ele­ments allow­ing vio­lence and geno­cide in the past World Wars and to affirm the impor­tance and cen­tral­i­ty of the human being in the rela­tions between States and the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty, all with the aim to build a new and more peace­ful future. To achieve this ambi­tious goal, the Dec­la­ra­tion recog­nised the nat­ur­al rights of every indi­vid­ual, affirm­ing the pri­ma­cy of life, the impor­tance of social com­mu­ni­ty, and the need to build struc­tures capa­ble of guar­an­tee­ing democ­ra­cy, rule of law, and account­abil­i­ty. The Dec­la­ra­tion was not only a sim­ple procla­ma­tion but a new stance tak­en by the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty as a whole, and it aimed to place human dig­ni­ty among the high­est val­ues which organ­ise the inter­nal and exter­nal behav­iour of nations, soci­eties, and gov­ern­ments. This stance is still valid today; more impor­tant­ly, it can­not be sub­sti­tut­ed because it is the only approach that ele­vates the indi­vid­ual as the pri­ma­ry actor and recip­i­ent of all polit­i­cal deci­sion while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly eval­u­at­ing the social impli­ca­tions of the rights shared among all human beings. With great respect, the Holy See recog­nis­es “all the true, good and just ele­ments inher­ent in the very wide vari­ety of insti­tu­tions which the human race has estab­lished for itself and con­stant­ly con­tin­ues to establish’7 There­fore, it has always con­sid­ered this Dec­la­ra­tion as ‘a step in the right direc­tion, an approach toward the estab­lish­ment of a juridi­cal and polit­i­cal order­ing of the world com­mu­ni­ty’? The Dec­la­ra­tion rep­re­sents a very pre­cious ref­er­ence point for cross- cul­tur­al dis­cus­sion of human dig­ni­ty and free­dom in the world. The quo­ta­tion shared at the open­ing of this arti­cle con­cludes the UDHR Pre­am­ble and estab­lish­es the goal of this doc­u­ment, which is now shared by nine addi­tion­al human rights treaties elab­o­rat­ed in the past sev­en­ty years fol­low­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion. In the present era, the inter­na­tion­al con­text has changed rad­i­cal­ly, and the entire struc­ture of the human rights doc­trine and law is strug­gling to con­front new the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal threats. On one hand, the con­sen­sus that approved the Dec­la­ra­tion and reaf­firmed it through the adop­tion of the Vien­na Dec­la­ra­tion and the relat­ed Pro­gramme of Action twen­ty-five years ago, seems to be weak­ened; mean­while, dif­fer­ent con­cep­tions, and even denun­ci­a­tions of human rights as a mere prod­uct of West­ern cul­ture, are gain­ing ground in dif­fer­ent inter­na­tion­al and region­al fora. On the oth­er hand, recent decades have wit­nessed the birth of the cat­e­go­ry of so— called “new rights”, emerg­ing from a the­o­ret­i­cal approach that frag­ments the human being and pro­motes a selec­tive and often con­flict­ing con­cept of indi­vid­ual free­dom. These dif­fer­ent stances lead to mis­per­cep­tions and con­fu­sion that under­mine the glob­al recog­ni­tion of human rights as uni­ver­sal in their nature, thus risk­ing triv­i­al­iz­ing “one of the high­est expres­sions of the human con­science of our time”.’  In its actions at the Unit­ed Nations, as well as in all its inter­na­tion­al posi­tions, the Holy See has always sup­port­ed the imple­men­ta­tion of this impor­tant Dec­la­ra­tion and con­sis­tent­ly reaf­firms that we share a com­mon human dignity—dignity which pro­vides the indis­pens­able back­ground that sus­tains the inter­re­lat­ed­ness, uni­ver­sal­i­ty, and indi­vis­i­bil­i­ty of human rights. As Pope Fran­cis posit­ed dur­ing an address to the diplo­mat­ic corps accred­it­ed to the Holy See: ‘From a Chris­t­ian per­spec­tive, there is a sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion between the Gospel mes­sage and the recog­ni­tion of human rights in the spir­it of those who draft­ed the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights.’^ Indeed, it is this ‘spir­it’ that we have to recov­er and re-pro­pose to the world and to every human being, by empha­siz­ing that ‘recog­ni­tion of the inher­ent dig­ni­ty and of the equal and inalien­able rights of all mem­bers of the human fam­i­ly is the foun­da­tion of free­dom, jus­tice and peace in the world’.   The aim of this book­let is to present cer­tain aspects of the Holy See’s posi­tion and reem­pha­size the orig­i­nal intent of the Dec­la­ra­tion. This requires, for instance, clar­i­fi­ca­tion on why the right to life is ‘the supreme right from which no dero­ga­tion is per­mit­ted’^ and has cru­cial impor­tance both for indi­vid­u­als and for soci­ety as a whole. The effec­tive pro­tec­tion of the right to life is the pre­req­ui­site for the enjoy­ment of all oth­er human rights. There­fore, the right to life requires a com­mit­ment to uphold life from con­cep­tion to nat­ur­al death. In all its inter­ven­tions at the Unit­ed  Nation and oth­er inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, the Holy See upholds the orig­i­nal ideals of the U.N. Char­ter and the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights, main­tain­ing the anthro­po­log­i­cal con­cep­tion of the human being as an indi­vid­ual in con­struc­tive rela­tion with oth­er human beings, all shar­ing the same equal dig­ni­ty from con­cep­tion to nat­ur­al death. The drafters of the UDHR knew that the suc­cess of their effort would require devel­op­ing, over time, a ‘com­mon under­stand­ing’ of the mean­ing of the document—as the Pre­am­ble states explic­it­ly. More­over, the devel­op­ment of the vocab­u­lary of human rights pro­found­ly influ­enced the effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the UDHR over the next decades. The attempts to rewrite the pro­found mean­ing of human rights a pos­te­ri­ori have often brought less clar­i­ty and con­flict, weak­en­ing the same struc­ture that was intend­ed to rein­vig­o­rate and expand. In fact, the uni­lat­er­al affir­ma­tion of ‘new rights’, based on cer­tain the­o­ret­i­cal and anthro­po­log­i­cal views, has favoured those who blame the entire struc­ture of human rights as being influ­enced by West­ern cul­ture or, even worse, as a new kind of cul­ture coloni­sa­tion. How­ev­er, these accu­sa­tions fail to under­stand that the UDHR was ‘the out­come of a con­ver­gence of dif­fer­ent reli­gious and cul­tur­al tra­di­tions, all of them moti­vat­ed by the com­mon desire to place the human per­son at the heart of insti­tu­tions, laws and the work­ings of soci­ety’ rather than the impo­si­tion of one cul­ture on all oth­ers.   In the polit­i­cal vocab­u­lary of human rights today, even a min­i­mal agree­ment on the core mean­ing of human dig­ni­ty is rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing and becom­ing frag­ment­ed into inco­her­ence. In the ‘pol­i­tics’ of human rights, dig­ni­ty is invoked for the most dis­parate and con­tra­dic­to­ry ideas, so much so that it is essen­tial­ly impov­er­ished of its mean­ing in some human rights dis­course and decon­struct­ed into dif­fer­ent, often con­flict­ing, parts. Human dig­ni­ty is fre­quent­ly used to jus­ti­fy many so-called ‘new rights’, even those which con­tra­dict or deny the very ori­gin of their basis, which are exten­sive­ly and expert­ly pre­sent­ed in the con­tri­bu­tions to this book­let. The illus­tra­tions of the decon­struc­tion and rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of dig­ni­ty are numer­ous, but in the inter­est of brevi­ty, I will cite only one promi­nent exam­ple, name­ly the polit­i­cal efforts in many con­sti­tu­tion­al and inter­na­tion­al con­texts aimed at legal­iz­ing physi­cian-assist­ed sui­cide and more active forms of euthana­sia; they have tak­en the word ‘dig­ni­ty’ as their ral­ly­ing cry—‘death with dig­ni­ty.’ Con­se­quent­ly, dig­ni­ty has become some­thing that is achieved through a prob­lem­at­ic act of will rather than some­thing inher­ent in the per­son that is invi­o­lable and wor­thy of respect. If we want to rein­vig­o­rate the human rights struc­ture, favour­ing the glob­al imple­men­ta­tion of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion and safe­guard­ing the con­cept of uni­ver­sal­i­ty that is at the core of the Dec­la­ra­tion, we should aban­don those inter­pre­ta­tions of rights that are objec­tive­ly dis­tant from the found­ing texts and thus con­tribute to mak­ing uni­ver­sal con­sen­sus much more dif­fi­cult. If we fail to do this, we risk cre­at­ing a ‘con­flict of anthro­polo­gies’, which has already inten­si­fied by the process of glob­al­iza­tion and human mobil­i­ty.® It is impor­tant to clar­i­fy that the rights rec­og­nized by the UDHR were not intend­ed to be rein­ter­pret­ed or reshaped accord­ing to the polit­i­cal or social ten­den­cies of the moment. Indeed, they are derived from the human dig­ni­ty that is com­mon, shared, and inher­ent to every human being, regard­less of any oth­er dif­fer­ence.   The Pre­am­ble of the UDHR con­cludes with clear and well-defined objec­tives, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly iden­ti­fy­ing every human being and insti­tu­tion as an active par­tic­i­pant in the imple­men­ta­tion and expan­sion of human rights—rights which ulti­mate­ly aim to ‘secure their uni­ver­sal and effec­tive recog­ni­tion’?® The fol­low­ing arti­cles with­in the book­let encom­pass con­tri­bu­tions of dif­fer­ent authors and of the Holy See, all com­mit­ted to the com­mon effort of the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty to build a bet­ter world where “the uni­ver­sal­i­ty, indi­vis­i­bil­i­ty and inter­de­pen­dence of human rights all serve as guar­an­tees safe­guard­ing human dig­ni­ty”.’  Fac­ing the chal­lenges and con­flicts of our time, we should rec­og­nize that due respect of human rights is the true source of peace. Today, the mul­ti­lat­er­al sys­tem is blocked and encoun­ters enor­mous dif­fi­cul­ties; in the mean­time, many inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions are strug­gling against a grow­ing lack of legit­i­ma­cy. In this regard, the 70th Anniver­sary of the UDHR can be a turn­ing point. Though direct­ly refer­ring to a pre­vi­ous eco­nom­ic cri­sis. Pope Bene­dict XVI’s encour­ag­ing words from his Encycli­cal Let­ter Car­i­tas in Ver­i­tate hold wis­dom for us today, espe­cial­ly in our strug­gle to rec­og­nize basic human truths: ‘The cur­rent cri­sis oblig­es us to re-plan our jour­ney, […] to dis­cov­er new forms of com­mit­ment, to build on pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences and to reject neg­a­tive ones. The cri­sis thus becomes an oppor­tu­ni­ty for dis­cern­ment, in which to shape a new vision for the future’.^^ This Anniver­sary rep­re­sents a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to reaf­firm the UDHR’s piv­otal impor­tance as a ref­er­ence point for glob­al and cross-cul­tur­al dis­cus­sion on human rights, free­dom, and dig­ni­ty. It rep­re­sents fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ty to restate those very con­cepts of human rights, democ­ra­cy, rule of law, and indi­vid­ual free­dom that have their roots in the recog­ni­tion and pro­mo­tion of human dig­ni­ty. The rel­e­vant­work of the Unit­ed Nations should serve as a base and build­ing-block on which to acknowl­edge this tran­scen­dent dig­ni­ty and in order to ful­fil the hope that ‘this Insti­tu­tion, all its mem­ber States, and each of its offi­cials, will always ren­der an effec­tive ser­vice to mankind, a ser­vice respect­ful of diver­si­ty and capa­ble of bring­ing out, for the sake of the com­mon good, the best in each peo­ple and in every individual’.” 

Gene­va, Decem­ber 2018






Adlaudatosi Webinars Videos VIMEO

Videos of the speakers’ interventions adlaudatosi VIMEO

Adlaudatosi Webinars Videos YOUTUBE

Religious Helping Trafficking Victims along the Road of Recovery (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

Religious Working In International Advocacy Against Human Trafficking (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

Impact Of Human Trafficking On Health: Trauma (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

Impact Of Human Trafficking On Health: Healing (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

International Prosecution Of Human Trafficking — Where Are We Now? (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

International Prosecution Of Human Trafficking — What can be done? (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

International Prosecution Of Human Trafficking — Best Practices (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

Demand As Root Cause For Human Trafficking – Sex Trafficking & Prostitution

Human Trafficking — Interview with Prof. Michel Veuthey, Order of Malta — 44th UN Human Right Council 2020

POPE’S PAYER INTENTION FOR FEBRUARY 2020: Hear the cries of migrants victims of human trafficking


Church on the frontlines in fight against human trafficking



Catholic social teaching

Doctrine sociale de l’Église catholique

Register to our series of webinars adlaudatosi on Human Trafficking


You have successfully registered !