On Human Rights Day, UN Malaysia reaffirms its commitment to promoting the right to development for all Malaysians

Dec 16, 2008

Kuala Lumpur, 16 December -The United Nations Country Team in Malaysia and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) marked the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with a lively debate focusing on the extent to which the document has succeeeded in setting the standard for a world that is equal and fair. The event was held in conjunction with the CIMB Group World Universities Peace Invitational Debate and was attended by the representatives from government, the diplomatic corps, and civil society as well as students from local and foreign academic institutions.

Six distinguished debaters formed two teams comprising Team Malaysia and Team World, in the Asian Parliamentary style exhibition debate. Team World was the Government, while Team Malaysia was Opposition. The motion was "This house believes that the UDHR has failed to secure the rights of people in developing countries'. Team Malaysia was represented by Suthen Thomas, Faisal Moideen and Dr Kamalan Jeevaratnam while Team World was represented by Ivan Ahsam, Erin O'Brien and Cormac Early.

Welcoming guests to the event, Mr. Alan Vernon on behalf of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the lead agency for the event, said that debate and dialogue remained an important means of advancing human rights. "What is clear that while progress has been made, more work needs to be done. We need more debate on children’s rights. We need more debate on Civil and Political Rights. We need more debate on Economic and Social Rights. We need more debate on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities. We need more debate on women’s rights. And we need more debate on the rights of refugees."

In his speech, Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, highlighted the significance and relevance of the UDHR in today's global and national context and emphasised the link between human rights and development.

"Human rights are, at their core, all about equality of opportunity. Our joint effort to achieve enhanced human development outcomes for all Malaysian women, men and children is at the centre of the cooperation between the United Nations and the Government of Malaysia.  Mr. Malhotra also reiterated the UN Country Team's commitment to supporting the nation’s development aspirations.

"We seek to support a coherent and comprehensive national development strategy which incorporates a human rights-based approach. This is because we believe that only a rights-based approach will be able to address the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice in all its varied manifestations."

 Mr. Malhotra added that the right to development for the peoples of a nation as a whole should be viewed as no less important than individual liberties.

"This right should be premised on the understanding that the benefits of development will be both widely and fairly distributed. It should also be noted that the right to development will not be achieved without the fulfillment of all the human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Some aspirations which are either implicit or explicit in the right to development have now found concrete meaning in one or the other of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"Nevertheless, achieving the MDGs by 2015 will require much greater political will at the local, national and international levels than has been in evidence thus far. Arguably, such political may not be forthcoming without an organised and active polity.  MDG achievement at both at the aggregate and disaggregated levels will also require global, regional, national and local institutions that work, a competent national civil service focused on serving a country’s citizens, an elected parliament that keeps the executive in check, and an independent and professional judiciary that provides access to justice for all citizens," he said.

Speaking on behalf of SUHAKAM was Datuk Dr. Chiam Heng Keng, SUHAKAM Commissioner and Chairperson of SUHAKAM's 60th Anniversary Celebration Committee, stressed the responsibility of individuals and civil society to uphold and protect human rights and to promote better understanding of the UDHR.

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually worldwide on 10 December. The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.

Human Rights day is celebrated to promote the universal human right: to live and to do so peacefully. This year, Human Rights Day celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the theme "Dignity and Justice for All of Us". This theme reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice.

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