ANFREL celebrates Human Rights Day

According to this year's slogan of the United Nations, everyday is a Human Rights Day. In the latter half of the 1940s, with World War II having just come to an end, the United Nations presented its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) for the first time to promote the core principles of humanity and dignity that had been neglected during the war years. The declaration set the ground principles of fundamental rights and freedoms entitled to all people regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin etc. Thanks to that, each tenth of December, we celebrate Human Rights Day.

Originally the Declaration was designed to create a common standard of human rights, which are to be protected by international and national law and treaties, towards which all sates and individuals should strive for by using international and national progressive measures. The document includes civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights such as the right to participate in culture, the right to food, and the right to work and education. Because the declaration is seen as a part of customary law, monitoring of human rights is done partly by international law and national law and treaties, and partly by the civil society sector. Organizations working to promote free and fair elections such as ANFREL and its members are examples of such organisations and are thus also an integral part in the monitoring of human rights.

While the declaration has been important in setting up the framework for such civil rights as the prohibition of torture and defining the freedom of movement, the document also has contributed to the creation and promotion of fundamental political rights as well. According to the UDHR “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Furthermore, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the voter.”

Although many nations are committed to respect universal human rights, there has too often been little, or even backwards, progress in the development of democracy, especially in Asia. Many areas in our region still lack the basic protections and respect for civil and political rights. Today it is more important than ever to commit to campaign and contribute to the universal and equal right to free and fair elections for all individuals in Asia by promoting honest, fair, and clean elections. A democracy can only reach its full potential when it recognizes and realizes the right of all individuals to take part in government actions through freely chosen representatives. For democracy, elections and political rights are among its fundamental parts. We take the tenth of December to celebrate these rights and recommit to focus attention on those places where elections, and the broader democracy they are an essential part of, cease to exist.


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