Vientiane, 10 December 2018
Government, civil society and diplomatic representatives came together on 10 December (Human Rights Day) in Vientiane to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its inspirational and practical impact on the Lao PDR, in an event supported by the United Nations, European Union and Australia.
Panel Discussion: The inspirational and practical impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the development of international Human Rights Law. Photo: UN Lao PDR / Ildiko Hamos-Sohlo
Highlights of the event included a keynote speech by Ms. Marcia V.J. Kran, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and a panel discussion involving Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, a member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Professor Sam Blay, an Australian International Human Rights Law professor, and Ms. Viengvone Kittavong, Deputy Director-General, Department of Treaties and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Bounkeuth Sangsomsak, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of the National Steering Committee on Human Rights, said the Declaration was a milestone document in the history of human rights. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all. Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day, and equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace.”
H.E. Mr Leo Faber, EU Ambassador to the Lao PDR, emphasised the role of the Declaration in the today's world: "The value of human rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Declaration is a cornerstone of the multilateral system. Protection and promotion of the human rights is a common responsibility for us all."
Ms. Kran said she felt privileged to have the opportunity to visit the Lao PDR for the celebration, and welcomed the chance for a discussion on the Declaration and its practical implementation.
“The Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations – and these standards can be a challenge to live up to. Many countries around the world still struggle with ensuring equality and justice for all their citizens, particularly for women, people with a disability and other vulnerable groups. Events like this give us an opportunity to talk about successes, best practices and new goals to reach for.”
During the panel discussion, the international experts and the audience members engaged in a discussion about how human rights were contributing and connected to the development of local communities in Laos, and how the Declaration was reflected in the 8th National Socioeconomic Development Plan, national policies, and laws.
Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UN Resident Coordinator, said “I am encouraged by the increasing engagement between the Government of Lao PDR and UN human rights mechanisms, including this year’s dialogues with the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Action to address their recommendations will positively impact on Lao PDR's progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. The United Nations General Assembly was under the presidency of Former Australian Foreign Minister Dr Herbert Vere Evatt at that time, and during the event the Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR, H.E. Mr Jean Bernard Carrasco, noted “Australia believes just as strongly today fundamental human rights and freedoms make all nations safer, more stable, more prosperous, and more secure.”
The Universal Declaration is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages, and is as relevant today as it was on the day that it was proclaimed.