70 years of progress on Human Rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This simple yet radical idea is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.









Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as in the absence of human dignity we cannot drive sustainable development. A human right is clean water and food (SDG 6, SDG 2), it is health (SDG 3) and the opportunity to lead a peaceful life (SDG 16); It is life on land (SDG 15) and walking the Earth among its many beings (SDG 13, SDG 14). Human Rights are driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights.

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.

December 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Declaration. Over the next year, we’re exploring how this seminal document has impacted history and changed lives around the globe. 

The human rights movement has made great strides in the past seven decades, but abuses still occur with saddening regularity. The anniversary of the Declaration is an opportunity to celebrate successes and recommit ourselves to the principles outlined in the Declaration’s 30 Articles.

As stated in the preamble, “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 Declaration empowers all of us to stand up for our own human rights and those of others.

For inspiration, we present the Declaration here as a living document, universal in scope and fiercely relevant to each individual.

Read the full preamble


Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Human Rights up Front

In the fall of 2008, Sri Lanka’s civil war was entering its grim final stages. The government launched a major offensive against the rebels, and authorities warned they could not guarantee the safety of UN staff in the war zone. UN leaders had a difficult choice to make.

Stand up for human rights

We can all be Human Rights Champions! Tweet, Instagram or YouTube your action using the hashtag #Standup4humanrights.


Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

"I want to live in peace"

Senu Ara arrived in Cox’s Bazar the same way as many other Rohingya refugees: On foot. After a week of walking barefoot, Senu and her three sisters reached Bangladesh, tired, hungry and thirsty, having left their home in fear of the escalating violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar.


Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The Responsibility to Protect

At the 2005 World Summit, all Heads of State and Government affirmed the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Guns and rosewood

Park rangers hold one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Every day, they risk their lives to protect wild animals and their habitat.


Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Milestone against sexual slavery

On the testimony of 15 brave survivors, a national court in Guatemala has tried and convicted sexual slavery as a war crime.


Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Torture survivor reunited with sons

After 15 months of beatings and abuse in captivity by Libyan traffickers, a Somali mother returns to her teenage sons.


Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Invisible children

The lack of birth registration deprives 186,000 children in the Dominican Republic of basic rights like medical care, vaccination and education.


Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Empowering young lawyers

In Kyrgyzstan, human rights training boosts young lawyers’ careers while strengthening freedoms for all.


Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Land to die for

Like many other environmental defenders, Aida Isela Gonzalez Diaz’s movements are restricted, and her life is constantly at risk.


Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

The Limits of Punishment

Transitional Justice and Violent Extremism


Article 11

  1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

A fair trial for all

UN human rights officials voice concern over trial of former Qadhafi regime members.


Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Cyberbullying and its implications for human rights

While the Internet is a powerful tool that can be used to connect like-minded people and communities, it is also often used as a platform to defame, harass and abuse people within the sanctuary of their own homes.


Article 13

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Safe migration in a world-on the move

Every year millions of people start out on journeys - safe and unsafe – in search of a better life.


Article 14

  1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Refugees welcome

Communities around the world are putting out the welcome mat for displaced neighbours. But they need support to cope with the strain on resources.

Asylum seeker, local hero

Yusuf Abdirahim puts experience gained from two conflicts to good use as a volunteer firefighter in Germany.


Article 15

  1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Stateless no more

With secure legal status and documentation, Dominicans of Haitian decent can exercise their rights and expand their horizons.

I belong: Artee

"My life has changed. Now I’ve become a bird that can fly everywhere I want in the sky.”


Article 16

  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

50 years of family planning

Fifty years ago the world declared family planning to be a basic human right.

Throughout human history, efforts to plan, avoid or delay pregnancy had been a private struggle endured by women and girls. But at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, family planning became a human rights obligation of every country, government and policymaker.

Family reunion

The moment South Sudanese children are reunited with family


Article 17

  1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

The right to land

Protecting indigenous peoples’ access to ancestral territories


Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Faith for Rights

Beirut Declaration enhances role of religions in promoting human rights


Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

UN Volunteer advocates for people with disabilities

One of the first UN Volunteers with a disability, Rupmani Chhetri is putting the needs and rights of the differently abled on the agenda.


Article 21

  1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
  3. 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.

Protecting every ballot

On Election Day in Sierra Leone, voter education guides ensure people with disabilities can exercise their democratic rights.


Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Social protection: Weakest link or essential ingredient?

Where social protection does exist, it is often state-backed and citizen-based. This means that refugees and other ‘non-citizens’ are largely excluded.

The activist, the policymaker and the platform initiator

According to the Declaration, we all have a right to social security. But how well is this right enforced, and what can be done to improve the situation?


Article 23

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

A new age of startups

A small, but influential start-up community has sprung up in Tunisia, and the rest of the world is beginning to take notice.

Finding a future in farming

Should I stay or should I go? This question is on the minds of hundreds of thousands of young people in developing countries wondering what the future holds for them at home and dreaming of a better life abroad.


Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Right to rest means safety at work

Textile workers in Honduras organize to defend their rights together


Article 25

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

A brighter future: Katerin's story

Can infrastructure help improve opportunities for children? Can it help to instill confidence? Can it provide dignity?

An investment in life

How Uruguay reduced infant mortality to a historic low


Article 26

  1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

1 million entrepreneurs

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, unemployment among young people in sub-Saharan Africa has hovered between 12 percent and 14 percent. One solution is investing in the entrepreneurial capacity of young people.

What does education mean to you?

Children around the world share the same desire to go to school. Yet, millions lack the opportunity to do so.


Article 27

  1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Science is a human right

World Science Day for Peace and Development highlights the important role of science in society.


Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

What is human trafficking?

Today, there are millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights have been stolen. The adoption of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol in 2000 marked a significant milestone in international efforts to stop the trade in people.


Article 29

  1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

A garden for all in Gaza

Green, open spaces where everyone can convene, relax and take a break may be taken for granted in some parts of the world. For women and girls in Al-Shoka, a conflict-affected neighbourhood in Gaza, this was a distant dream – until now.

One stitch at a time

A chance for prisoners to mend their future


Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

The Declaration at 70

Adopted in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Its principles are as relevant now as they were then.