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human rights day 2017 at the united nations

December 11 2017, marked the start of the 70th Anniversary year of the
Declaration of Human Rights. Fran Butensky, ICJW Representative at the UN in New York, reports on the special Human Rights Day events there.

This year, Human Rights Day is especially meaningful as it marks the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights and the launch of a year-long campaign whose core objectives are: Engage, Promote and Reflect. Its purpose is to engage large audiences the world over, to promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration empowers us and to
encourage reflection on how each of us can stand up for human rights. December 11th
marks the first day of the anniversary.

The program was beautifully executed and moving. It included a video, musical
presentations and statements by high- ranking United Nation’s officials both former and
present who were introduced and welcomed by Andrew Gilmour, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.


H.E. Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General talked about the fact that human rights are not bound by any one country or culture and are there to protect all peoples; children, women, people with disabilities, to name just a few. Yet, there are millions of people who do not enjoy universal rights. He said that we have to reflect on the core and
existential system and to speak out and take a stand on human rights. He asked everyone
to take a pledge for commitment of human rights for all.

Miroslav Lajccak, President of the United Nations General Assembly, thanked the Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights for this special event to commemorate, celebrate and inspire us all. He said we must concentrate on people who too often remain in the dark and who need people like us to stand up for them. Since 1948, there have been up to 80 resolutions to protect human rights. He wondered whether Eleanor Roosevelt would
have been satisfied with how the world looked today or would she have hoped for much
more. He said that a campaign like the one about to be launched is needed now more than

After the statements, there was a wonderful presentation by Susan Marie Frontczak who
was very convincingly dressed as Eleanor Roosevelt and also sounded very much like her.

She gave a brief history of how she, Mrs. Roosevelt, became involved in the creation of the
Universal Document:

At the time of the establishment of the UN after the devastation from World War 11,
Eleanor was a member of the Third Committee. She was asked to serve on the Human
Rights Task Force and shortly thereafter became the 1st chairperson. She shared some
interesting information. The Universal Document is comprised of 30 articles. It took 4
weeks just to draft the first 2 articles. Article 1 originally stated that all men were created
free and equal. She and the other women on the committee helped to change that to read

At the conclusion of her presentation, there were interactions with the audience who asked
Mrs. Roosevelt about her experiences at the UN and how she felt about a variety of issues.
About war, she said that nobody wins a war even if you have defeated an army, you still
have the same problems that started it and more problems caused by it.

The morning program concluded with reflections from three former High Commissioners
For Human Rights; Louise Arbour, Liu Zhenmin and Navi Pillay.

The afternoon session began with a performance by the UN Singers, followed by a video
message from Zeid Ra”ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and another similar but longer presentation by Susan Marie Frontczak as Eleanor Roosevelt and