On 10 December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration set out 30 articles or statements about human rights and freedoms. In 1950 the assembly passed a resolution inviting all states and interested organisations to adopt 10 December as Human Rights Day.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In broad terms the declaration states that:

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
  • Everyone has the right to life, freedom and safety from harm.
  • No one shall be a slave or suffer torture.
  • Everyone shall have equal recognition and protection under law and the right to a fair and public trial.
  • Everyone is entitled to freely hold and express his or her own beliefs and opinions.
  • Everyone has the right to participate in the political and cultural life of society and to take part in the fair and democratic government of his or her country.
  • Men and women of full age have the right to marry and found a family but only with the free and full consent of both partners.
  • Marriage, motherhood and all children are entitled to protection by society.
  • Everyone is entitled to an adequate standard of living, to education, to work for a fair wage and to own property.

To protect and promote all human rights around the world, the UN established The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

New Zealand has made a commitment to support the work of OHCHR and other key UN organisations in upholding the declaration. It has participated actively in human rights deliberations at the UN General Assembly and in the annual session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR). In particular, New Zealand has promoted the rights of women, children and indigenous people. New Zealand's human rights policy has always had a strong multilateral focus, working through the UN system. This reflects the reality that the most effective way for a small country like New Zealand to advance the cause of human rights is to work with like-minded countries.

The Human Rights Commission Te Kahui Tika Tangata plays a key role in upholding human rights in this country. The Commission's vision is that New Zealanders should know their rights, acknowledge their responsibilities and respect the rights of others. The Human Rights Act 1993 sets out the Commission's functions.

How to cite this page: 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/universal-declaration-of-human-rights, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 28-Jul-2014