Leading up to Human Rights Day, annually observed on December 10th, we contribute to the awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by highlighting on one or more of its articles by means of a personal interview with one of our members from our several offices. This in combination with some facts about the history, achievements and legal impact of the UDHR.
Today, Patricia Guttiérrez, junior attorney in our Madrid office leads you through her experience and affinity with the UDHR:
- When was the first time you have learned about the UDHR and in which context?
The first time I learned about the UDHR was at school. From a very young age I was brought up with values such as equality, non-discrimination and respect for others. Afterwards, when I studied law, I took a specific subject in relation with this topic, called “International protection of human rights” due to my personal interest in the matter.
- How would you describe the UDHR in only three words?
“Freedom”, “justice” and “peace”, as given the context in which the UDHR was created, i.e. as a response to the acts committed during the Second World War, it is clear that the adoption of this text meant the universal recognition and protection of human rights as the basis of these three pillars.
- Which Article of the UDHR has sparked your interest the most?
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”. According to the UDHR, this is the right of protection that everyone has if someone else has tried to harm their good name, enter their home without permission or interfere with their correspondence.
This article is the one that interests me the most, since nowadays it is well present in our daily lives, taking into account the era of digitalisation in which we live. The fact that the concept of privacy under Article 12 would become so essential and fundamental in everyone’s lives, could not have been foreseen when the UDHR was drafted in 1948.
The right to privacy is fundamental to reinforcing other rights, such as the right to equality and non-discrimination or the right to freedom of expression. However, privacy is also considered as an essential right for the development of the personality and the protection of human dignity. This applies both online and offline, as this right protects individuals from unwarranted interference in their lives and helps them to limit who can access to certain aspects of their lives such as their personal data or their communications.
It is necessary to bear in mind that this right is not absolute, but must be balanced with other rights and can be limited in certain situations, in accordance with the principle of proportionality, that is to say, privacy intrusions must be proportionate to the benefit to society.
In any case, today, this matter is constantly present in everyone’s lives, especially because of everyone’s presence on the Internet. Thus, something that especially strikes me is that, in spite of this, many people are not aware that on the Internet, when someone gets something for free, people are not the customer, but they are the product. Their data and their surfing habits are sold for profit. Therefore, it is a fact that a lot of people’s information and data can be exposed, and this has influenced the development of this right and consolidated its enormous importance. It is essential to defend privacy. Many companies have already strengthened their digital security, so it seems that this is moving in the right direction.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that a framework for protecting the right to privacy is provided in the UDHR and that this was drafted when no one could imagine how essential this right would be. It is clear that the article was ahead of its time and now helps to ensure the implementation of this right in the digital era.
- Has thinking about the UDHR changed your perception and/or behaviour – if yes, in what way?
Yes, as I have mentioned, from an early age I was brought up within the values that give meaning to the UDHR and, in this regard, I have always been aware of the importance of the respect for others, the equality and non-discrimination, as well as the tolerance for different opinions and the responsibility for one’s own actions so that everyone’s rights are respected. Also, I have always had a strong sense of justice, which was one of the reasons that led me to study law. Thus, when I had the possibility to study the UDHR in depth at university, I think that it helped me to have a more well-founded perception and made me more aware of the basic principle that underlies all the rights contained in the UDHR, which is that all human beings have the same inalienable rights, and how important it is for everyone to contribute to an effective protection of human rights.
Achievements of the UDHR
Even though the UDHR is not entirely without critics and it is still violated on a daily basis, when the UDHR was adopted, various accomplishments of the UDHR need to be highlighted:
The Declaration has become a central guiding force for the UN. The rights contained in the Declaration relate to all three pillars of the UN: peace and security, development, and human rights.
In total the UDHR inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which – taken together – form a firm international standard for human rights. For example, in 2006 the Human Rights Council was established by the UN. It is tasked with strengthening the protection of human rights. The Universal Periodic Review as one feature of the Human Rights Council includes the review of the human rights reports of all 193 member states of the UN. It provides each Member State with the opportunity to present measures taken to improve the human rights situation and to meet their international obligation.
The Declaration therefore has been and still is a benchmark to measure the commitment of Member States towards human rights.
Interested in the other interviews about Human Rights Day?
- Laura Lettow – Düsseldorf
Article 27 : I have the right to share the benefits of my community’s culture, arts and sciences.
Article 25 : I have the right to have what I need so that my family and I do not go hungry, homeless or fall ill.
- Natalie Swinnen – Brussels
Article 19: I have the right to think and say what I like and no one should forbid it.
Find out more about HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER’s D&I activities, goals and policies here