Humanists celebrate 70th anniversary of UDHR

Humanists celebrate 70th anniversary of UDHR

Posted on the 10/12/18

Exactly 70 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a milestone document in History that was drafted by representatives from all regions of the world, bringing in various legal and cultural backgrounds.

Humanists are deeply committed to the protection of human rights. Considering that this is the only life we have, we believe that people should have the freedom to live this life in accordance with their own beliefs. Humanism therefore defends the right for everyone to choose his or her own beliefs, values, and lifestyles, subject only to them not interfering with other people’s rights. Human rights gives a framework to the expression of this humanist vision.

The UDHR is 70 years old today and while many rights were strengthened over the last 7 decades, the implementation of the UDHR is far from being universal yet. Moreover, in Europe as well as in other parts of the world, the concepts promoted by the declaration are increasingly challenged by the simplistic and exclusionary narratives of political forces that remind many people of the echoes of the past. That very past, the trauma of which resulted, among others, in the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our Humanist Member organisations work on the ground, every day, to protect and develop human rights in their countries, their regions and their communities. For the 70th anniversary of the Declaration, we asked them to share some of the campaigns they have been working on this year. Some felt so committed to the Declaration that they instead decided to tell us about how they will celebrate this very special day.

We are humbled by their passion, their commitment and their work. Together with them, as one big humanist family, more than ever we stand for Human Rights!

#StandUpForHumanRights #UDHR70

Centre d’Action Laïque (Belgium)

Focus: #UDHR70 celebration.

Illustration of Article 8 by Belgian high school pupils

Belgian EHF Member Organisation Centre d’Action Laïque joined the campaign initiated by its former President, Pierre Galand and the Belgian Association for the United Nations (APNU) and supported by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Throughout the year, young Belgians at all levels of education were encouraged to discuss and debate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to propose a creative project that would illustrate one of its articles. Hundreds of schools responded and more than 5000 pupils got involved thereby clearly showing how much the UDHR is an integral part of the interest of the young generation. Not only did this campaign raise the awareness of many youngsters about human rights in general, it also helped them to express their very own understanding of its content, scope and meaning. The truly humbling diversity, creativity and artistic value of the hundreds of projects proposed culminated in an exhibition organized on 2 December showcasing the best projects. The event was visited by over 1000 pupils.

Center for Civil Courage (Croatia)

Focus: Article 18: freedom of thought, conscience and religion and Article 26: Education

Since 2013 the Croatian Center for Civil Courage´s “Freethought Academy” presents to elementary school children humanist and feminist lectures and workshops. The workshops encourage sceptical thinking and, consequently, exploration and critical evaluation of existing knowledge while encouraging children to have confidence in their own reasoning. Strengthening children’s identity and, most importantly, safe and free space is an important part of the workshop in which children may freely and without fear express their opinions and experiences from school. Another aim is strengthening participants in their relations to others and understanding needs of others, to make children conscious in respect to human rights and to teach them how to stand up for their and rights of others. More information here. (Belgium)

Focus: #UDHR70 celebration.

For the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights launches a campaign reminding that even after 70 years it is important that society embrace the values embedded in this document. Various celebrities kicked off the campaign with a controversial tweet about human rights. An online petition to reinforce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be also promoted over social media together with three humoristic video clips (in Dutch) and interviews with human rights activist Leo Igwe and IHEU Director of Advocacy Elizabeth O’Casey about the importance of the declaration of human rights.

Dachverband Freier Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften (Germany)

Focus: #UDHR70 celebration.

The Freireligiöse Landesgemeinde Pfalz, a member of EHF German Member organization Dachverband Freier Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften celebrates the Human Rights Day every year. This year the celebration is dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner. Wagner was a lawyer, persecuted by the Nazis and had to flee Germany. After his return, he was in the Council which wrote the new German Constitution and made certain that the death penalty would be abolished. He later became Vice-President of the German Constitutional Court. On 10 December, the DFW local community, together with a local organization setting commemorative Stolpersteine Ludwigshafen setzt Stolpersteine, the organisation of lawyers of Ludwigshafen and members of the City Council will remember the importance of the rule of law as layed down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ceremony will be held in front of the court house where 15 Stolpersteine were layed down in 2017 to remember lawyers and judges persecuted during the Nazi era.

EGALE (France)

Focus: Article 18: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

EGALE pursued an action with the European Parliament and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in order to effectively protect also the freedom of conscience of European citizens who are atheists, agnostics and indifferent to religions. EGALE call on the above institutions to use the terms of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights: “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. The commonly used wording “freedom of religion and belief” is more restrictive and often results in taking into account only those who have a religion.

Europa Laica (Spain)

Focus: Article 21: Democracy

After years of calls and requests by civil society, the Spanish Congress decided to remove the remains of Franco from the memorial basilica at Valle de los Caídos, thus putting an end to the situation where the dictator is buried at the same place as the victims of his own regime of repression and terror. Europa Laica, together with other associations, is now however fighting to prevent that Franco is reburied in the prestigious cathedral of Madrid. The lack of resistance to this move by the Catholic Church and the difficulties of the Spanish Government to prevent this move risks imposing a new humiliation on the victims of the dictatorship. But this time, Franco ¡NO PASARÁ!

Human-Etisk Forbund (Norway)

Focus: Article 18: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Since September, the Norwegian Humanist Association focuses on the human rights situation for the non-religious minority in Saudi Arabia. Mr Ahmad Al Shamri was sentenced to death after accusations of atheism last year. Since then no one has heard from him. The Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) sent a letter to the Saudi Embassy in Oslo asking for his status. During a demonstration by Amnesty International, NHA Secretary General Trond Enger gave a speech in front of the embassy, addressing the issues of freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.

In the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggis murder, the NHA also joined Amnesty’s demand for Norwegian authorities to stop selling war equipment to Saudi Arabia. A few days later, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that there would be no more licenses for arms trade with Saudi Arabia. This shows the importance of standing together and making our voices heard. Together we can make a difference.

Humanisterna (Sweden)

Focus: Article 18: freedom of thought, conscience and religion and Article 26: Education

This year was an election year in Sweden. One of the hot topics this election was the question of public funding for religious schools. For this reason, Humanisterna Sweden ran an ad-campaign highlighting the problems with religious schools. All parties except the Christian Democrats (religious) and the Sweden Democrats (populists) have formally decided either to work for closing all religious schools, or to stop the establishment of any new religious schools. The Humanisterna ad-campaign managed to shift the focus of the debate from being mainly about the segregation problems that faith schools result in, to now also stressing the right of every child not to have their life-stance chosen for them, by their parents. Stressing the point that children have their own human rights was a fruitful way to forward this discussion. Campaign material in Swedish (with very self-explanatory animations) is accessible here.

Humanistisch Verbond (Netherlands)

Focus: #UDHR70 celebration.


The Dutch Humanist Association runs a campaign to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It launched the campaign on World Humanism Day (June 21). For the occasion, special passport cover was designed with article 1 printed on it. The passport cover accompanies a petition calling for the inclusion of the Human Rights Declaration into all new Dutch passports.

The mayor of the Dutch city of Utrecht was the first person to sign, followed by prominent politicians, scientists, artists, and more than 5000 others. The Dutch Humanist Association organized lectures and meetings with local communities to create awareness around the Declaration and the value of human rights. The campaign ends on 10 December by with the presentation of the results of the petition to well-known Dutch human rights activist Boris Dittrich.

Famous Dutch human rights activist Boris Dittrich wearing the jacket offered to him by Humanistisch Verbond with the declaration of human rights printed on it.

Malta Humanist Association

Focus: Article 18: freedom of thought, conscience and religion

No cremation services is available in Malta, either in public or in private ownership although there is, on average, 10 cremations a month being sought abroad. Similarly, the majority Catholic population has ample choice on places of worship, while humanists and atheists lack even a single place that can host a humanist or other life-stance funeral. Therefore, the Malta Humanist Association lobbied this year in favour of modifying local laws on cremation and secular funerals. If implemented, these laws will not only be beneficial to the quality of life, social justice and the culture of the Maltese people, but will also be implementing further the values of Freedom of Religion or Belief in Malta.

National Secular Society (UK)

Focus: various articles

This year, the National Secular Society continued its on-going campaign which resulted in the UN condemning the Vatican over its failures in relation to clerical child abuse. The Vatican is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but has contravened several of its articles, and is more than 10 years behind in its reporting. The NSS produced a document highlighting the many areas where the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child made recommendations to the Vatican. Many of these were up to now not addressed by the Holy See.

Polish Rationalist Association

Focus: #UDHR70 celebration.

Visual of PSR event “Human rights: are they gone?”

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, the Polish Rationalist Association, in cooperation with the Jagiellonian University of Krakow and the Association Rewersy Kultury, hosted a panel debate on human rights under the auspices of Eureopan Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and the media patronage by Professor Maria Flis from the Department of Social Anthropology of the Jagiellonian University, Adam Bulandra, Ph. D., lawyer and human rights activist, and Jacek Tabisz, Vice-President of the Polish Rationalist Association, talked about the history and the current application of the UDHR. The event, which was inaugurated by the President of EHF Giulio Ercolessi and the President of Polish Rationalist Association Kaja Bryx marked also the inauguration of the “Human rights in every passport” project, promoting passport covers with Article 1 of the UDHR printed on them. More information about the event can be found here and about Polish activities in the framework of the European Year of Cultural Heritage here.

Freethinkers Association Switzerland

Focus: Art. 19, Freedom of opinion and expression, Art. 18: freedom of thought, conscience and religion

On 10 November 2018, the Freethinkers Association Switzerland adopted a Resolution for abolishing the Swiss Blasphemy Ban. This Resolution calls the Swiss National Council to remove the Article 261 of the Swiss Penal Code (Attack on the freedom of faith and the freedom to worship) and thus send a clear commitment to the right to freedom of expression. The Resolution was sent to the National Council’s Political Institutions Committees and Legal Affairs Committees on 27 November 2018 for further processing. More information can be found here.

UAAR  (Italy)

Focus: Article 18: freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Can I choose when I grow up? is a campaign reminding that children are born without religious or non-religious convictions. They have every right to be this way until they choose otherwise. This is why UAAR launched a campaign aiming at increasing awareness about children’s freedom of choice on religious and philosophical beliefs, despite what adults, schools and other institutions might impose. The message was delivered on social and print media and was inspired by the “Please don’t label me” campaign by Humanists UK.

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