Take a closer look at some of the events and stories taking place across the world to stand up for human rights.


Human Rights Day around the world

Many events took place around the world to celebrate Human Rights Day. Discover a snapshot of a few of them.

New York-HQ

“COVID-19 Frontline Heroes” as the focus of the Human Rights Day celebrations of the New York Office. The Office produced an online event that featured stories of those on the frontline of the pandemic from across the globe. It also included an address by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The pre-recorded programme can be watched here.


Geneva, the pavoisement of the Mont Blanc Bridge with UN Human Rights flags started on 7 December for one week.



The Central Africa Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) organized visits in several schools in the city of Buea, in the South-West Cameroon region on December 8 and 9, 2020. These educational talks with students from Summerset and Sainte Therese Colleges are part of the celebration of Human Rights Day whose theme this year is "Build Back Better.” In addition, the new manual for human rights defenders in the region was launched.

And on Human Rights Day, the Human Rights Resource Centre was opened in Yaoundé. The Centre is a joint project of the Regional Office and the NGO Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa. The centre will provide students, researchers and others with better information about human rights issues and the mechanisms to assist.


To celebrate Human Rights Day, the Chad country office, along with the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission and the UN Resident Coordinator in Chad, held a live ceremony in N’Djamena on 11 December. The celebration included speeches from officials, musical performances, a drama performance on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a reading of 10 articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by students of primary schools.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office hosted a series of events to celebrate Human Rights Day. The commemorations, which ran from 25 November through 10 December, included the following: a forum on gender-based violence and COVID-19; the second edition of the Academy of Human Rights for 41 students from human rights clubs at two universities; a human rights vocations day; and a round table and awareness raising session on a recent law that protects people living with HIV and AIDS.


On 10 December, the Women, Gender and Development Directorate of the African Union Commission, the UN Human Rights Office - East Africa, UN Women and UNFPA hosted the virtual policy dialogue “Ending Violence against Women and Girls: Action to Guarantee Women’s Safety in Africa.” The event aimed to mobilise the commitment of AU Member States and other stakeholders to ensure ongoing recovery efforts the integrate gender equality and women’s rights. The Policy Dialogue provided a forum for Member States, regional economic centres, development partners, civil society organizations, youth and the media representatives to share best practices and innovative strategies to secure the gains of women and girls during and after the COVID-19 crisis. It adopted a Call to Action with tangible commitments to address the needs of women and girls in multi-sectoral responses to end gender-based violence and to strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment.


UN Human Rights Guinea organized a series of activities, including three round tables discussions in a provinces and a main event in the capital, Conakry. The event included speeches by State officials and ambassadors, as well as a musical performance by students. The office undertook field monitoring mission reaching out to most vulnerable communities and produced short videos visualising how the pandemic affected women and youth as well as the informal sector. The videos were on small-scale agribusiness; fishery and tourism; the impact on female-headed households; and a fabric dyeing in Kindia.


UN Human Rights in Liberia, in collaboration with the Independent National Commission on Human Rights held a special Radio Program in commemoration of Human Rights Day. The program was broadcasted by ELBC, the state broadcaster, and relayed live to two private radio stations and two Web TV stations. The discussion focused on how Liberia can put human rights at the center of the COVID-19 recovery in accordance with the theme of this year’s celebration: “Recover Better, Stand Up for Human Rights”. The program featured relevant representatives from the Government (the Head of the National COVID-19 Response Team), as well as civil society organizations and other UN agencies. The Inspector General of Police joined the program to pass a message of peace and non- violence to Liberians in an attempt to reduce post-electoral tensions and incidents of post-election violence following the 8 December mid-term Senatorial elections and Constitutional referendum.


In the lead-up to Human Rights Day, the Senior Human Rights Advisor Kenya team supported a series of eight community dialogues in Social Justice Centres in five counties of Kenya, including a women’s dialogue. These dialogues with grassroots human rights defenders and communities probed key concerns following the COVID-19 pandemic, priorities to ‘build back better’ from the crisis, and how to collectively achieve the ‘world they want’ and build back better. The SHRA Kenya team commissioned a short film to capture voices and perspectives of communities and human rights defenders on building back better from the COVID-19 crisis. The film is accessible online.

On Human Rights Day, the SHRA Kenya team organised a formal event to mark the day, bringing together representatives of Government, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, civil society, human rights defenders, diplomatic community and the United Nations. The event opened with a performance by the Social Justice Centres theatre group, and interventions by human rights defenders and civil society on various human rights perspectives on the COVID-19 crisis.


Madagascar observed a Human Rights Week starting 2 December and just before Human Rights Day. The week-long event included: a panel discussion on how to best implement the country’s new law against gender-based violence; a university lecture on climate and human rights; and numerous posters and other items. On Human Rights Day, more than 150 people attended a ceremony in the capital, Antananarivo. The ceremony included a parade, songs and poems about the centrality of human rights in the post-COVID-19 reconstruction. The ceremony also saw the 2020 Human Rights Prize awarded to a worker’s union, and a human rights fair and exposition organized.


In Malawi, Human Rights Day was marked with a joint opinion piece, penned by the UN Resident Coordinator and the Head of the European Union Mission. The piece highlighted the need to fully integrate human rights in the COVID-19 recovery process, especially creating a robust health and social protection mechanisms. In addition, the human rights advisor took part in a Human Rights Day seminar, Human Rights and Poverty: Where do we go from here? - The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (lu.se), as well as delivering the key messages on the official Human Rights Day commemoration in the north of the country.


For Human Rights Day and the 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the country OHCHR office in Niger organized - in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) - a conference-debate at the Faculty of Law of Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey on the following theme: "The UDHR and the challenges posed by Covid-19 with regard to the respect of the rights enshrined therein". The Representative a.i. of the country office read the unifying speech of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Subsequently, the Vice- President of the NCHR highlighted the Commission's commitment and efforts to the promotion and protection of Human Rights all over the country.


“The recovery will be efficient if and only if it is anchored on fundamental human rights and is inclusive, leave no one behind. The response should be people-centered,” said Fode Ndiaye, UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda stated during that country’s Human Rights Day event. The event, sponsored by the UN Human Rights Office, Rwanda and other UN agencies, brought together State representatives, civil society groups, NGOs and others to discuss and learn more about how human rights must be at the heart of the recovery from the pandemic. On the margins of the event, the One UN team held a webinar on the Human Rights Day theme, aimed at discussing the effect of the pandemic on marginal communities.


The UN Human Rights Office West Africa held a Human Rights Day ceremony in the capital Dakar. The ceremony included speeches from civil society and government representative, as well as a COVID SLAM – where young people presented spoken-word pieces about the pandemic. The Office also sponsored a mock trial event on the theme Reconstruct better: putting human rights at the heart of the recovery, which was broadcast online.

South Africa Regional Office

South Africa embraced the Social Media Challenge, gathering participation from UN staff, other agencies as well as heads of state and ministers from South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. In addition, a live celebration event was held at Constitution Hill. The UN Human Rights country team in Mozambique celebrated Human Rights Day by focusing on the 30 th Anniversary of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.


The UN Human Rights Office in Uganda partnered with the Embassy of France in Uganda, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission, to promote awareness on the effects of #covid19, with an essay competition for Ugandan students in universities and tertiary institutions – on how to build back better; putting human rights at the core of the recovery process. The Award ceremony coincided with a live televised public debate on “Promoting Human Rights and Accountability in the context of General Elections and COVID-19” – with discussants from key Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The four winning essays are available for view on the OHCHR Uganda website.


For Human Rights Day, the UN Country Team held an online event, which included video messages from the High Commissioner and UN Secretary-General António Guterres. In addition, UNCT along with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) sponsored a round table discussion called “The World I Want” which featured pre-recorded comments from everyday citizens answering the questions, leading to a further discussion featuring youth activists, Government officials and UN agencies.


Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the focus was on the #RecoverBetter challenge. Following the launch by the High Commissioner, the Resident Coordinator, tweeted inviting the UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNESCO Representatives to do the same. It was also followed by young people.


With the support of the UN Human Rights Office, Guatemala, a group of indigenous communicators designed, produced and disseminated two radio spots in indigenous languages and Spanish. In addition a newspaper interview on human rights day and the recovery as well as an opinion piece, as well as a video message on ways to rebuild better. The Office published the digital version of the book “Women and COVID-19”, a compilation of reflections of different Guatemalan women on the impact of the pandemic on human rights. You can see more on the mini site created for the day...


Under the theme “Recover Better: Stand up for Human Rights”, the United Nations Jamaica and the European Union Delegation to Jamaica with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade organized a virtual lecture and panel discussion on 10December to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Panellists provided a general perspective on impact of COVID-19 in their areas of work including: the role of private sector in keeping human rights at the forefront of the recovery plans and efforts for COVID-19; gaps in human rights related legislation have been brought to fore due to COVID-19 and the role of civil society to address the rights of vulnerable groups; and the rights of women and children during the COVID-19 (with domestic violence being called a ‘shadow pandemic’), and the efforts to ensure advancing and protecting their human rights.

Latin America

The team of UN Human Rights offices across North, Central, and South America teamed up this Human Rights Day to present a virtual pan-Latin American concert for human rights. “Derechos Humanos Latinoamérica: El Concierto” was an online event that featured performances from popular musicians from across Central and South America, as well as interviews with human rights defenders from the area. www.concierto-onudh-latam.org

Trinidad and Tobago

Frontline workers were the focus for a series of video shorts for Human Rights Day celebrations in Trinidad. The videos showcased measures being taken in the recovery efforts and lessons on how to keep the things that worked. The videos aired on two of the biggest local television stations. In addition, an arts competition was run with 150 entries from young people from across the country. You can view the winning entries via a virtual exhibition.



In Cambodia, UN Human Rights, in partnership with the UN Country Team, the Delegation of the European Union to Cambodia and the Embassy of Sweden is celebrating Human Rights Day under the theme of “The Right to Create” a better world post-COVID-19, where human rights are placed at the heart of the recovery, ensuring that every child, woman and man can truly enjoy the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 72 years ago. The digital campaign to celebrate Human Rights Day in Cambodia is taking place during the month of December and features the work of talented artists, painters, musicians, performers and dancers based on a participatory process of art production into a musical-visual experience.

Fiji – OHCHR Asia Pacific

The main celebration for Human Rights Day took place at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, and featured a regional hybrid event – an online and in person panel discussion (webinar) - bringing together representatives of policy makers and groups from the region particularly affected by the pandemic to discuss the need for human rights-based solutions to the pandemic. The event allowed participation from across the region of human rights defenders, National Human Rights Institutions, State representatives and more. The day featured the unveiling of the COVID-19 artwork, painted by young people during the International Youth Day 2020 event. The unveiling took place at the University of the South Pacific Library.

Timor Leste

The UN Human Rights team in Timor Leste organized an exhibition of painting of 12 Timorese artists, calling attention to the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups. The painting will be exhibited first in Dili before travelling to different districts in 2021. The paintings were also turned into a 2021 calendar, with a message each month on around this year’s Human Rights Day theme.



To celebrate Human Rights Day, the UN Human Rights Regional Office in Europe (ROE) launched the Dutch version of the publication “Making a Difference: An Introduction to Human Rights”, a user- friendly tool explaining the basics of human rights in an easy-to-understand manner. In support of the #RecoverBetter Social Media Challenge, ROE reached out to several organizations, and high-level persons in Europe, to present the challenge and to invite them to join in. Some of the persons who shared their photo on social media were: Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová, EU Vice-President Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, Human Rights Ambassador., Bahia Tahzib-Lie, UN in Brussels Director, Barbara Pesce- Monteiro, the whole team from the UN Environment Programme Europe, the European Civic Forum, the Hungarian NGO HunHelsinki Committee, among many others.

In addition, two videos developed by the Office – on changing the perception of migrants – were featured during the Human Rights Day online celebrations in New York. The videos – one showing a project where migrant families visited and performed for elderly people in nursing homes in Poland, the other showing a migrant who used his sewing skills to create masks for distribution in Spain – can be viewed here.


On 22 October, eight UN Moldova agencies, under OHCHR leadership, have joined forces to raise public awareness of the rights of each individual, as well as of the interdependence and indivisibility of our universal human rights by having launched the Human Rights social media awareness-raising campaign “Recover better together – Human Rights for All”, with the hashtags: #DrepturileOmuluiPentruToți | #ПраваЧеловекаДляВсех. The campaign, which ends in December, took place throughout Moldova with an essential accent on the Transnistrian region and ATU Gagauzia, putting in the centre the voices of members of marginalized groups as well as others particularly effected by the pandemic to reflect upon the human rights situation. The target groups are the general population, authorities and NGOs. The campaign is raising high interest both on social media and written media, and proves to be an example of engagement of UN Heads of Agencies involved in the campaign. You can find the videos here.


The UN Human Rights Office in Moscow in conjunction with the United Nations Information Centre jointly produced a video showcasing the work of three Moscow-based women – a caregiver for a terminally ill children, a refugee and a person with disability – and their lives and work during the pandemic. They share lessons learned about how to handle the self-isolation and lessons learned to build back better.


On Human Rights Day, UN Human Rights Office Serbia presented the results of a public perception survey “Human rights in the eyes of people in Serbia,” on national television. The research showed that most people considered the right to health, freedom of movement and freedom of expression were the most at risk. Earlier in the week, the Office also published a joint statement with the EU Delegation to Serbia, the Council of Europe on the centrality of human rights for post-pandemic recovery.


The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine’s (HRMMU) Human Rights Day 2020 campaign was centered around the two activities – a series of human rights stories and their offline exhibition in Kyiv city. In partnership with one of the major Ukrainian media outlets nv.ua we issued a series of stories about people in vulnerable situations. The stories highlight out how a nurse from Toretsk, a civilian from eastern Ukraine, a Roma human rights activist, a sign language interpreter and a human rights activist who helps homeless people are addressing challenges that the pandemic has exposed. Each story consisted of (1) a short video, (2) a story in an interview format and (3) a photo-portrait of the person. There was also an “off-line” version of the stories, with an outdoor exhibition of the stories in Kyiv city centre.



On 10 December, Human Rights Day, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq Human Rights Office (UNAMI) launched “New World (COVID-19)”, a song written and performed by Assyrian rapper “The Golden Nenous”. The song urges listeners to put human rights and health at the centre of our response to the pandemic. Recorded in the Assyrian language, the song was widely circulated in Iraq, especially within the Assyrian minority community, after being posted on UNAMI social media and other platforms. You can watch the video in English, Arabic and Kurdish.


On the occasion of Human Rights Day 2020, the UN Human Rights Middle East and North Africa Office produced a 49 seconds video spot in Arabic, under the theme of "build back better" or إعادة البناء بشكل أفضل calling upon us all to stand up, together, for human rights, and to imagine a new world, a better world where the visionary values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have led us all closer to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The video mainly addressed/ hinted to the most pressing human rights violations in our region, mainly women's rights, disability, education, migrant workers and poverty. The spot is still being broadcast in 22 Arabic-speaking countries. Al- Arabiya and Al-Jazeera networks also broadcasted the message free on Human Rights Day. You can watch the video (in Arabic, without subtitles) here.

Occupied Palestinian Territories

The UN Human Rights Office, oPt, developed and published an online awareness-raising quiz on Human Rights, available in Arabic and English. The quiz features the chance to share results on Facebook and to challenge others to play. The Office also organized and took part in several events for Human Rights Day. It organised a face-to-face small event to commemorate Human Rights Day, where a group of diplomats, human rights defenders and self-advocates were brought together to discuss the challenges on the horizon in 2021 for human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territory. It took part in an online event on the subject of press freedom, and participated in a virtual event for the day organized by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Education, where the Office presented human rights education materials for students.

  • I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you
  • When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone's rights are undermined, so I will stand up
  • I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.

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