His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Message on the 50° Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
I am extremely encouraged to learn that there will be worldwide commemoration on the 50° anniversary of the adoption and signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am also very happy to learn that the office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights is encouraging a worldwide study and dissemination of the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that ordinary people will fully understand the rights to which they are entitled. Human rights are of universal interest because it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity and they have a right to achieve them. Whether we like it or not, we have all been born into this world as part of one great human family. Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, belonging to one nation or another, to one religion or another, adhering to this ideology or that, ultimately each of is just a human being like everyone else. We all desire happiness and do not want suffering. Some governments have contended that the standards of human rights laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are those advocated by the West and do not apply to Asia and other parts of the Third World because of differences in culture, social and economic development. I do not share this view and I am convinced that majority of ordinary people do not support it either. I believe that the principles laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights constitute something like a natural law that ought to be followed by all peoples and governments. I am encouraged by the widespread concern for violation of human rights whether in Tibet or any other part of the World. People everywhere have come to realise the great importance and value of human rights. Not only does it offer the prospect of relief to many suffering individuals, but it also is an indication of humanity’s progress and development. I feel that concern for human rights violations and the effort to protect human rights represents a great service to people of both the present and future generations. As we are just about a year away for the dawn of the 21st century, we find that the world is becoming one global family. We are being drawn together by the remarkable advances made in science and technology which enables us to share information instantaneously, and by the grave and common problems of over-population, dwindling natural resources and the environmental crisis that threaten the very foundation of our existence on this planet. Human rights, environmental protection and social and economic equality are all inter-related. In all these issues, I believe a sense of universal responsibility is the key to human survival and progress. It is also the best foundation for world peace and promotion of human rights and a political culture of non-violence and dialogue in resolving human conflicts. In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to specially commend and express my deep admiration and respect for the defenders of human rights everywhere in the world. These people are truly making a difference in people’s lives by documenting human rights abuses and working to alleviate them. I consider human rights work or activism to be a kind of spiritual practice. By defending those people who persecuted for their race, religion, ethnicity or ideology, you are actually contributing to guiding our human family to peace, justice and dignity.
December 7, 1998 Dharamsala