Human Rights

Quotes on Human Rights

"We the Peoples of the United Nations, determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small..."

—United Nations Charter

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as race, creed, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

—Principle 1, ICPD Programme of Action

"It is my aspiration that health finally will be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for."

—United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"Sixty years have passed since the founders of the United Nations inscribed, on the first page of our Charter, the equal rights of men and women. Since then, study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality. No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health—including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended. But whatever the very real benefits of investing in women, the most important fact remains: Women themselves have the right to live in dignity, in freedom from want and from fear."

—UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"Even if he can vote to choose his rulers, a young man with AIDS who cannot read or write and lives on the brink of starvation is not truly free. Equally, even if she earns enough to live, a woman who lives in the shadow of daily violence and has no say in how her country is run is not truly free. Larger freedom implies that men and women everywhere have the right to be governed by their own consent, under law, in a society where all individuals can, without discrimination or retribution, speak, worship and associate freely. They must also be free from want — so that the death sentences of extreme poverty and infectious disease are lifted from their lives — and free from fear — so that their lives and livelihoods are not ripped apart by violence and war. Indeed, all people have the right to security and to development."

—United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"We must understand the role of human rights as empowering of individuals and communities. By protecting these rights, we can help prevent the many conflicts based on poverty, discrimination and exclusion (social, economic and political) that continue to plague humanity and destroy decades of development efforts. The vicious circle of human rights violations that lead to conflicts-which in turn lead to more violations-must be broken. I believe we can break it only by ensuring respect for all human rights."

—former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson

"This is a very powerful truth. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This is the first article of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration represents the first time that universal human rights were spelled out for all people in a civil and individual context. But many of our faiths and holy books have words of wisdom and assertions of human rights in various forms. They all assert the equality and freedom of people; we are all born into freedom and other people can only make us slaves if we accept and succumb. All faiths declare the unity of human beings and the freedom of all."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

"At one level, the argument for greater global investment in reproductive health services should be obvious. The international community has long recognized that all couples and individuals have a right to decide whether and when to have children. Yet, hundreds of millions of people worldwide who want to space their families lack access to modern contraceptive methods. This is a violation of their human rights, and the consequences are appalling: millions of unintended pregnancies, often resulting in unsafe abortion or maternal or infant death; and continuing rapid population growth in the world's poorest countries."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

"We all know that human rights cannot just be transplanted as external principles into individuals or their communities. Human rights principles must be internalized by each individual, women and men, and must be absorbed and expressed in their own ways and within the positive aspects of their cultural values and beliefs. In order for this to happen, women must believe in human rights and must believe that these rights will protect them and not expose them in a battle against the society. They do weigh the social costs of entering into conflict as opposed to the benefits coming from the status quo. Women will claim their rights if they know there is a support system that will protect them from the reaction of their own communities. This support system should certainly include some of those who hold the keys to the power structures—religious, community and traditional leaders."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

"We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights."

—UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan