"Human rights are our common heritage and their realization depends on the contributions
that each and every one of us is willing to make, individually and collectively, now and in the future."

Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2004 - Remarks by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at News Conference in Geneva, 9 December 2004

As we commemorate International Human Rights Day 2004, the vision and the promise contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under considerable strain. Few of us are free from fear; many of us are still not free from want. The sinister shadow of terrorism is generating a confused response, unanchored in the principles that have guided us in the search for a proper balance between our desire for collective security and our need for liberty and individual freedom.

The UN's High-Level Panel captured well the global threats we face: "I nternational terrorist groups prey on weak States for sanctuary. Their recruitment is aided by grievances nurtured by poverty, foreign occupation and the absence of human rights and democracy; by religious and other intolerance; and by civil violence - a witch's brew common to those areas where civil war and regional conflict intersect."

We must not allow ourselves to become prisoners of a culture of fear and an ideology of exclusion and arrogance. More than ever, the international human rights agenda creates a forum, may be the only universal forum, in which conflicting views, aspirations and beliefs of a most fundamental nature can confront each other in a respectful environment.

We must preserve the space that we have created, through our international human rights instruments and institutions, for this interaction to take place. And we must embrace the future boldly as we seek to improve these instruments and institutions.

Much depends on the readiness of the international community to act on its responsibilities. I urge all Member States to ensure that the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 are properly promoted and protected.