As human rights advocates around the world celebrate the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, their counterparts in the United States are mourning the Senate’s rejection last week of the international convention for disability rights. Appalling in its own right, the Senate Republicans’ defeat of the 21st century’s first human rights treaty is a sad but sharp reminder that misinformation and fear can still override fundamental principles of human decency and common sense.
More importantly, it is yet another blow to the United States’ ability to play a leading role in promoting freedoms and human dignity in the world.
The international bill of rights adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, still stands as the gold standard in the daily fight for basic human rights today. As our societies democratize, mature and progress, human rights defenders are winning longstanding battles to expand the frontiers of rights to include women, children, indigenous peoples, LGBT communities and migrants. Economic and social rights are ascendant as well, as people make claims for the essentials of human life: water, food, health, jobs and education.