Press Release

Op-ed: 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

10 December 2023

The author is the Resident Coordinator for United Nations in Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati. As the designated Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Micronesia, the UN Resident Coordinator guides UN’s engagement in development, humanitarian and peacebuilding activities in five Micronesian countries.

In today’s turbulent world with conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza and Sudan and burgeoning tensions between Venezuela and Guyana, it is perhaps important to take a step back and recognize our universal and inalienable rights. Rights that we have simply because we exist as human beings. Rights that are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. Rights that range from the most fundamental - the right to life - to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty. Rights that include our right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, was the first legal document to set out the fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The UDHR, which turns 75 on Sunday, 10 December 2023, continues to be the foundation of all international human rights law. Its 30 articles provide the principles and building blocks of current and future human rights conventions, treaties and other legal instruments. In adopting the UDHR, the UN General Assembly enshrined human dignity in its preamble as follows: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

The first of 30 articles enshrines that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. The UDHR, together with the 2 covenants - the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - make up the International Bill of Rights.

In the years since then, all five sovereign Micronesian countries have achieved political independence; have become members of the United Nations; and have ratified the UHDR. And by doing so, recognized your fundamental rights and those of others.

Please take a moment to reflect on your fundamental rights. Reflect whether you believe that you possess all the human rights enshrined in the UHDR. Reflect what you and your community can do to demonstrate your commitment to human rights.

Whatever the outcome of your reflections may be, you are not alone. United Nations Micronesia is your friend, your neighbor, and your ally in seeking a world where human rights are promoted and protected, and we stand with you in solidarity and in partnership.


Happy Human Rights Day.

Jaap van Hierden

Jaap van Hierden

Resident Coordinator Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati
Mr. van Hierden is the first UN Resident Coordinator (RC) for the North Pacific covering five Micronesian Countries. Among regular RC duties, Mr. van Hierden has been appointed to establish the new UN MCO Micronesia in order to enhance UN’s presence in the Micronesia region.

Mr. van Hierden has over 30 years of experience in international development, humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding. He has been deployed to countries in conflict and those rising from Least Developed to Upper Middle-Income status. He has also taken on corporate level responsibilities in New York and in Copenhagen, regional level responsibilities in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, and country level responsibilities in Sierra Leone, Cambodia and the Philippines. Mr. van Hierden graduated from Wageningen University in 1990 as Agricultural Economist.

The UN Resident Coordinator (RC) leads a UNCT to ensure the coordination, harmonization, and simplification of their support to achieve national development goals. Under the leadership of the RC, the UNCT consults with the governments to define and agree on the UN strategic responses to country development priorities.

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Resident Coordinator Office

Goals we are supporting through this initiative