Working to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.

Shaping a World of Freedoms: 75 Years of Legacy and Impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How will human rights shape the future?

Over the past 75 years, the effort to uphold universal human rights and religious freedom has evolved into a delicate balancing act between lofty ideals and harsh realities. Since its adoption in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has stood as a pivotal document, leaving a distinctive mark on global legal, political, and social landscapes. Guided by an orientation for equality and dignity, nations worldwide have gathered within the United Nations to protect and promote fundamental principles of human rights and contribute towards inclusion, non-discrimination, and the protection of all people’s rights. However, reflecting on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we may recognize that our aspirations are still far from being realized. Emerging challenges and ever-changing landscapes encourage us to strengthen universal human rights and religious freedom for future generations.

“It is significant that a document promoting freedom and peaceful coexistence was released just after the Second World War as a symbol of the rebirth of humanity after a period of worldwide religious and ethnic hatred and crimes against humanity. This document's inception and 75-year history show that regardless of how much humanity can struggle with problems related to the violation of human rights and hatred, there are still multiple chances to overcome the contextual conflict and promote the values of respect and human dignity.” (Nelu Burcea, Liaison of the Seventh-day Adventist Church & International Religious Liberty Association to the United Nations)

During the conference, Dr. Michael Wiener, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized that “the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief was outlined in 1948 for the first time at the international level and with compelling succinctness in article 18 of the UDHR. The drafters of this provision – who drew from a wide range of religions and beliefs, cultures and civilizations from the North, South, East and West – admirably managed to formulate within one sentence the contours of this fundamental freedom.” Also, Dr. Nazila Ghanea, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief highlighted in her article that the “religious freedom was not invented 75 years ago, since early antecedents of the core value of respecting the realm of conscience is reflected in ancient Indigenous cultures and in the Persian empire, and many other sources, religious or otherwise, throughout millenniums and into more recent times.”[…] “One of the great achievements of human rights over the last 75 years is its call for everyone’s entitlement to rights, including of freedom of religion or belief, as a birthright for all. The failure to achieve coherence between a State’s domestic performance and external advocacy affects the credibility of international efforts. Freedom of religion or belief certainly can, and does, benefit from foreign policy engagement, but its foundational human rights rationale does not rest on political preference, but on entitlements and birthrights” (A/HRC/52/38). (See the entire article of Dr. Nazila Ghanea and Dr. Michael Wiener here

Professor Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues (2017-2023), declared, “Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was launched, the United Nations has developed numerous human rights treaties covering many of the most vulnerable populations, including women, children, people with disabilities, and so on. This has been the trend, the development, since the Second World War that we have to remember. It was the base, the foundation that established a rule-based international system that would foster cooperation, help prevent conflicts, and ensure stability on a global scale through equality and justice for all as part of a set of shared values and norms. In a sense, the aspirations that were expressed three quarters of a century ago seem perhaps even more distant today despite the joined strides that we have made in creating a global human rights system[…] It seems that we are entering a period where human rights are being increasingly challenged, disregarded, and even, in some cases, openly rejected, as I warned in my last two annual reports to the UN General Assembly in New York and the United Nations Human Rights Councils in Geneva.” See more information on the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues reports:

Dr. Bill Knott, Director of Government Affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, emphasized, “Seventy-five years ago, the nations of the world came together in an unusual and even momentary consensus to affirm what they couldn’t deny: that dignity is an essential, undeniable, ineradicable component of what it means to be human. […] It will seem strange to many of us that the single word—dignity—created such controversy when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being drafted in the spring of 1948. Today, “dignity” is an essential component of almost every document an international body either contemplates or creates. And we should note—and celebrate—that the crucial word “dignity” appears no less than five times in the English draft of the original Declaration.” (The entire article of Dr. Bill Knott can be read here:

In his presentation, Senator Floyd Morris, PhD, who serves as the Director for the Centre for Disability Studies at The University of the West Indies Mona, Kingston, Jamaica, offered a panoramic view of the situation of persons with disabilities in the context of human rights over the past seventy-five years. “The latest estimate on the world population of persons with disabilities was released by the WHO in December 2022 in its publication on Disability and Health. It estimates that the global population of persons with disabilities is now at 16 percent or 1.3 billion individuals. This makes the population of persons with disabilities the largest minority group. It therefore has the potential to shift the balance of power in any jurisdiction, if persons with disabilities are organized properly on a political basis. Significant work needs to be done by countries across the world, to implement the provisions of the varied international treaties that have been established for the protection of the human rights of all persons with disabilities.”

The 4th edition of the UNequal World International Conference took place on December 11-12, 2023, around the UN Human Rights Day. The conference was designed to create a platform where leading researchers, speakers representing international organizations, decision-makers, diplomats, and academics from various cultural, religious, and political backgrounds could exchange ideas, address challenges, and take action on the most pressing contemporary human rights and religious freedom issues that impact our society, and also envision a future that upholds and expands upon the principles enshrined in the Declaration.

More than 50 internationally-accredited scholars and leaders presented at this year’s two-day event. To learn more about the UNequal World Conference, and access related materials, visit:, or go to Some of the presentations of the UNequal World International Conference were published in the book Shaping a World of Freedoms: 75 Years of Legacy and Impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Right. To access an online copy of the new book, go to The Book of Abstracts of the 2023 Conference will be available in mid-January 2024 at: