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75 years on: a reflection on human rights

Date posted
08 December 2023
Ivan Williams Jimenez
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

Sunday 10 December marks 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr Ivan Williams Jimenez, IOSH's Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager, reflects on progress made and looks to the future.

The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an occasion to reaffirm the commitment of states to the protection and respect of human rights and to non-negotiable principles of freedom, equality, and justice for everyone.

While the past three-quarters of a century have seen an important evolution in the provision of human rights protections, the challenges that lie ahead in guaranteeing human rights for all are arduous to overcome.

A responsibility for us all

Upholding human rights is a responsibility that involves all key stakeholders and partners, with businesses taking ownership according to their operating context through responsible business conduct and by strengthening due diligence requirements to better identify and mitigate adverse human rights, environmental and social impacts.

Excelling in this practice requires a paradigm shift that prioritises the transition to a more responsible business model that identify, prevent and manage accountability in the context of human rights, labour standards and climate change.

There are existing frameworks that can facilitate the identification and management of shortcomings associated with human rights. These range from voluntary frameworks such as The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), the United Nations Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises (all well-established global frameworks) to mandatory regulations such as National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights.

Yet many organisations continue to struggle to put the right systems in place due to lack of expert capacity or lack of resources, both financial and human. In the shorter term, negotiations continue to happen on the prospect for a binding UN Business and Human Rights Treaty.

Safe and healthy working environment

This milestone celebration is even more significant in the context of the recognition of a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work. But for all workers to enjoy this right, effective implementation is needed at a policy and business level. Only then will we see positive and sustained improvements in the protection of workers from sickness, disease and injury arising from their employment remains a critical challenge.

IOSH’s Activate 2028 strategy aims to strengthen the coherence between human rights and occupational safety and health standards to reinforce the principle that OSH is essential to public and socioeconomic good and sustainable development.

We are not alone in this journey. Our recently granted ECOSOC status allows us to support the work of the United Nations system and its many specialised agencies and bodies that work towards promoting global policies for the protection and respect of human rights, including labour rights, aimed at achieving dignity, fairness, respect and non-discrimination in enjoying safe and healthy working environments.

Despite the significant progress made, we have a long way to go still to ensure all people are safe and healthy at work. IOSH will continue to champion good occupational safety and health as a fundamental labour right and human right, driving change and strengthening capacity globally through practical interventions at a local and workplace level.

Last updated: 31 January 2024

Ivan Williams Jimenez

Job role
Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager


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