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World: UN Chief To Observe Anniversary Of Rights Declaration

By Alexandre d'Aragon

Washington, 11 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address on Thursday a conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.

The conference, conducted by the American Bar Association (ABA), will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The declaration was handed down by the United Nations after the end of World War II. Panelists will assess the impact of the declaration and of the Genocide Convention, the implementation of human rights, a proposed international criminal court, and the role of lawyers in furthering the United Nations and human rights.

On Thursday night Annan gives a keynote speech to some 300 dignitaries and human rights advocate at a celebration dinner. Nobel Peace prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, will receive a special award from the ABA during the evening for his lifetime dedication to the cause of human rights.

One of the first major achievements of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The landmark document was drafted in the aftermath of the Second World War to foster respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, and underline the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.

Adopted a day before, the Genocide Convention was written bearing the atrocities of the Holocaust in mind with the hope to prevent such an event repeating itself.

Under the theme "All Human Rights for All," numerous events are scheduled throughout the year to commemorate the adoption of the declaration and will culminate with the actual anniversary on December 10, 1998.