The Declaration concerns social security in a direct and very important way. The two central provisions here are Articles 22 and 25, which proclaim that “everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security”. More specifically, this right relates to medical care, social services, “security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [a person’s] control”.
The contribution made by the Universal Declaration has been fundamental: since 1948 the right to social security has been recognized as a universal human right, without discrimination and regardless of status. The emphasis is on the dignity and value of human beings. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can find themselves in ill health or out of work, some start a family, others grow old. Everyone needs protection at certain times in their lives. The Declaration aims to show that we are stronger if we face life’s risks together. Respect for human dignity is bound up with solidarity.
The Universal Declaration is backed up by other United Nations instruments which confirm the right to social security as a human right, and which ban all discrimination. Being in the form of agreements they are subject to monitoring procedures. They enhance the value of the Declaration, but this value needs to be given practical expression.
These principles are becoming even more important in today’s world: to give globalization a more human dimension, to ensure that innovation goes hand in hand with care for other people, to take better account of international migration, and to be positive in dealing with the fact that people are living longer. Expressing the right to social security in practical terms is vital on both human and social levels; it will have positive effects on the economy, productivity and people’s acceptance of change.
For half the world’s population the right to social security does not exist. Achieving the aim set out in the Universal Declaration is thus one of the biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st century. It will require greater solidarity both within and between States. For its 60th anniversary the Universal Declaration demands that we take urgent action!
Prof. Pierre-Yves Greber, University of Geneva, Switzerland, former Chairperson of the Editorial Board of the International Social Security Review .