UN Human Rights Day: ‘Our Rights Our Freedoms Always’

Celia Russell and Susan Noble, international data experts at the UK Data Service highlight the UN Human Rights Day campaign ‘Our Rights Our Freedoms Always’ and report on the recent Human Rights workshop hosted by the UK Data Service.

Each year, the 10th December marks United Nations Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948.


Representing the first global expression of rights to which everyone is entitled, it sets out thirty fundamental rights including:

  • We are all born free and equal in dignity and rights
  • No-one shall be held in slavery or servitude
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State
  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services
  • Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.


The visualisation shows a map view of the World Bank World Development Indicators: Adjusted net enrolment rate, primary (% of primary school age children)

Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always

This year’s Human Rights Day marks the launch of a year-long campaign – ‘Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.’; dedicated to raising awareness of the following Human Rights Covenants on their 50th anniversary:

These two covenants, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the International Bill of Human Rights setting out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings. Revolving around the theme of rights and freedoms (i.e. freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want), the ‘Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always’ campaign aims ‘to shine a light on the inalienable and inherent rights of global citizens’ – see the UN High Commissioner’s message about Human Rights Day 2015 .

Human Rights and the UK Data Service

In October, the UK Data service held a workshop on Supporting human rights organisations to deliver insights from data’ organised by our own Louise Corti, to identify ways in which we can help charities and civil society organisations working to protect human rights use their data more effectively. These organisations have been collecting increasing amounts of operational, research and evaluation data but, with tight budgets and limited capacities, few fully exploit or share the data that they collect. However, change is in the air and big charities like Oxfam and Save the Children, and big donors like NSAID and the Gates Foundation, are starting to adopt information sharing policies which require data to be made accessible and open. In our workshop, we looked at the types of information that civil society organisations collect, identified the barriers to sharing and understanding data, and explored how data can add weight to a compelling impact story. We are delighted to present the Proceedings from the ‘Supporting human rights organisations to deliver insights from data’ workshop.

Data sharing increases accountability, openness and transparency. However many charities, especially those engaged with human rights issues, work with very vulnerable people and have a huge responsibility to safeguard their privacy and dignity. Consent can be a big issue; charities may also be unaware what external data are available, unable to spare the time or money to invest in data, lack the skills to analyse data or understand the results, or even be worried about what the data may tell them. Initiatives like DataKind, a sort of data-scientists-sans-frontières, and New Philanthropy Capital’s Data Labs can help charities make sense of their data and better measure their effectiveness. As a service, we are keen to help charities and NGOs with their data needs and are now planning a programme of webinars, training, guidance and future events specifically for the third sector.

The UK Data Service would like to join in celebrating 50 years of freedom as embodied in the International Bill of human rights by helping to promote awareness of the covenants, and also highlighting a few key Human Rights open datasets held at the Service:

– SN 7636 Human Rights Atlas Dataset 1981-2012 includes economic and social indicators from a number of open data sources forming a time series for over 220 countries, dependencies and territories from 1981 to 2012. See an international data visualisation of the Atlas.
– SN 4814 World Bank World Development Indicators, 1960-2015 – includes socio-economic data for over 200 countries and 18 country groups running from 1960 onwards. This includes data such as ‘access to education, access to electricity, access to healthcare etc’ which can inform research on Human Rights themes such as freedom from want.

You can also find researcher-generated data on Dalit rights and development, the internet and human rights in Russia, rendition flights numbers, Nepal’s move to democracy and many more specialist datasets relating to human rights within the Service. #HumanRightsDay

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