The message of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on Human Rights Day

As the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights stated, on 10 December 2019, we celebrate Human Rights Day and the thoughts based on respect for human dignity and dialogue. While nowadays there are many important debates over the substance of human rights, this turmoil of ideas should not make us forget about our common values, the role of good examples and the communities’ engagement. For legal protection starts with taking responsibility based on the awareness of our rights.

The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, and this calendar day has been celebrated as Human Rights Day all over the world ever since 1950. The day of signing the Declaration marks the beginning of a new era even today: the Declaration, celebrating its 71th anniversary this year, has had – in many respects – ground-breaking importance in modern history. The Declaration is considered to be a common ideal which has to be achieved and kept in mind by all nations. The nations’ duty has been to ensure the respect of rights and freedoms enshrined in the Declaration – and in subsequent major human rights agreements – through education and training. According to the Declaration, one of the main objectives of education and training is to ensure the full development of human personality, as well as to boost respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Declaration, along with human rights-related thinking and attitude based on it, send the message even today that no rights can exist without legal knowledge and responsibility. Furthermore, individual responsibility cannot exist without respect for dignity and autonomy, and without trust and supportive community. Thus it is clear that the existence and effectiveness of human rights depend on the smaller and larger communities, and especially on good examples, personal involvement, credibility and evolving good practices.

Whether human rights are actually upheld – and if yes, how – in the course of everyday life depends on how people conduct themselves at schools, kindergartens, workplaces and homes. General legal protection encompasses respect for dignity, tolerance, attention, listening to others’ opinion and the promotion of autonomous and critical thinking. If all people – adults and children alike – know their rights, and the real substance as well as the boundaries thereof, this will also imply respect for the rights of others.

The Hungarian Ombudsman is an institution which provides legal protection each day of the week, not only on festive days. Its duty is to inquire into the functioning of public authorities as well as into the infringements of fundamental rights reported by citizens. These problems and their possible solutions need to be amplified by fundamental rights-related means, with the power of the public eye, and by filtering out the impact of party politics and current affairs. The Ombudsman – faced with improprieties, and especially with a view to the protection of vulnerable people’s rights – can make recommendations or initiate a dialogue.

The decisive factors in awarding the 2019 Justitia Regnorum Fundamentum Awards by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputies were the dialogues pursued in the field of human rights, along with the role of the community and the persistent and courageous attitude in giving good examples. What the three award winners of this year have in common is that they were recognized together with the community they represent. By granting the award to dr. Albin Juhász-Laczik OSB, Headmaster of the Benedictine High School of Pannonhalma, the exemplary children's rights programme of  the school and of the Benedictine community has also been recognised. Similarly, in the person of the current President of the Association of National Self-Governments of the Nationalities, Mrs. Erzsébet Holler Racskó, the community-building professional work of the Association was acknowledged. Finally, through the award given to dr. István Farkas, Co-Chair of the Association of Hungarian Nature Defenders, the Association’s outstanding, decades-long activity was appreciated as well.