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On 10 December it is Human Rights day. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the most translated document in the world, and for a reason: it’s a powerful statement of principles, a North Star by which to steer all societal and political relations and a global benchmark for identifying injustices to those who are unable to make their voices heard.

Much of the text was written by the remarkable Eleanor Roosevelt as chair of the United Nations Human Rights commission, who was determined to use her long experience in politics and lobbying, and her concern for refugees after World War II to focus on human dignity and compassion. 

In her words: "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

In the 68 years since they were adopted we have seen the greatest improvement of well-being in human history. Pick nearly any indicator—decolonisation, infant mortality, girls’ access to education—and the improvements have rendered much of the world unrecognisable to our forbearers.  

This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to STAND UP FOR SOMEONE’S RIGHTS. Unfortunately disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. M&S is on a journey to embed Human Rights more deeply into our business, and we have made a good start publishing our first Human Rights report and Modern Slavery statement and taking clear steps to understand how the way we do business impacts on individuals’ human rights. In 2017 we will redouble our efforts and hope to encourage other businesses and stakeholders to work with us.
On 10th of December is a moment for us each to reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference and stand up for someone’s rights.

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