"Over seven decades, humanity has achieved considerable progress. People around the world have gained progressively greater freedoms and equality," Guterres told a gathering at UN Headquarters in New York to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948, a date later became Human Rights Day globally.
"They have been empowered to oppose discrimination, fight for protection, and gained greater access to justice, health, education and development opportunities," he said.
Guterres noted that conditions of profound economic misery and exploitation have been improved. Women`s rights have advanced, along with the rights of the child, the rights of victims of racial and religious discrimination, the rights of people with disabilities and a multitude of economic, social and cultural rights.
But he cautioned that there are problems.
"In practice, recognition of the inherent dignity and equal rights of human beings is still far from universal. Millions of people continue to suffer human rights violations and abuses around the world. And human rights defenders still face persecution, reprisals are rising and the space for civil society action is shrinking in very many nations."
He emphasized that lasting peace and security can never be achieved in any country without respect for human rights, and the Sustainable Development Agenda, which aims to lift millions from poverty and enable them to access their economic and social rights, is deeply rooted in respect for human rights.
Human rights are not bound by any single tradition, culture or belief, he said. When the world`s nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, they acknowledged the diversity of cultures and political systems.
"I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you. When anyone`s human rights are denied, everyone`s rights are undermined, so I will stand up. I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights," he said.