|A huge rainbow flag is carried during a parade as a part of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in Seoul, June 1. Tens of thousands of supporters and visitors participate in the 20th Seoul Queer Culture Festival which is held from May 21 until June 9. AP-Yonhap|
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual Seoul Queer Culture Festival. From humble beginnings in the year 2000, when a small group of around fifty people participated in a Pride parade in the Daehangno area, the event has steadily grown into Korea's largest celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) culture. Last year, more than 120,000 people filled Seoul Plaza on a sun-kissed Saturday afternoon to support the event and the entitlement of LGBT people to be afforded the same dignity, respect and rights as others.
Human rights are universal and should apply equally to everyone. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed by the United Nations member states in 1948, states that everyone is entitled to all the freedoms listed in the UDHR, "without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or political or other status."
In the seven decades that have since passed, our societies have changed. In some respects, they have done so almost beyond recognition. However, people are still marginalized and discriminated against in many parts of the world. As such, the UDHR retains its relevance as a blueprint for the international community, to ensure that we all continuously strive to protect and promote the rights of all our citizens.
One of the core objectives of human rights work is increased respect for equality and tolerance for all members of society. It is our collective view that diversity is to be celebrated. Over time, we have learned that as our respective communities have grown more tolerant, we have seen a reduction in confrontation and animosity. A diverse society is a strong society. We believe that the strongest, safest and most prosperous societies are those in which all citizens can live freely, without fear of violence or discrimination, and where all citizens can play a full and active part.
We believe that everyone should have a fair opportunity in life, irrespective of who or where they are, or indeed who they love. This year once again, record numbers of people are expected to participate in events in Seoul celebrating tolerance and diversity. As they do so, the international community will continue to support the Seoul Queer Culture Festival, and the work of the Korean government and society to promote and uphold the rights of all its citizens.
We look forward to participating in the remaining events and to sharing a message of international solidarity and support for universal human rights, diversity and tolerance.
This column was written jointly by Ambassadors Simon Smith (U.K.), James Choi (Australia), Michael Danagher (Canada), Michael Reiterer (EU), Philip Turner (New Zealand), Frode Solberg (Norway), and Harry Harris (U.S.).