Geneva (AFP) - Human rights standards worldwide are under "unprecedented pressure", the UN said Thursday, warning that "the rhetoric of fascism" was becoming commonplace in parts of Europe and the United States.
Speaking ahead of the international Human Rights Day on December 10, UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged people around the globe to push back against a dangerous erosion of rights protections.
"2016 has been a disastrous year for human rights across the globe," Zeid said in a statement, warning that "if the growing erosion of the carefully constructed system of human rights and rule of law continues to gather momentum, ultimately everyone will suffer."
International human rights standards, he said, were "under unprecedented pressure" and risked "unravelling".
Zeid pointed to conflicts, like the one raging in Syria, that have unleashed a massive refugee crisis, extremist movements that are subjecting people to "horrific violence", climate change, discrimination and "yawning economic disparities".
The failure of many leaders to effectively and honestly deal with such issues has pushed many to turn to "the siren voices exploiting fears, sowing disinformation and division, and making alluring promises they cannot fulfil," he warned.
His comments follow a string of populist victories in Europe, and the stunning November election of Donald Trump as the next US president.
"In some parts of Europe, and in the United States, anti-foreigner rhetoric full of unbridled vitriol and hatred, is proliferating to a frightening degree, and is increasingly unchallenged," Zeid warned.
"The rhetoric of fascism is no longer confined to a secret underworld of fascists, meeting in ill-lit clubs or on the 'Deep Net'. It is becoming part of normal daily discourse," he said.
Zeid, who is set to launch a campaign entitled "Stand up for someone's rights today" on Saturday, urged everyone to "push back the violence and hatred which threaten our world."
"At a time of enormous turmoil and rapid change, the values which uphold peace across the world are too important to be left to international institutions and governments alone," he said.