12/11/2013 02:35 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2013

5 Extraordinary People Making The World A Better Place

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Commemorating International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, the United Nations honored five individuals and a nation's high judicial court.

The ceremony at the U.N. headquarters in New York marked the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global agreement on the fundamental rights to which all humans are entitled. Honorees were presented with the Human Rights Prize, an award given every five years to recognize individuals and organizations for their courageous contributions to protecting universal liberties.

In past years, the award has been presented to the likes of the late Nelson Mandela and former United States President Jimmy Carter.

This year's recipients exemplify the scope of the modern struggle for human rights and include the son of former slaves who is now fighting to end slavery in his home country, and a 16-year-old education activist who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban.

Here are the six new honorees of 2013:

  • Malala Yousafzai
    The courageous 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl bravely stood up to the Taliban's practice of banning girls from school and survived an assassination attempt by the extremist group in 2012. Touted as the "bravest girl in the world," she continues the fight for children around the globe to have access to education. She hopes to be the prime minister of her country one day, she recently told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
  • Dr. Liisa Kauppinen
    Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva/AP
    Having served as the first female president of the World Federation of the Deaf, Kauppinen is one of the world’s leading advocates for the international deaf community. For more than 30 years, "she has been an inspiration to Deaf Communities internationally, an articulate and intelligent ‘voice’ on the need to explicitly uphold the human rights of deaf people at local, national, and international levels," WFD's website notes. During her term as WFD's president, Kauppinen spearheaded many projects -- from expanding sign language interpreting services across the world to growing the WFD to include 71 countries.
  • Biram Dah Abeid
    A son of freed slaves, Abeid is a Mauritanian human rights defender and president of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania, an anti-slavery organization. According to Freedom House, his courage and diligence have led to the release of hundreds of slaves. The New York Times reports that despite its ban on slavery in 1981, the "West African nation has the highest prevalence of slavery in the world."
  • Khadija Ryadi
    Getty Images
    As president of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, Ryadi boldly stood up to her country's conservative government and denounced the violence committed against Morocco's human rights defenders. "Ms. Ryadi has been at the fore-front of several human rights causes, including [the] fight against impunity, full equality between men and women, self-determination and freedom of expression regardless of sexual orientation," according to a statement released by the U.N.
  • Hiljmnijeta Apuk
    International Museum of Women
    As leader and founder of the Little People of Kosovo -- a national network of advocacy groups -- Apuk has dedicated her career to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and continues to advocate for equal employment opportunities. As noted by the U.N. in a statement, "Apuk was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on drafting of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."
  • Mexico's Supreme Court Of Justice
    OK, so this one's not an "extraordinary person." But the U.N. has recognized Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice for making major improvements in protecting the rights of Mexican citizens and residents. "The national Supreme Court has accomplished very considerable progress in promoting human rights through its interpretations and enforcement of Mexico's constitution and its obligations under international law," according to the U.N.