Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article excerpt

Fifty years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a "common standard of achievement for all nations and all peoples." A movement to establish an international bill of rights had gained momentum during the early years of World War II. As the Declaration announced, "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind." Moreover, the world war had convinced many that international aggression, such as that of the fascist powers, was linked to violations of human rights at home--thus helping to justify an international approach to an issue previously considered the internal affair of states. The 1945 Charter of the United Nations first established human rights as an international concern, partly under the influence of a number of vocal non-governmental organizations present at the San Francisco conference, and called for the formation of a commission on human rights.

Between 1947 and 1948, this UN Commission on Human Rights, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, drafted a declaration of rights. Britain, France, India, Lebanon, China, and the Soviet Union--but not a single representative of still-colonized Africa--were among the other countries represented on the Commission. …