Magazine article Monthly Review

Fifty Years Ago in MONTHLY REVIEW

Magazine article Monthly Review

Fifty Years Ago in MONTHLY REVIEW

Article excerpt

A widely-held belief in the United States is that Americans lead the world in social, humanitarian, and even egalitarian thinking. More specifically, Mrs. Roosevelt and other United States representatives at the UN are thought to have extended the frontiers of human rights on the international plane. The opposite is true. In December, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," which was to be a beacon light to the world--a guide to wider freedoms and a better life....The original idea was to draw up an International Bill of Rights which every country would sign just as it signs any other international convention....At this stage, the Americans displayed a rare example of long term planning on a UN matter. They decided to split the job into two parts. The first would consist of a declaration of sound and lofty principles which would bind nobody to specific action. The second was to be a Covenant, much more restricted, which would indicate what a (United States) government would be willing to put into its laws....Faced with orders to work out a legally binding Covenant, what should the Human Rights Commission do? One of the world's leading authorities on the subject, Professor Lauterpacht of Cambridge University, England, makes clear what should have been clone [:] "There has been a wide and growing acceptance of the view that personal and political freedom is impaired--if not rendered purely nominal--unless its enjoyment is made practicable by a reasonable guarantee of social and economic freedom. …

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