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The Origin of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Up until the Second World War several countries had proclaimed declarations concerning human rights (e.g. Bill of Rights, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, etc.) but no universal one existed. The reflections of the Second World War atrocities highlighted the need for a universal declaration. Consequently, two years after the creation of United Nation (UN) the UN's Secretary-General Trygve Lie requested a declaration draft from UN's Economic and Social Council’s, who delegated the task to the Commission on Human Rights.

 

John Peters Humphrey, the director of the UN Human Rights Division, was given the job to produce a first draft. While he conducted the background reading and suggested articles to be included, René Cassin (a French expert in constitutional law) contributed by writing the preamble and structuring the draft according to civil law practice. Charles Malik, and P. C. Chang worked to ensure that the document would be acceptable across the world’s religion and cultures. Other main contributors were Jacques Maritain as well as Eleanor Roosevelt. The final draft was propagated up to the General Assembly's Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Affairs. After numerous meetings and amendments it was finally approved the 10th of December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot in Paris (48 in favour, 0 against, with 8 abstentions). The document was named Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and consists of preamble that is followed by 30 articles; the document in available for download from the www.humanrightsdefence.org site (UDHR in English alt. Spanish).

UDHR is not a legal binding document since it only highlights objectives for government to follow. However, it has gotten such a strong recognition by governments in the world that a violation often can lead to strong international diplomatic pressure. Criticisms on the formulation has come both from western as well as Islamic governments, who argues that UDHR interfering in domestic affairs, promoting socialism, and for not fully taking cultural and religions context of Islamic countries into consideration.                      [Ver Articulo en Espanol]

RELATED READING

Universal Declaration of Human Rights by United Nations

Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Andrew Clapham

Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Cornell paperbacks) by Jack Donnelly

REFERENCE

John Peters Humphrey Biography (The Hampton John Peters Humphrey Foundation)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations)

International Human Rights Instruments (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)

Humanistic Texts (United Nations)

Wikipedia (Human Rights)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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