December 10, 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).
Human Rights History
The history of human rights has been shaped by all major world events and by the struggle for dignity, freedom and equality everywhere. Yet it was only with the establishment of the United Nations that human rights finally achieved formal, universal recognition. The turmoil and atrocities of the Second World War and the growing struggle of colonial nations for independence prompted the countries of the world to create a forum to deal with some of the war’s consequences and, in particular, to prevent the recurrence of such appalling events. This forum was the United Nations.
When the United Nations was founded in 1945, it reaffirmed the faith in human rights of all the peoples taking part. Human rights were cited in the founding Charter as central to their concerns and have remained so ever since.
One of the first major achievements of the newly formed United Nations was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),1 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. This powerful instrument continues to exert an enormous impact on people’s lives all over the world. It was the first time in history that a document considered to have universal value was adopted by an international organization. It was also the first time that human rights and fundamental freedoms were set forth in such detail. There was broad-based international support for the Declaration when it was adopted. Although the fifty-eight Member States that constituted the United Nations at that time varied in terms of their ideology, political system, religious and cultural background, and patterns of socio-economic development, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a common statement of shared goals and aspirations – a vision of the world as the international community would like it to be. The Declaration recognizes that the “inherent dignity … of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
- Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon)
- Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR)
- Dr. Peng-chun Chang (China)
- René Cassin (France)
- Eleanor Roosevelt (US)
- Charles Dukes (United Kingdom)
- William Hodgson (Australia)
- Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile)
- John P. Humphrey (Canada)
Eleanor Roosevelt, In her own words
Thursday, March 27, 1958 10:00 a.m. United Nations, New York
“I am here in behalf of thirty-two national organizations representing millions of citizens — of all faiths; of every complexion; in all parts of the United States.”
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
“Thus we believe that the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.”
Eleanor Roosevelt at the presentation of “IN YOUR HANDS: A Guide for Community Action for the Tenth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
- 1948 was the first time in history that a document considered to have universal value was adopted by an international organization.
- There are 30 articles in the UDHR
- At present, there are 388 different translations of the UDHR
- From Abkhaz to Zulu The UDHR has the Guinness World Record for Most Translated Document
- The Universal Declaration is, indeed, the most universal document in the world
- Only 5% of the world population knows that Human Rights exist and only 1% has read the UDHR