Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (also UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/217, December 10 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris), outlining the organization's view on the human rights guaranteed to all people. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It is not a treaty...[In the future, it] may well become the international Magna Carta..."<ref>Eleanor Roosevelt: Address to the United Nations General Assembly 9 December 1948 in Paris, France</ref>


[edit] Creation

When the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany became apparent after the Second World War, there was a general consensus within the world community that the United Nations Charter did not sufficiently clarify rights it protected. Rather, a universal declaration that articulated and codified the rights of individuals was necessary. Canadian John Peters Humphrey was called upon by the UN Secretariat to work on the project and became the declaration's principal drafter. Humphrey was assisted by Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States, René Cassin of France, Charles Malik of Lebanon, and P. C. Chang of the Republic of China, among others. The proclamation was ratified during the General Assembly on December 10, 1948 by a vote of 48-0, with 8 abstentions (all Soviet Bloc states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia).<ref>See [1] under "Who are the signatories of the Declaration?"</ref> Surprisingly, despite the central role played by Canadian John Humphrey, the Canadian government abstained from voting on the Declaration's draft. The government switched its position later when the draft went to the General Assembly.[[2]]

[edit] Structure and legal implications

The document is laid out in the civil law tradition, including a preamble followed by thirty articles. As it was conceived as a statement of objectives to be followed by governments, it is not legally binding and there were therefore no signatories. The declaration does not form part of international law, but it is a powerful tool in applying diplomatic and moral pressure to governments that violate any of its articles. The 1968 United Nations International Conference on Human Rights decided it "constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community" to all persons. The declaration has served as the foundation for the original two legally-binding UN human rights covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It continues to be widely cited by academics, advocates, and constitutional courts.

[edit] Major principles

There are a total of thirty articles outlining people's human rights, but the most important principles declared are considered to be the following:

[edit] Criticism

  • Predominantly Muslim countries, like Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, frequently criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. In 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law.<ref name="Littman1999">Littman, David. "Universal Human Rights and 'Human Rights in Islam'". Midstream, February/March 1999</ref>
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not mention where the rights come from. Thus, many utilitarian philosophers claim that it is meaningless to say people have rights without any authority or reason that such rights even exist. They quote Jeremy Bentham:
Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense -- nonsense upon stilts.
  • Some scholars say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means nothing at all due to these sections : - (Articles 29 (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.) (Article 30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.)

[edit] Languages

The Guinness Book of Records describes the UDHR as the "Most Translated Document" in the world, translated as of 2004 into 321 languages and dialects.<ref>See UDHR translation citation under Arts and Media - Books & Magazines at the Guinness World Records website, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/ Retrieved September 13, 2005.</ref> Other works are more translated, however; for example, the Bible is also described in the Guinness Book of Records as "translated into 2,233 languages and dialects."<ref>See Bible translation citation under Arts and Media - Books & Magazines at the Guinness World Records website, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/ Retrieved September 13, 2005.</ref> Some of the translations available on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights website contain unrectified mistakes ("... dan munculnya sebuah (sic) dunia di mana manusia akan menikmati kebebasan berucap dan menganut kepercayaan serta kebebasan dari rasatakut (sic) dan citarasa telah pun diisytiharkan sebagai aspirasi toragung (sic) seluruh umat manusia.")<ref>See the Office of the High Commisioner for Human Rights website for the Malay translation. Quoted text is on the second paragraph. Retrieved December 3, 2006.</ref>.

[edit] References in entertainment

The rock band U2 projected the UDHR onto an enormous screen after performing their song "Miss Sarajevo" during their Vertigo tour. Their presentation also included individuals from around the world speaking selected articles of the UDHR. The full UDHR was used during the European and South American legs whilst an edited version was used for audiences in the United States, who did not give as warm a reception to it as European audiences.

The Australian Wave Aid concerts following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami featured a large banner containing certain articles of the UDHR.

[edit] See also

[edit] Non-binding agreements

[edit] Binding agreements

[edit] Other

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1954 International Convenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1965 International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 International Convenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1969 The Convenant on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination Against Women, 1979 The Convenant on the Rights of the Child, 1989 Vienna Declaration, 1993

[edit] Further reading

  • Johannes Morsink, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting & Intent" (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999).

[edit] Notes

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[edit] External links

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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