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December 10: Human Rights Day

Gérald Ghislain

Posted on December 01 2017

At the end of the Second World War, the United Nations decided that it was essential to encourage the development of friendly relations between nations so that such a tragedy would never happen again. In 1946, the Commission on Human Rights was created, which made it possible to establish an editorial board meeting for the first time in 1947. It had 9 members, including Eleanor Roosevelt for the USA. The other countries present in the drafting committee were: USSR, China, Chile, France, Haiti, United Kingdom, and Canada. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was presented and put to vote during the Third General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948 at the Palais Chaillot in Paris. Of the 58 member states, 50 voted towards the Universal Declaration of the UN, 8 abstained, which showed that none of the member states voted against the decleration. It was therefore adopted and posed as a founding document of the United Nations line of action. It consists of thirty articles, it is "the common ideal to reach among all peoples and nations".

The ideological origins of Human Rights can be found in the Enlightenment (XVIIIth century), where its first statement was adopted by a meeting that occured in 1776 when the state of Virginia in the United States voted in favor of that written by George Mason June 12th. This declaration of human rights was very largely taken up by Thomas Jefferson who included it in the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.

On the other side of the Atlantic, revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of Human Rights and Citizenship on August 26, 1789. All these texts served as a basis for drafting the declaration adopted by the United Nations. The last source of inspiration was the idea of the "four freedoms" presented by the President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941.

These four freedoms are: the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to live in need, and freedom to live free from fear. However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a charter that had no legal significance. It did not create an obligation for states and was not to be used as a document in case of a lawsuit between or against a state. The scope of this charter was not be considered as null, which still remains the most important statement of the UN.

It provides a philosophical and legal line for the elaboration of many international conventions. For example, it was the basis of the 1959 Declaration of Children’s Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the establishment of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006. The Declaration of Human rights also held a world record: it is the most translated document, with its transcription in more than 500 languages.

December 10: Human Rights Day

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