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  • Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) . It establishes the rights and freedoms of all members of the human race.

It was accepted by the UNGA as per Resolution 217 during the session on December 10, 1948. Among the United Nations members at the time, 48 voted in favour, none against, 8 abstained and 2 did not vote.

The UDHR has played a significant role in the history of human rights. Its significance as well as other facts will be highlighted in detail in this article. The information will be useful in the IAS Exam.

The candidates can read relevant information from the links provided below:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Overview

  • The UDHR consists of 30 articles detailing an individual’s “basic rights and fundamental freedoms”. It is universally applicable for all human beings of varying race, religions and nationality.
  • It directly inspired the development of international human rights law, and was the first step in the formulation of the International Bill of Human Rights, which was completed in 1966 and came into force in 1976.
  • Even though the Universal Human Rights Declaration is not legally binding, its contents has been elaborated and incorporated into subsequent international treaties, regional human rights and instruments and in the legal codes of various countries
  • At least one of the 9 binding treaties of the UDHR has been ratified by all 193 member states of the United Nations , with the majority ratifying four or more.

History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations was founded by 51 countries in October 1945, two months after World War II ended. Two world wars, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a global refugee crisis had led to fears of a destructive World War II .

The UN was founded to avoid such a disaster, as well as to address human rights. Out of all the people who wanted such notions to become a reality, it was Eleanor Roosevelt – the wife of the late United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who would play a crucial role in the formulation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration

President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to the US delegation to the United Nations in 1945. She was well known throughout the world as a champion of poverty allegations and universal civil rights. It was in April 1946, after becoming chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, that she took on the task of drafting a human rights declaration for the world.

Eleanor’s ideals about human rights and desire for global peace were influenced by her experiences of both the world wars where she had worked with shell-shocked soldiers undergoing psychological treatments during World War I while she had visited the devastated cities of Europe during the second world war.

Drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not at all an easy task. For starters:

  • Both the United States and the Soviet Union had their own definition of human or to put it simply could not agree on what human rights were.
  • Many conservative US politicians were not fond of supporting the economic and social rights of the UDHR because in their eyes such rights were ‘communist’ in their nature and scope.

However, Elanor with her charm and diplomacy managed to gather enough support for the UDHR to be passed in a resolution.

Hansa Mehta, a UN delegate from the newly independent country of India and the only other woman on the Commission on Human Rights was crucial in shaping the declaration. It was she who changed the original declaration’s first article from “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal”.

Even though the declaration isn’t binding or enforceable. It would serve as a model for legislation in many countries.

After the draft was presented to the United Nations General Assembly, it was adopted on December 10, 1946.

December 10, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration, is celebrated annually as World Human Rights Day or International Human Rights Day.

Structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was influenced by a set of laws formulated by Napoléon Bonaparte centuries before, collectively known as the Code Napoléon.

Its final structure took form in the second draft prepared by French jurist René Cassin, who worked on the initial draft prepared by Canadian legal scholar John Peters Humphrey.

The Declaration consists of the following:

The preamble gives details about the social and historical reasons that led to the formation of the UDHR.

It contains a total of 30 articles:

Significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • The UDHR is widely regarded as a groundbreaking document that provides a comprehensive and universal set of principles in a secular, apolitical document that is beyond cultural, religious and political ideologies The Declaration was the first instrument of international law to use the phrase “rule of law”, thereby establishing the principle that all members of all societies are equally bound by the law regardless of the jurisdiction or political system.
  • In International law, a declaration is different from a treaty in the sense that it generally states aspiration or understanding among the parties, rather than binding obligations. For this reason, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a fundamental constitutive document of the United Nations and, by extension, all 193 parties of the UN Charter.

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Essay on Human Rights: Samples in 500 and 1500

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  • Dec 9, 2023

Essay on Human Rights

Essay writing is an integral part of the school curriculum and various academic and competitive exams like IELTS , TOEFL , SAT , UPSC , etc. It is designed to test your command of the English language and how well you can gather your thoughts and present them in a structure with a flow. To master your ability to write an essay, you must read as much as possible and practise on any given topic. This blog brings you a detailed guide on how to write an essay on Human Rights , with useful essay samples on Human rights.

This Blog Includes:

The basic human rights, 200 words essay on human rights, 500 words essay on human rights, 500+ words essay on human rights in india, 1500 words essay on human rights, importance of human rights, essay on human rights pdf.

Also Read: List of Human Rights Courses

Also Read: MSc Human Rights

Also Read: 1-Minute Speech on Human Rights for Students

What are Human Rights

Human rights mark everyone as free and equal, irrespective of age, gender, caste, creed, religion and nationality. The United Nations adopted human rights in light of the atrocities people faced during the Second World War. On the 10th of December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its adoption led to the recognition of human rights as the foundation for freedom, justice and peace for every individual. Although it’s not legally binding, most nations have incorporated these human rights into their constitutions and domestic legal frameworks. Human rights safeguard us from discrimination and guarantee that our most basic needs are protected.

Did you know that the 10th of December is celebrated as Human Rights Day ?

Before we move on to the essays on human rights, let’s check out the basics of what they are.

Human Rights

Also Read: What are Human Rights?

Also Read: 7 Impactful Human Rights Movies Everyone Must Watch!

Here is a 200-word short sample essay on basic Human Rights.

Human rights are a set of rights given to every human being regardless of their gender, caste, creed, religion, nation, location or economic status. These are said to be moral principles that illustrate certain standards of human behaviour. Protected by law , these rights are applicable everywhere and at any time. Basic human rights include the right to life, right to a fair trial, right to remedy by a competent tribunal, right to liberty and personal security, right to own property, right to education, right of peaceful assembly and association, right to marriage and family, right to nationality and freedom to change it, freedom of speech, freedom from discrimination, freedom from slavery, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of movement, right of opinion and information, right to adequate living standard and freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence.

Also Read: Law Courses

Check out this 500-word long essay on Human Rights.

Every person has dignity and value. One of the ways that we recognise the fundamental worth of every person is by acknowledging and respecting their human rights. Human rights are a set of principles concerned with equality and fairness. They recognise our freedom to make choices about our lives and develop our potential as human beings. They are about living a life free from fear, harassment or discrimination.

Human rights can broadly be defined as the basic rights that people worldwide have agreed are essential. These include the right to life, the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to health, education and an adequate standard of living. These human rights are the same for all people everywhere – men and women, young and old, rich and poor, regardless of our background, where we live, what we think or believe. This basic property is what makes human rights’ universal’.

Human rights connect us all through a shared set of rights and responsibilities. People’s ability to enjoy their human rights depends on other people respecting those rights. This means that human rights involve responsibility and duties towards other people and the community. Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they exercise their rights with consideration for the rights of others. For example, when someone uses their right to freedom of speech, they should do so without interfering with someone else’s right to privacy.

Governments have a particular responsibility to ensure that people can enjoy their rights. They must establish and maintain laws and services that enable people to enjoy a life in which their rights are respected and protected. For example, the right to education says that everyone is entitled to a good education. Therefore, governments must provide good quality education facilities and services to their people. If the government fails to respect or protect their basic human rights, people can take it into account.

Values of tolerance, equality and respect can help reduce friction within society. Putting human rights ideas into practice can help us create the kind of society we want to live in. There has been tremendous growth in how we think about and apply human rights ideas in recent decades. This growth has had many positive results – knowledge about human rights can empower individuals and offer solutions for specific problems.

Human rights are an important part of how people interact with others at all levels of society – in the family, the community, school, workplace, politics and international relations. Therefore, people everywhere must strive to understand what human rights are. When people better understand human rights, it is easier for them to promote justice and the well-being of society. 

Also Read: Important Articles in Indian Constitution

Here is a human rights essay focused on India.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It has been rightly proclaimed in the American Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Created with certain unalienable rights….” Similarly, the Indian Constitution has ensured and enshrined Fundamental rights for all citizens irrespective of caste, creed, religion, colour, sex or nationality. These basic rights, commonly known as human rights, are recognised the world over as basic rights with which every individual is born.

In recognition of human rights, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made on the 10th of December, 1948. This declaration is the basic instrument of human rights. Even though this declaration has no legal bindings and authority, it forms the basis of all laws on human rights. The necessity of formulating laws to protect human rights is now being felt all over the world. According to social thinkers, the issue of human rights became very important after World War II concluded. It is important for social stability both at the national and international levels. Wherever there is a breach of human rights, there is conflict at one level or the other.

Given the increasing importance of the subject, it becomes necessary that educational institutions recognise the subject of human rights as an independent discipline. The course contents and curriculum of the discipline of human rights may vary according to the nature and circumstances of a particular institution. Still, generally, it should include the rights of a child, rights of minorities, rights of the needy and the disabled, right to live, convention on women, trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation etc.

Since the formation of the United Nations , the promotion and protection of human rights have been its main focus. The United Nations has created a wide range of mechanisms for monitoring human rights violations. The conventional mechanisms include treaties and organisations, U.N. special reporters, representatives and experts and working groups. Asian countries like China argue in favour of collective rights. According to Chinese thinkers, European countries lay stress upon individual rights and values while Asian countries esteem collective rights and obligations to the family and society as a whole.

With the freedom movement the world over after World War II, the end of colonisation also ended the policy of apartheid and thereby the most aggressive violation of human rights. With the spread of education, women are asserting their rights. Women’s movements play an important role in spreading the message of human rights. They are fighting for their rights and supporting the struggle for human rights of other weaker and deprived sections like bonded labour, child labour, landless labour, unemployed persons, Dalits and elderly people.

Unfortunately, violation of human rights continues in most parts of the world. Ethnic cleansing and genocide can still be seen in several parts of the world. Large sections of the world population are deprived of the necessities of life i.e. food, shelter and security of life. Right to minimum basic needs viz. Work, health care, education and shelter are denied to them. These deprivations amount to the negation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Also Read: Human Rights Courses

Check out this detailed 1500-word essay on human rights.

The human right to live and exist, the right to equality, including equality before the law, non-discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, the right to practice any profession or occupation, the right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and trafficking in human beings, the right to freedom of conscience, practice and propagation of religion and the right to legal remedies for enforcement of the above are basic human rights. These rights and freedoms are the very foundations of democracy.

Obviously, in a democracy, the people enjoy the maximum number of freedoms and rights. Besides these are political rights, which include the right to contest an election and vote freely for a candidate of one’s choice. Human rights are a benchmark of a developed and civilised society. But rights cannot exist in a vacuum. They have their corresponding duties. Rights and duties are the two aspects of the same coin.

Liberty never means license. Rights presuppose the rule of law, where everyone in the society follows a code of conduct and behaviour for the good of all. It is the sense of duty and tolerance that gives meaning to rights. Rights have their basis in the ‘live and let live’ principle. For example, my right to speech and expression involves my duty to allow others to enjoy the same freedom of speech and expression. Rights and duties are inextricably interlinked and interdependent. A perfect balance is to be maintained between the two. Whenever there is an imbalance, there is chaos.

A sense of tolerance, propriety and adjustment is a must to enjoy rights and freedom. Human life sans basic freedom and rights is meaningless. Freedom is the most precious possession without which life would become intolerable, a mere abject and slavish existence. In this context, Milton’s famous and oft-quoted lines from his Paradise Lost come to mind: “To reign is worth ambition though in hell/Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

However, liberty cannot survive without its corresponding obligations and duties. An individual is a part of society in which he enjoys certain rights and freedom only because of the fulfilment of certain duties and obligations towards others. Thus, freedom is based on mutual respect’s rights. A fine balance must be maintained between the two, or there will be anarchy and bloodshed. Therefore, human rights can best be preserved and protected in a society steeped in morality, discipline and social order.

Violation of human rights is most common in totalitarian and despotic states. In the theocratic states, there is much persecution, and violation in the name of religion and the minorities suffer the most. Even in democracies, there is widespread violation and infringement of human rights and freedom. The women, children and the weaker sections of society are victims of these transgressions and violence.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights’ main concern is to protect and promote human rights and freedom in the world’s nations. In its various sessions held from time to time in Geneva, it adopts various measures to encourage worldwide observations of these basic human rights and freedom. It calls on its member states to furnish information regarding measures that comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whenever there is a complaint of a violation of these rights. In addition, it reviews human rights situations in various countries and initiates remedial measures when required.

The U.N. Commission was much concerned and dismayed at the apartheid being practised in South Africa till recently. The Secretary-General then declared, “The United Nations cannot tolerate apartheid. It is a legalised system of racial discrimination, violating the most basic human rights in South Africa. It contradicts the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. That is why over the last forty years, my predecessors and I have urged the Government of South Africa to dismantle it.”

Now, although apartheid is no longer practised in that country, other forms of apartheid are being blatantly practised worldwide. For example, sex apartheid is most rampant. Women are subject to abuse and exploitation. They are not treated equally and get less pay than their male counterparts for the same jobs. In employment, promotions, possession of property etc., they are most discriminated against. Similarly, the rights of children are not observed properly. They are forced to work hard in very dangerous situations, sexually assaulted and exploited, sold and bonded for labour.

The Commission found that religious persecution, torture, summary executions without judicial trials, intolerance, slavery-like practices, kidnapping, political disappearance, etc., are being practised even in the so-called advanced countries and societies. The continued acts of extreme violence, terrorism and extremism in various parts of the world like Pakistan, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Somalia, Algeria, Lebanon, Chile, China, and Myanmar, etc., by the governments, terrorists, religious fundamentalists, and mafia outfits, etc., is a matter of grave concern for the entire human race.

Violation of freedom and rights by terrorist groups backed by states is one of the most difficult problems society faces. For example, Pakistan has been openly collaborating with various terrorist groups, indulging in extreme violence in India and other countries. In this regard the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva adopted a significant resolution, which was co-sponsored by India, focusing on gross violation of human rights perpetrated by state-backed terrorist groups.

The resolution expressed its solidarity with the victims of terrorism and proposed that a U.N. Fund for victims of terrorism be established soon. The Indian delegation recalled that according to the Vienna Declaration, terrorism is nothing but the destruction of human rights. It shows total disregard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. The delegation further argued that terrorism cannot be treated as a mere crime because it is systematic and widespread in its killing of civilians.

Violation of human rights, whether by states, terrorists, separatist groups, armed fundamentalists or extremists, is condemnable. Regardless of the motivation, such acts should be condemned categorically in all forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever they are committed, as acts of aggression aimed at destroying human rights, fundamental freedom and democracy. The Indian delegation also underlined concerns about the growing connection between terrorist groups and the consequent commission of serious crimes. These include rape, torture, arson, looting, murder, kidnappings, blasts, and extortion, etc.

Violation of human rights and freedom gives rise to alienation, dissatisfaction, frustration and acts of terrorism. Governments run by ambitious and self-seeking people often use repressive measures and find violence and terror an effective means of control. However, state terrorism, violence, and human freedom transgressions are very dangerous strategies. This has been the background of all revolutions in the world. Whenever there is systematic and widespread state persecution and violation of human rights, rebellion and revolution have taken place. The French, American, Russian and Chinese Revolutions are glowing examples of human history.

The first war of India’s Independence in 1857 resulted from long and systematic oppression of the Indian masses. The rapidly increasing discontent, frustration and alienation with British rule gave rise to strong national feelings and demand for political privileges and rights. Ultimately the Indian people, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, made the British leave India, setting the country free and independent.

Human rights and freedom ought to be preserved at all costs. Their curtailment degrades human life. The political needs of a country may reshape Human rights, but they should not be completely distorted. Tyranny, regimentation, etc., are inimical of humanity and should be resisted effectively and united. The sanctity of human values, freedom and rights must be preserved and protected. Human Rights Commissions should be established in all countries to take care of human freedom and rights. In cases of violation of human rights, affected individuals should be properly compensated, and it should be ensured that these do not take place in future.

These commissions can become effective instruments in percolating the sensitivity to human rights down to the lowest levels of governments and administrations. The formation of the National Human Rights Commission in October 1993 in India is commendable and should be followed by other countries.

Also Read: Law Courses in India

Human rights are of utmost importance to seek basic equality and human dignity. Human rights ensure that the basic needs of every human are met. They protect vulnerable groups from discrimination and abuse, allow people to stand up for themselves, and follow any religion without fear and give them the freedom to express their thoughts freely. In addition, they grant people access to basic education and equal work opportunities. Thus implementing these rights is crucial to ensure freedom, peace and safety.

Human Rights Day is annually celebrated on the 10th of December.

Human Rights Day is celebrated to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UNGA in 1948.

Some of the common Human Rights are the right to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom from slavery and torture and the right to work and education.

We hope our sample essays on Human Rights have given you some great ideas. For more information on such interesting blogs, visit our essay writing page and follow Leverage Edu .

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9 Inspiration: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UN building with many different flags

In this course, you will use as your guide an important historical document from the United Nations. It’s called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Before you look at the document itself, start by thinking about what people mean when they say human rights.

What are human rights?

The basic idea of human rights is that everyone, no matter who they are or where they are born, is entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms. That may sound simple enough, but it gets incredibly complicated as soon as anyone tries to put the idea into practice. What exactly are the basic human rights? Who gets to pick them? Who enforces them—and how? Benedetta Berti explores the subtleties of human rights in the video below.

INSTRUCTIONS: Answer these questions to check your understanding of the video.

How will you use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in this course?

You will use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as your inspiration for all of your essays this term. Inside this document are many big ideas, from freedom of slavery to freedom of expression. As you study this document, you’ll find several different topics that you will write about in different ways.

  • Definition Essay – You find a word or idea in the UDHR that you want to learn more about. You explain its meaning in different ways.
  • Cause-and-Effect Essay – You choose an issue from the UDHR that you want to learn more about. You describe its cause and/or effect in detail.
  • Discussion Essay – You choose another topic from the UDHR that you want to discuss. You present the pros and cons or other considerations that are important to understand the topic.

Throughout the term, you will also write short paragraphs and complete other exercises that use information from the UDHR. It’s a very rich document, and there will be many ideas for you to choose from.

What are the rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

There are 30 rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can learn about them in three ways: simple English, the original English, and written and audio translations in many different languages.

What does the UDHR say in simple English?

  • We Are All Born Free & Equal . We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.
  • Don’t Discriminate . These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.
  • The Right to Life . We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
  • No Slavery . Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.
  • No Torture . Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.
  • You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go . I am a person just like you!
  • We’re All Equal Before the Law . The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.
  • Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law . We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.
  • No Unfair Detainment . Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.
  • The Right to Trial . If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.
  • We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty . Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.
  • The Right to Privacy . Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.
  • Freedom to Move . We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.
  • The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live . If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.
  • Right to a Nationality . We all have the right to belong to a country.
  • Marriage and Family . Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.
  • The Right to Your Own Things . Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.
  • Freedom of Thought . We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.
  • Freedom of Expression . We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.
  • The Right to Public Assembly . We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.
  • The Right to Democracy . We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.
  • Social Security . We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.
  • Workers’ Rights . Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.
  • The Right to Play . We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.
  • Food and Shelter for All . We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.
  • The Right to Education . Education is a right. Our parents can choose what we learn.
  • Copyright . Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.
  • A Fair and Free World . There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.
  • Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.
  • No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights .

What does the original document say?

Although the simple English version above makes it easy for you to get started, it’s also important for you to review the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights , especially after you choose a particular topic for your essay. The original text isn’t much longer, but it can give you more context or other helpful details.

How can you read the UDHR in your first language?

It can be useful for you to also read or hear the UDHR in your first language. In fact, the UDHR is the most translated document in the world! It is available to read in 538 different languages . You can also listen to people read it aloud in nearly 90 different languages .

INSTRUCTIONS: After you have read some of the information above, discuss the UDHR with your classmates. Answer these questions:

  • What did you know about the UDHR before this class?
  • What was new or surprising to learn about the UDHR?
  • What interests you about the UDHR? What are you curious about?
  • Compare/contrast the different formats of the same document. How are they the same? How are they different? Why are they different?

Choose your first topic

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will be the inspiration for your writing this term. To choose your first topic, follow these steps:

1. Read the simple English version (above) again carefully. Then skim the original version (follow the link above). Finally, read or listen to the the UDHR in your first language, too, so that you understand it better (follow the link above).

2. Choose a specific word, concept or idea that interests you.

3. Look up the word, concept, or idea in a dictionary ( Macmillan American Dictionary and Cambridge English Learner’s Dictionary are two good, free online dictionaries, but you can use any dictionary you like; however, do not use only Google Translate). Write your answers to these questions:

  • What is the word, concept, or idea?
  • What is the name of dictionary that you used?
  • What is the dictionary definition of your word, concept, or idea? (copy the exact words and put them in “quotation marks” to show that they came from an outside source of information)
  • What is the definition of your word, concept, or idea in your own words? (paraphrase the dictionary definition in your own words)

4. Send all of these things to your instructor in an email. Here is an example:

Hello, teacher,

My name is Ordelia Halsey. I am in your Level 7 Writing class. Here is the word from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that I want to use for my definition essay:

  • Word: liberty
  • Name of dictionary: Macmillan American Dictionary
  • Dictionary definition: “the freedom to think or behave in the way that you want and not be controlled by a government or by other people”
  • My definition: I can do what I want without the government stopping me.

Please let me know if this is a good choice for my definition essay.

Ordelia Halsey

5. Check your email for a reply from your instructor. Your instructor will tell you if your choice is suitable for this assignment, or if you should choose another. Your instructor will also help to make sure you understand the word that you choose before you start writing your essay.

Coalescence Copyright © 2023 by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Amnesty International UK

What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Eleanor Roosevelt and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The UDHR is an enduring commitment to prevent the bleakest moments in history from happening again.

'The UDHR is living proof that a global vision for human rights is possible, doable, workable.' Agnes Callamard's   keynote address to Amnesty International’s 2023 Global Assembly

When was the UDHR created?

The UDHR emerged from the ashes of war and the horrors of the Holocaust. The traumatic events of the Second World War brought home that human rights are not always universally respected. The extermination of almost 17 million people during the Holocaust, including 6 million Jews, horrified the entire world. After the war, governments worldwide made a concerted effort to foster international peace and prevent conflict. This resulted in the establishment of the United Nations in June 1945.

On 10 December 1948 , the General Assembly of the United Nations announced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - 30 rights and freedoms that belong to all of us. Seven decades on and the rights they included continue to form the basis for all international human rights law .

On 10 December 2023 we are celebrating the UDHR's 75th anniversary, reflecting on the enduring power of these principles to inspire positive change worldwide.

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Who created the UDHR?

In 1948, representatives from the 50 member states of the United Nations came together, with  Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady of the United States 1933-1945) chairing the Human Rights Commission, to devise a list of all the human rights that everybody across the world should enjoy. Her famous 1958 speech captures why  human rights are for every one of us, in all parts of our daily lives :

'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 maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood 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.' Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958, during a speech at the United Nations called ‘Where Do Human Rights Begin?’

Hansa Mehta was the delegate of India, and the only other female delegate to the Commission. She is credited with changing the phrase "All men are born free and equal" to "All human beings are born free and equal" in the Declaration.

Various delegations contributed to the writing of the Declaration, ensuring the UDHR promised human rights for all, without distinction. The Egyptian delegate confirmed the universality principle, while women delegates from India, Brazil and the Dominican Republic disrupted the proceedings to ensure the gender equality. Other delegations disrupted the attempts by the Belgium, France and UK delegations to weaken provisions against racial discrimination. 

'That’s why we celebrate the UDHR, not because of who wrote it into history, but because of those who used it to disrupt history.' Agnes Callamard's   keynote address to Amnesty International’s 2023 Global Assembly

Why is the UDHR important?

The UDHR marked an important shift by daring to say that all human beings are free and equal, regardless of colour, creed or religion. For the first time, a global agreement put human beings, not power politics, at the heart of its agenda . Communities, movements and nations across the world took the UDHR disruptive power to drive forward liberation struggles and demands for equality.

Although it is not legally binding, the protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration has been incorporated into many national constitutions and domestic legal frameworks. All states have a duty, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights for everyone without discrimination.

Our human rights in the UK

The UDHR has three principles: universality, indivisibility and interdependency

  • Universal : this means it it applies to all people, in all countries around the world. There can be no distinction of any kind: including race, colour, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, of birth or any other situation
  • Indivisible : this means that tking away one right has a negative impact on all the other rights
  • Interdependent : this means that all of the 30 articles in the Declaration are equally important. Nobody can decide that some are more important than others.

A summary of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The 30 rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR include the right to asylum , the right to freedom from torture , the right to free speech and the right to education . It includes civil and political rights, like the right to life , liberty , free speech and privacy . It also includes economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security , health and education .

We Are All Born Free

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What are the UDHR articles?

Article 1 : We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas and we should all be treated the same way.

Article 2 : The rights in the UDHR belong to everyone, no matter who we are, where we’re from, or whatever we believe.

Article 3 : We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.

Article 4 : No one should be held as a slave, and no one has the right to treat anyone else as their slave.

Article 5 : No one has the right to inflict torture, or to subject anyone else to cruel or inhuman treatment.

Article 6 : We should all have the same level of legal protection whoever we are, and wherever in the world we are.

Article 7 : The law is the same for everyone, and must treat us all equally.

Article 8 : We should all have the right to legal support if we are treated unfairly.

Article 9 : Nobody should be arrested, put in prison, or sent away from our country unless there is good reason to do so.

Article 10 : Everyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair and public trial, and those that try us should be independent and not influenced by others.

Article 11 : Everyone accused of a crime has the right to be considered innocent until they have fairly been proven to be guilty.

Article 12 : Nobody has the right to enter our home, open our mail, or intrude on our families without good reason. We also have the right to be protected if someone tries to unfairly damage our reputation.

Article 13 : We all have the right to move freely within our country, and to visit and leave other countries when we wish.

Article 14 : If we are at risk of harm we have the right to go to another country to seek protection.

Article 15 : We all have the right to be a citizen of a country and nobody should prevent us, without good reason, from being a citizen of another country if we wish.

Article 16 : We should have the right to marry and have a family as soon as we’re legally old enough. Our ethnicity, nationality and religion should not stop us from being able to do this. Men and women have the same rights when they are married and also when they’re separated. We should never be forced to marry. The government has a responsibility to protect us and our family.

Article 17 : Everyone has the right to own property, and no one has the right to take this away from us without a fair reason.

Article 18 : Everyone has the freedom to think or believe what they want, including the right to religious belief. We have the right to change our beliefs or religion at any time, and the right to publicly or privately practise our chosen religion, alone or with others.

Article 19 : Everyone has the right to their own opinions, and to be able to express them freely. We should have the right to share our ideas with who we want, and in whichever way we choose.

Article 20 : We should all have the right to form groups and organise peaceful meetings. Nobody should be forced to belong to a group if they don’t want to.

Article 21 : We all have the right to take part in our country’s political affairs either by freely choosing politicians to represent us, or by belonging to the government ourselves. Governments should be voted for by the public on a regular basis, and every person’s individual vote should be secret. Every individual vote should be worth the same.

Article 22 : The society we live in should help every person develop to their best ability through access to work, involvement in cultural activity, and the right to social welfare. Every person in society should have the freedom to develop their personality with the support of the resources available in that country.

Article 23 : We all have the right to employment, to be free to choose our work, and to be paid a fair salary that allows us to live and support our family. Everyone who does the same work should have the right to equal pay, without discrimination. We have the right to come together and form trade union groups to defend our interests as workers.

Article 24 : Everyone has the right to rest and leisure time. There should be limits on working hours, and people should be able to take holidays with pay.

Article 25 : We all have the right to enough food, clothing, housing and healthcare for ourselves and our families. We should have access to support if we are out of work, ill, elderly, disabled, widowed, or can’t earn a living for reasons outside of our control. An expectant mother and her baby should both receive extra care and support. All children should have the same rights when they are born.

Article 26 : Everyone has the right to education. Primary schooling should be free. We should all be able to continue our studies as far as we wish. At school we should be helped to develop our talents, and be taught an understanding and respect for everyone’s human rights. We should also be taught to get on with others whatever their ethnicity, religion, or country they come from. Our parents have the right to choose what kind of school we go to.

Article 27 : We all have the right to get involved in our community’s arts, music, literature and sciences, and the benefits they bring. If we are an artist, a musician, a writer or a scientist, our works should be protected and we should be able to benefit from them.

Article 28 : We all have the right to live in a peaceful and orderly society so that these rights and freedoms can be protected, and these rights can be enjoyed in all other countries around the world.

Article 29 : We have duties to the community we live in that should allow us to develop as fully as possible. The law should guarantee human rights and should allow everyone to enjoy the same mutual respect.

Article 30 : No government, group or individual should act in a way that would destroy the rights and freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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The Universality of Human Rights Essay (Critical Writing)

Human’s rights as the attribute of society, the four schools of thoughts: observing the perspectives, natural school: the natural course of events, protest school: opposing the situation, deliberative school: agreeing upon the basics, discourse school: when it is the right time to talk, multiculturalism in different forms, human rights and linguistic diversity, reference list.

In contrast to the other institutions that suggest a single form of the notion existing in the given society, the area of human rights allows to switch the shapes of the very notion of human rights according to the sphere it is applied to. In spite of the fact that the core idea of the human rights remains the same, the form it takes can vary depending on the field of use. The universality of human rights allows them to get into every single part of people’s lives, and this is a subject that needs further exploration.

The way the human rights are interpreted now does not differ from the basic principles set by the founders of democracy. Throughout the centuries, the main idea of human rights remained the same, claiming every single person to have the package of rights that are to be inherent and be an integral part of living a full life of a free man. Set long time ago and representing the range of freedoms that have been proclaimed since the times of the French Revolution, these right still speak of the democracy in motion, demanding the constitutional law and the recognition of a man’s liberty. The situation has not changed much since then, the established rights for life, education, voting and freedom of speech, remain the same.

However, there have been some amendments that presupposed certain improvements, but the basics were left untouched. Nowadays, almost every country can claim that it suggests a full range of the necessary rights and freedoms to its citizens. The democracy principles spread all around the world, and the modern society seems to have all the attributes to be called democratic for recognizing people’s right and freedoms in full. However, it is still curious how the law that outlines the most important points of human rights can convey the idea, and the way this idea can switch its shape as it transgresses from one sphere of analytical and philosophical thinking into another one.

Dembour (2006) defines human rights as the most obvious things that should actually be taken for granted, without clarifying them in such a detailed manner in the set of laws, “One claims a human right in the hope of ultimately creating a society in which such claims will be no longer necessary” (p. 248). The existence of the four schools of human right can explain the fact of these rights switching their shape so suddenly and with such a scale. There four schools consider human rights in absolutely different light. The ideas of different scholars may be considered from the point of view of those four schools of thought. A lot of scholars dwelling upon human rights in the relation to multiculturalism and language refered themselves to one of the Dembour’s schools.

One of the most well-known schools is probably the natural school that considers human rights as they are given, in plain. Presupposing that human rights are something that one has been granted since the day of birth, the followers of this school suggest that the subject under discussion can be valued from the point of view of the plain nature. Eriksen (1996) supports this idea dwelling upon the fact that different nations can exist together on the basis of understanding this idea. Taylor (1994) also supports this idea claiming people with different understanding of human rights may respect each other and perceive them as they are.

The idea that this philosophy conveys is that a person’s rights are the incorporation of the laws of nature and it presupposes that people should act according to their inner understanding of their rights and freedoms. This theory is close to idealism, which is supported by Donelly (2003) who is sure that people have rights “simply because one is a human being” (p. 10).

As opposed to natural school of thought, protest school of thought believes that human rights cannot be considered as a universal notion because they are limited to such concepts as morality, dignity, and moral integrity (Dembour, 2006, p. 236). In particular, the supporters of this concept find some political and intellectual inferences related to human rights. They believe that universality of human rights fails to consider the dignity and individuality of each person. More importantly, the theory suggests that human rights impose a kind of responsibility on each individual.

If to consider human freedom as one of inherent components of human rights, one should be aware of the fact that all freedoms enjoyed by individuals should be deserved first. Indeed, a person takes all existing freedoms for granted finding it unnecessary to fight for them. They agree with the assumption that freedom is an innate right of humans (Denbour, 2006, p. 237). This position also reveals that illusionary possession of the fundamental freedoms should be protected by law.

This school of thoughts can be interpreted through visions and outlooks of Varennes (2007). In particular, his point of view is narrowed to the idea that language right should protected on equal basis with human rights because it reveals their identity and responsibility for their culture and country. Hence, Varennes (2007) states, “…the use of a language in private activities can be in breach of existing international human rights such as the rights to private and family right” (p. 117).

Drawing the line between the protest scholars, language right should be protected by law as well. Such a position explains Varennes’ affiliation to this theoretical framework. The problem of linguistic justice is also considered by Patten and Kymlicka (2003) and Wei (2009) who believe that should be linguistic justice because it is an inherent component of human rights.

As compared with natural and protest theoretical framework whose primary concerns are based on a strong belief in human rights, deliberate school of thought are fully loyal to this concept. They conceive human rights as an idealistic conception that exists regardless of human experience. According to this school, “human rights are thus no more than legal and political standards; they not moral, and certainly not religious, standards” (Dembour, 2006, p. 248). Therefore, the limited perception of human rights impels the scholars to believe that this phenomenon is nothing else but adjudication.

While analyzing different ideas and positions, Dembour (2006) concludes that deliberate theorists find human rights beyond political and legal dependence. Rather, they compare them with religion, stating that it is a universal notion existing outside the context of morality, law and politics. Due to the fact that human rights are perceived as something secular, deliberate school of thought subjects this conception to idolatry.

Following the main concepts of deliberate school, Aikman (1995) provides his own vision of linguistic diversity and cultural maintenance that should be preserved irrespective of laws and politics because it is more connected with social needs and socio-cultural environment in the country. More importantly, Boumann (1999) provides the separatist vision of linguistic rights in correlation of his position to its universality. In particular, the scholar beliefs that multiculturalism and human right should be reevaluated and be more connected with ethnic and religious identity, but not political and legal perspectives.

Although Biseth (2008) seems to be more radical in his vision of multiculturalism, the scholar also represents deliberate school of though believing that linguistic diversity is inevitable due to diversity in culture and cultural heritage. In particular, Biseth (2008) stands for equality and universality of human right with regard to linguistic right, which should be perceived as something integral and inherent to a human. In general all the above-presented scholars agree with the necessity to perceive linguistic right as something independent from politics and law.

Dwelling upon discourse school of thought and relating it to the human rights, it is possible to states that Dembour (2006) defined the scholars who belonged to this school as those who, “not only insist that there is nothing natural about human rights, they also question the fact that human rights are naturally good” (p. 251). The representatives of this school are sure that those human rights exist only because people talk about them. Moreover, Dembour (2006) believes that if the notion of human rights does not exist, so there is nothing to fight for and to protect.

Koenig and Guchteneire (2007) believe that due to high rate of migration and international communication human rights became international and there is nothing to discourse about. It is possible to refer Holmarsdottir (2009) to this school of thought as his ideas are closely connected to the ideas presented by Dembour (2006). Holmarsdottir (2009) is sure that there are no human rights which have been given to people since their birth. Only the government can give people their rights. He writes, “a government is considered as having as exclusive right to make and implement policy in the interest of all the people” (Holmarsdottir, 2009, p. 223).

All these ideas and perspectives may be easily considered from the point of view of multiculturalism and language problem in the concept of human rights.

It is important to remember that different cultures presuppose in some cases absolutely dissimilar norms and rules. In this case, human rights policies are not an exception. But, there is the tendency that many counties live in the multicultural society, so different norms and rules should collaborate and be combined. But, it is impossible to provide in the real society. Aikman (1995) states that many indigenous peoples struggle for the right to use their languages on their territory.

The multiculturalism has entered the society of Harakmbut Amazon people so deeply that these people have to fight for the opportunity to use their native language. It is natural that the countries with the same problems create the Declarations where the status of their country is stated as bicultural and it allows people to use their native language. Thus, indigenous peoples have created the draft of the declaration which allows them to use their traditions and culture in the multicultural society they are made to live in. The text of the draft states that peoples who are influenced by other cultures can “revitalise, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, philosophies, writing system and literature” (Aikman, 1995, p. 411).

Baumann (1999) is sure that people can never understand the main idea of multiculturalism and can still see the problem there until they do not rethink the problem. According to Baumann (1999), the multiculturalism should become global “just as environmentalism and feminism need to be global to succeed” (p. 32). Thus, human rights will be followed and there will not be a problem if the whole world is involved into multicultural society. The author also states that the problems in the society are mostly solved by the civil rights which exclude foreigners. Is not it the violation of the principles of the multiculturalism (Baumann, 1999)?

The problems in the multicultural society became extremely debatable. The appearance of different politics within the problem makes it possible to become politically neutral for most people. Thus, the politics of equal dignity is based on the principle that people on the whole Planet should be equally respected. Thus, their human rights should be respected as well. This politics creates the universal human potential. The main idea of this potential is that people should be respected, no matter what ethnical group they belong to or what language they speak. Still, the problem of the relations between people in the multicultural society remains unsolved (Taylor, 1994, p. 41).

While many people dwell upon the importance of the multiculturalism and the culture globalization, Halla (2009) states that globalization of culture has absolutely negative impact on the whole society. It is important to understand that the multiculturalism in the whole world eliminates the uniqueness of the peoples and their cultures. Halla (2009) is sure that multiculturalism reduces people from using their rights to live in the country they were born in. It is really important for elite to maintain multiculturalism in the world society as in this case people are required to buy the western products and goods. On the one hand, the culture globalization has a positive effect (especially in education and in the right of choice). On the other hand, the problem is extremely sharp for small peoples who cannot resist cultural globalization and lose their unique qualities (Halla, 2009).

Dwelling upon multiculturalism and human rights, Eriksen (1996) uses the example of Mauritius. The religious, language and cultural diversity of this community is rather varied and difficult, still people in Mauritius are given an absolute freedom of which religion they may follow (there are four main religions on the island, three of which are subdivided into numerous sects), which subjects to study at school (most core subjects are options, so students are not obligated to learn the things they do not want or do not like due to their cultural or religious preferences), and which language they want to speak. Even though that the main language on the island is English, the cultural languages are spoken and supported by the society (Eriksen, 1996). Thus, the main idea of the said is that multiculturalism which does not violate human rights is the multiculturalism where the peoples with different cultures live on the same territory, but there are no quarrels and problems in the cultural question.

There are a lot of different forms how multiculturalism may be considered. Still, many people understand this notion as the impact of one culture under another one when the smaller should resists. This understanding is correct as in most cases it is so. Here is one dominant culture which influences the whole society and other nationalities should submit to the requirements provided by other nations. This form of multiculturalism is wrong. People should not be submitted to somebody only because they are stronger or are considered to be more developed. Culture is not an economy or politics, this human facility should not be measured with anything. Thus, if some people have a culture, it should be protected and no one should violate the rights of others calling this multiculturalism.

Still, there is a better form of multiculturalism which is practiced on small islands all over the world. This form of multiculturalism is like a rainbow or a salad, as opposed by Eriksen (1996). The ingredients and elements are in one and the same ‘society’, they are gathered together, but they do not try to take up each other. Living on one and the same territory people do not impose their rights and cultures on others, they just learn to live together, and this is the form of the multiculturalism which should be spread worldwide, when human rights are not violated and human uniqueness is not spoiled.

Without any doubts, the idea of human rights has already touched upon numerous aspects of life: people want to know more about their rights, they want to take as many steps as possible to improve the conditions under which they have to live, and, finally, they want to understand the main idea of their rights and define possibilities. The idea of human rights and its connection to linguistic diversity seems to be a powerful aspect to evaluate the chosen theme from. There is a certain link between language rights and human rights (Varennes, 2007).

It is usually wrong to believe that only some groups of people may have their language rights because any person has his/her own language rights, and those people whose rights are violated by the government in some way have to re-evaluate their status and their possibilities. There were many attempts to advocate language rights, and one of them was supported by the political movement in the middle of the 1960s (Wei, 2000). Still, the question concerning rights remains to be open, and a variety of discussions may take place.

Nowadays, the idea of linguistic diversity is narrowed to several languages which are defined as those with some kind of future. In fact, the power of linguistic diversity is great indeed as any language is considered to be a factor that may contribute to cultural diversity that influences the development of human rights. Linguistic diversity seems to be a serious challenge for the vast majority of democratic polities because language is usually regarded as “the most fundamental tool of communication”; this is why even if the “minorities are not in themselves bearers of collective rights, the transnational legal discourse of human rights does de-legitimize strong policies of language homogenization and clearly obliges states to respect and promote linguistic diversity” (Koenig & Guchteneire, 2007, p. 10).

So, linguistic diversity is the source of controversies, which may be developed on the political background, influence considerably human rights in various contexts, and predetermine “the stability and sustainability of a wide range of political communities” (Patten & Kymlicka, 2003, p. 3). Still, this aspect has to be regulated accordingly because it has a huge impact on the development of the relations between different people. For example, a number of politically motivated conflicts are connected with language rights which have to be established separately from other human rights.

And even the increase of inequalities depends on language rights and prevents the development of appropriate society. In case language rights and other aspects which are based on linguistic diversity do not move in accordance with people’s demands and interests, there is a threat that people can make use of their own assumptions about language policies (Holmarsdottir, 2009), and these assumptions can hardly be correct. However, Biseth (2009) admits that diversity in languages as well as competence in these languages plays an important role in social development, this is why they cannot be neglected but elaborated.

People suffer from a variety of limitations which are based on human inabilities to use their own languages but the necessity to use the official language. Such restrictions lead to people’s inabilities to get appropriate education in accordance with their interests, to participate in political life of the country a person lives in, and even to ask for justice when it is really necessary.

This is why another important aspect that has to be evaluated is how the chosen human rights perspective may influence the promotion of linguistic justice and diversity that is widely spread nowadays. Some researchers say that linguistic rights have to become one of the basic types of the existed human rights. Speakers, who use a dominant language, and linguistic majorities find the existed linguistic human rights an excellent opportunity to express their ideas and their demands. Still, there are many people, the representatives of linguistic minorities, who cannot support the idea of linguistic human rights because only the smallest part of the existed languages has the official status.

It happens that some individuals undergo unfair attitude or are suppressed by the majorities because of the language they use. Taking into consideration this fact, it is possible to say that wrongly introduced linguistic human rights may negatively influence other human rights including the political representation. The outcome of such discontents and misunderstanding is as follows: people are in need of appropriate improvements and formulations which may consider cultural heritage, educational demands, and freedom of speech.

In general, the evaluation of the human rights perspective on linguistic diversity helps to comprehend that there are many weak points in the already existed system that influences and manages a human life. People are eager to create some rules, requirements, and obligations to follow a particular order and to develop appropriate relations. Still, linguistic diversity continues developing and changing human lives. And the main point is that some researchers and scientists still find this diversity an important aspect of life that cannot be changed, and some people cannot understand the importance of this diversity as it considerably restricts human rights.

In conclusion, the question of human rights is constantly discussed in the modern world. There are different opinions on the problem, some people state that human rights even do not exist as the notion (Dembour, 2006), still, most people assure that human rights exist as the duties of the society (Donnelly, 2003). Moreover, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (UN, 1993) dwells upon the very notion of human rights and the system of international human rights which relate people to the multicultural society where those rights should be followed. The problem stands sharp in the education where students, desiring to study their own languages have to learn others. Moreover, the impact of the dominant language is rather damaging on the others who exists in one society.

It is really important to remember that living in the multicultural society and trying to adopt the cultures and traditions of other dominant nations, many peoples ruin their uniqueness, they become ordinary, forgetting their roots. As the same time, the process of culture globalization leads people to the universality of human rights. This step may be significant in preventing human rights violation in the society.

Aikman, S. (1995). Language, literacy and bilingual education. An Amazon people’s strategies for cultural maintenance. International Journal of Educational Development, 15 (4), 411-422.

Baumann, G. (1999). The Multicultural Riddle: Rethinking National, Ethnic, and Religious Identities . New York: Routledge. Web.

Biseth, H. (2009). Multilingualism and Education for Democracy. International Review of Education, 55 (1), 5-20.

Dembour, M. B. (2006). Who believes in human rights? Reflections on the European Convention . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice . Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Eriksen, T. H. (1996). Multiculturalism, Individualism and Human rights: Romanticism:The Enlightenment and Lesson from Mauritius. In R.Wilson (ed. ) Human rights, Culture and Context, Anthropological Perspective (pp. 49-69). London, Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press 47-17.

Holmarsdottir, H. (2009). A tale of two countries: language policy in Namibia and South Africa. In H. Holmarsdottir and M. O’Dowd (Eds.). Nordic Voices: Teaching and Researching Comparative and international Education in the Nordic Countries (pp. 221-238). Amsterdam: Sense.

Koenig, M., & Guchteneire, P. d. (2007). Political Governance and Cultural Diversity. In M. Koenig & P. d. Guchteneire (Eds.), Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies (pp. 3-17). Aldershot: Ashgate.

Patten, A., & Kymlicka, W. (2003). Introduction: Language rights and political theory: Context, issues and approaches. In W. Kymlicka & A. Patten (Eds.), Language rights and political theory (pp. 1-51). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, C. (1994). The Politics of Recognition. In C. Taylor & A. Gutmann (Eds.), Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (pp. 25-73). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

UN (1993). Vienna Declaration and programme of Action . Web.

Varennes, F. d. (2007). Language Rights as an Integral Part of Human Rights – A Legal Perspective. In M. Koenig & P. d. Guchteneire (Eds.), Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies (pp. 3-17). Aldershot: Ashgate.

Wei, Li (2000). Dimensions of bilingualism. In Li Wei (Ed.), The Bilingualism Reader (pp. 3-25). London: Routledge.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed to never again allow atrocities like those of that conflict to happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere. The document they considered, and which would later become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was taken up at the first session of the General Assembly in 1946. 

The Assembly reviewed this draft Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms and transmitted it to the Economic and Social Council "for reference to the Commission on Human Rights for consideration . . . in its preparation of an international bill of rights." The Commission, at its first session early in 1947, authorized its members to formulate what it termed "a preliminary draft International Bill of Human Rights". Later the work was taken over by a formal drafting committee, consisting of members of the Commission from eight States, selected with due regard for geographical distribution.

Eleanor Roosevelt of the US, at left, shaking hands with Vladimir M. Koretsky of the USSR, at right.

The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee. With her were René Cassin of France, who composed the first draft of the Declaration, the Committee Rapporteur Charles Malik of Lebanon, Vice-Chairman Peng Chung Chang of China, and John Humphrey of Canada, Director of the UN’s Human Rights Division, who prepared the Declaration’s blueprint. But Mrs. Roosevelt was recognized as the driving force for the Declaration’s adoption.

The Commission met for the first time in 1947. In her memoirs, Eleanor Roosevelt recalled:

Dr. Chang was a pluralist and held forth in charming fashion on the proposition that there is more than one kind of ultimate reality.  The Declaration, he said, should reflect more than simply Western ideas and Dr. Humphrey would have to be eclectic in his approach.  His remark, though addressed to Dr. Humphrey, was really directed at Dr. Malik, from whom it drew a prompt retort as he expounded at some length the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.  Dr. Humphrey joined enthusiastically in the discussion, and I remember that at one point Dr. Chang suggested that the Secretariat might well spend a few months studying the fundamentals of Confucianism!

The final draft by Cassin was handed to the Commission on Human Rights, which was being held in Geneva. The draft declaration sent out to all UN member States for comments became known as the Geneva draft.

The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 with over 50 Member States participating in the final drafting. By its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting. Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, member of the drafting sub-Committee, wrote:

I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality.  In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.

The entire text of the UDHR was composed in less than two years. At a time when the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocks, finding a common ground on what should make the essence of the document proved to be a colossal task.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

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UDHR in 80+ languages

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Watch and listen to people around the world reading articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in more than 80 languages.

Women Who Shaped the Declaration

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, seated at right speaking with Mrs. Hansa Mehta who stands next to her.

Women delegates from various countries played a key role in getting women’s rights included in the Declaration. Hansa Mehta of India (standing above Eleanor Roosevelt) is widely credited with changing the phrase "All men are born free and equal" to "All human beings are born free and equal" in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Essay Example

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The two articles that best represent the human nature are Articles 1 and 19. Article 1 states, “ All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood .” (United Nations). Article 1 emphasizes the fact that all human beings are born as masters of their own destiny and not as someone’s property. It is a human nature to desire control over one’s life and not lose freedom of actionl by being someone’s slave. Humans also desire equal rights because it appeals to their sense of fairness and justice. One cannot control where he/she is born, thus, it is not fair to discriminate against someone in terms of rights on the basis of circumstances surrounding his/her birth.

Human beings also believe what separates them from other species is their higher intelligence levels. As a result, they do not only strive for freedom of action but also freedom of reasoning because it helps them advance the collective knowledge of their kind. Humans do not like to be forced to believe in something that may not appeal to their sense of reasoning. In order to believe in something, they have to be convinced in their own ways. Humans also believe they do not exist in isolation but as part of communities which is why it is important for them to develop reliable relationships. In order to understand humans, it is important to pay attention to Article 1 because free will is arguably the most sought-after right by humans and may generate a strong reaction from them if the right is restricted in any manner.

Article 19 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (United Nations). This article again makes it clear that humans do not like to be told how to live or what to believe. It does not matter whether what they believe is right or wrong for as long as they believe what they want to believe. Humans are also curious creatures, thus, they are continuously seeking news ideas and perceptions. Once again they seek freedom to choose their own channels of information and ideas. Articles 1 and 19 make it clear that humans seek and value freedom in all shapes and forms and respond with a strong reaction where their freedoms are limited or threatened.

Two articles that misrepresent human nature are Articles 5 and 12. Article 5 states, “ No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (United Nations). While humans do champion ideas that seem fair in theory, they rarely support those ideas without exceptions. They would not hesitate from supporting restriction of rights under Article 5 for those they don’t like or perceive as threats to their interests. Thus, humans are willing to ignore rights of others if their real or perceived interests are threatened. Article 12 states, “ No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks .” (United Nations). The problem with rights under this article is that humans believe it is sometimes justifiable to limit individual rights in the greater interests of the society. Law enforcement agencies often invade personal space of citizens, just on the basis of suspicion. Similarly, the rights under this article also conflict with another right valued by humans which is freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means personal opinions do not have to be factually accurate even they attack someone’s reputation and it is especially true of public figures.

These articles misrepresent human nature to the aliens because they make it seem like these rights are absolute in nature while they are not. The articles also assume there is no conflict between rights mentioned in the articles while in reality different rights may be in conflict with each other, depending upon the circumstances.

United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 16 October 2013 <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/>.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the first UN documents to elaborate the principles of human rights mentioned in the UN Charter. It was adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) on 10 December 1948 , by a vote of 48-0-8.

  • Resolution symbol: A/RES/217 A (III)
  • Meeting record: A/PV.183
  • Voting summary: 48-0-8

Human Rights Day is celebrated on 10 December every year.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one part of the resolution on the "International Bill of Human Rights" ( A/RES/217 (III) ). Following the adoption of this five-part resolution in 1948, two covenants were drafted that are also considered part of the International Bill of Human Rights, both were adopted in 1966:

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional Protocols

Unlike the covenants, the UDHR is not a treaty and has not been signed or ratified by states. See the UN Treaty Collection Glossary for more information on declarations.

The UN has adopted many more declarations and conventions on human rights topics since 1948. The lists on the UN Treaty Collection and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights websites are excellent starting points for research.

The drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place from 1946-1948 in several bodies including:

  • Drafting Committee
  • Commission on Human Rights
  • General Assembly, including the Third Committee

Documents related to the drafting are available online through the ODS , UN Digital Library and the Drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights research guide. Links to additional archival materials are found in the UNOG research guide on the UDHR .

There are several ways to approach research on the drafting of the UDHR. Procedural histories or travaux préparatoires of the UDHR provide reference to the documents including drafts of the declaration, proposals by countries, meeting records, reports, and voting information.

  • The UN Audiovisual Library of International Law has a brief scholarly procedural history of the UDHR, including an overview of the drafting process, links to selected UN documents, and related audio, video and photos.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The Travaux Préparatoires . Edited by William A. Schabas. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). 3157 p. ( library holdings in WorldCat ) This reference book not only includes the relevant documents, but also indexes the documents by subject, article of the UDHR, personal name of participants, and country. This is an excellent starting point for research on country positions and the drafting of specific articles or paragraphs.
  • Many additional websites, articles and books concern the UDHR, its drafting, its impact and/or various aspects of the declaration. Consult your librarian for help finding material available to you.

The drafters of the UDHR included many prominent people from around the world. The meeting records of the drafting bodies list the participants in the meetings; meeting records of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly generally name just the presiding officer and the speakers. Eleanor Roosevelt served as the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights during the drafting of the UDHR; she is sometimes referred to in meeting records as Chairman or Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Some sources for starting research on the drafters include:

  • The research guide on drafting of the UDHR includes brief biographies of members of the Drafting Committee
  • The Human Rights Day website highlights the contributions of several women
  • The index to the Schabas Travaux Préparatoires lists contributions by personal name and by country
  • Books and articles have been published about some of the UDHR drafters

The meetings of the various drafting bodies were held in different places. The meeting records or the reports of the bodies on their sessions indicate the date, time and location of the meetings. The declaration was adopted at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, where the third session of the General Assembly was held. The meeting at which the UDHR was adopted ( A/PV.183 ) was held in the "grande salle" of the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. The Palais is a theatre and the "grande salle" is its main room.

Translations

At the time of the adoption of the UDHR in 1948, resolutions of the General Assembly were published in Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish. Over 500 translations can be found on the UDHR website of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights , including videos in several sign languages.

Links and Resources

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write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

70 Years of Impact: Insights on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

By Chandler Green on December 5, 2018

On December 10, the most translated document in the world – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR ) – turns 70 years old. While the declaration has established enduring human rights principles for everyone, everywhere and has become a central guiding force for the United Nations, the full reach and scope of its impact is often overlooked – or taken for granted.

We spoke with Andrew Gilmour , the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, to better understand the history of the UDHR, how it advances human rights globally, and some of the biggest opportunities and challenges facing human rights today.

Can you briefly explain how World War II set the stage for the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948?

Andrew Gilmour: WWII remains the deadliest war in history. In response not only to the horrors of war and genocide, but also of the economic depression of the 1930s, this magnificent and noble document was agreed to in 1948. The impetus clearly came from a growing demand and a recognition by all countries that there needed to be some global commitment through a framework to prevent the atrocities that took place during the war as well as the terrible economic hardships before and after it. Thus, the UDHR was designed to cover the entire spectrum of human rights: civil and political, but also economic, social, and cultural.

What role did the US play in its creation?

  AG: The U.S., through Eleanor Roosevelt and others, played a pivotal role in the drafting of the UDHR as the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights from 1946 to 1951. She was in many ways the quintessential multilateralist, looking beyond her national interests and recognizing that certain values and interests transcend national agendas and are common to humanity. Despite the great momentum at the time, Eleanor Roo sevelt’s task was still by no means an easy one.

She had to lobby governments, and she had to make the case that certain rights are common to all countries – and this in a time when the world was still very polarized.  The USSR and other countries under Soviet influence were not in favor of the so-called “negative” rights, such as the ones where countries are called on to refrain from violating civil and political rights. Others, including those in the developing world, were concerned about the financial burden placed on governments to provide for “positive” economic, social, and cultural rights.

On the other hand, Western countries were much more focused on civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. In the end, Eleanor Roosevelt, on behalf of her country, managed to bring these divergent interests together to agree on a common standard. In this sense, the U.S. was instrumental to the creation of the UDHR.

write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

How does the UDHR shape the work of the United Nations?

AG: The UDHR guides much of the work of the organization. The rights contained in it relate to all three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. We simply cannot have peace and security without some of the basic fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in the UDHR, such as the right to life, security, and liberty of the person, but equally we cannot have development without the right to health or the right to education, for instance. Principles of non-discrimination and equality are fundamental to the work of the UN.

The promise of, and commitment to, global sustainable development – especially the call that no one should be left behind, starting with those furthest behind – is a rights agenda. It is a universal agenda encompassing all Member States and thus a foundation for fairness where there is injustice, for inclusion in defiance of exclusion, and a commitment that global values be applied universally.

Similarly, the Secretary-General’s prevention agenda also recognizes the human rights framework as central. The Secretary-General himself has said on occasion that the best prevention tool we have is the UDHR and the treaties that derive from it, not least because almost every internal conflict in the world has human rights violations among its root causes. The UDHR continues to be as relevant today as it was in 1948 post WWII.

The UDHR is not a legally binding document, so how does it advance human rights globally?

AG: Although the UDHR is not a legally binding document, it is not merely aspirational either. It has become somewhat of a yardstick to measure Member States’ commitments to human rights, including through the various human rights mechanisms that monitor the implementation of human rights by Member States, such as the Universal Periodic Review .

Many of the rights enshrined in the UDHR have subsequently been reflected in other human rights instruments and treaties that have been ratified by Member States, so indeed, much of the UDHR is now codified into binding human rights obligations . Nonetheless, there is a growing recognition that the rights in the UDHR contain minimum standards that are applicable to all countries.

Is there a particular case study that stands out to you?

AG: This week I visited Yemen , so let me talk about that. I was shocked by what I saw. Indeed, virtually every article of the UDHR is being flagrantly and brutally disregarded. The parties to the conflict are deliberately creating massive humanitarian suffering as a tactic of war, including by restricting the delivery of emergency food and medical supplies.

There is a complete breakdown of the rule of law which has had a terrible impact on people’s rights to life, security, freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, freedom of expression (especially of journalists), and freedom of religion (especially among the Bahai community), as well as essential social and economic rights, including to food, education and health. During my visit, I met with the mothers of detainees who recount ed tragic tales of missing husbands, sons, and brothers. I was also shocked by the wholly or partly destroyed buildings, including cultural sites.

It is hard to imagine that human rights exist in these type of situations, where virtually every human right is being violated, which make the role of the UN all the more important by reminding countries of their obligations toward their people.

write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

What are some common misperceptions about the UDHR?

AG: Perhaps one of the most common misperceptions is that the UDHR somehow does not reflect universal standards – that it is some kind of Western document that does not take into account values of other cultures and regions. This is simply not true. First of all, many representatives of non-Western countries played a key role in the drafting of the UDHR and have ratified core human rights treaties since then.

Secondly, time and again it has been proven that human rights – be they civil and political or economic, social and cultural – are common values that are pursued by people globally. Why is the right to food for example not a “Western right” or the right not to be tortured? While some countries may prioritize one set of rights over the other, there can be no doubt that given a choice, people everywhere in the world will wish to have all their rights fulfilled.

70 years after its inception, what do you see as the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities for the UDHR?

AG: High Commissioner Bachelet has recently said that she is convinced that the human rights ideal has been one of the most constructive movement of ideas in human history – as well as one of the most successful. But today, that progress is under threat. We are experiencing unprecedented challenges when it comes to implementing some of the very same standards, that were adopted by consensus by Member States in 1948. We are seeing pushback on gender rights, including sexual and reproductive rights and also LGBTI rights, although the record there is mixed with progress in North and South America, Western Europe and a few other places, but regression in other parts of the world.

We see a cruel scapegoating of minorities: Central Americans falsely accused in the U.S. of being more likely to be criminals than regular citizens; Muslims under great pressure in Europe and the U.S., and the Rohingya being victimized to the extent of disenfranchisement, killings, mass rape, and expulsion. Syrians, Yemenis, South Sudanese, and others killed in the tens of thousands. And millions of Palestinians still under a humiliating occupation that has violated almost all their human rights for over half a century.

Perhaps what concerns me the most is the clamp down of human rights defenders. In country after country, the space is closing for civil society. We see this in harsh laws to restrict NGOs, often under the guise of counter-terrorism and in the growing number of cases of restrictions and reprisals against human rights defenders.

This 70 th anniversary of the UDHR presents an opportunity for us all to recommit to the ideals enshrined in the UDHR – to reaffirm our commitments to human rights and to stand up to those who challenge these hard-won advances that have been possible through the tireless work of activists and Member States that are willing to listen to them.

To commemorate the 70 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, join the UN’s #StandUp4HumanRights campaign to promote and defend universal human rights.

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write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

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"Why Human Rights?": Reflection by Eleni Christou

write an essay on universal declaration of human rights

This post is the first installment from UChicago Law's International Human Rights Law Clinic in a series titled — The Matter of Human Rights. In this 16-part series, law students examine, question and reflect on the historical, ideological, and normative roots of the human rights system, how the system has evolved, its present challenges and future possibilities. Eleni Christou is a third year in the Law School at the University of Chicago.

Why Human Rights?

By: Eleni Christou University of Chicago Law School Class of 2019

When the term “human rights” is used, it conjures up, for some, powerful images of the righteous fight for the inalienable rights that people have just by virtue of being human. It is Martin Luther King Jr. before the Washington monument as hundreds of thousands gather and look on; it is Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom; or a 16-year-old Malala telling her story, so others like her may be heard. But what is beyond these archetypes? Does the system work? Can we make it work better? Is it even the right system for our times? In other words, why human rights?

Human rights are rights that every person has from the moment they are born to the moment they die. They are things that everyone is entitled to, such as life, liberty, freedom of expression, and the right to education, just by virtue of being human. People can never lose these rights on the basis of age, sex, nationality, race, or disability. Human rights offer us a principled framework, rooted in normative values meant for all nations and legal orders. In a world order in which states/governments set the rules, the human rights regime is the counterweight, one concerned with and focused on the individual. In other words, we need human rights because it provides us a way of evaluating and challenging national laws and practices as to the treatment of individuals.

The foundational human right text for our modern-day system is the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights . Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December, 1948, this document lays out 30 articles which define the rights each human is entitled to. These rights are designed to protect core human values and prohibit institutions and practices that are contrary to the enjoyment of the rights. Rights often complement each other, and at times, can be combined to form new rights. For example, humans have a right to liberty, and also a right to be free from slavery, two rights which complement and reinforce each other. Other times, rights can be in tension, like when a person’s right to freedom of expression infringes upon another’s right to freedom from discrimination.

In this post, I’ll provide an example of how the human rights system has been used to do important work. The international communities’ work to develop the law and organize around human rights principles to challenge and sanction the apartheid regime in South Africa provides a valuable illustration of how the human rights system can be used successfully to alleviate state human rights violations that previously would have been written off as a domestic matter.

From 1948 to 1994, South Africa had a system of racial segregation called ‘ apartheid ,’ literally meaning ‘separateness.’ The minority white population was committing blatant human rights violations to maintain their control over the majority black population, and smaller multiethnic and South Asian communities. This system of apartheid was codified in laws at every level of the country, restricting where non-whites could live, work, and simply be. Non-whites were stripped of  voting rights ,  evicted from their homes  and forced into segregated neighborhoods, and not allowed to travel out of these neighborhoods without  passes . Interracial marriage was forbidden, and transport and civil facilities were all segregated, leading to extremely inferior services for the majority of South Africans. The horrific conditions imposed on non-whites led to  internal resistance movements , which the white ruling class responded to with  extreme violence , leaving thousands dead or imprisoned by the government.

While certain global leaders expressed concern about the Apartheid regime in South Africa, at first, most (including the newly-formed UN) considered it a domestic affair. However, that view changed in 1960 following the  Sharpeville Massacre , where 69 protesters of the travel pass requirement were murdered by South African police. In 1963, the United Nations Security Council passed  Resolution 181 , which called for a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa, which was later made mandatory. The Security Council condemned South Africa’s apartheid regime and encouraged states not to “indirectly [provide] encouragement . . . [of] South Africa to perpetuate, by force, its policy of apartheid,” by participating in the embargo. During this time, many countries, including the United States, ended their arms trade with South Africa. Additionally, the UN urged an oil embargo, and eventually  suspended South Africa  from the General Assembly in 1974.

In 1973, the UN General Assembly passed the  International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid , and it came into force in 1976. This convention made apartheid a crime against humanity. It expanded the prohibition of apartheid and similar policies outside of the South African context, and laid the groundwork for international actions to be taken against any state that engaged in these policies. This also served to further legitimize the international response to South Africa’s apartheid regime.

As the state-sanctioned violence in South Africa intensified, and the global community came to understand the human rights violation being carried out on a massive scale, countries worked domestically to place trade sanctions on South Africa, and many divestment movements gained popular support. International sports teams refused to play in South Africa and cut ties with their sports federations, and many actors engaged in cultural boycotts. These domestic actions worked in tandem with the actions taken by the United Nations, mirroring the increasingly widespread ideology that human rights violations are a global issue that transcend national boundaries, but are an international concern of all peoples.

After years of domestic and international pressure, South African leadership released the resistance leader Nelson Mandela in 1990 and began negotiations for the dismantling of apartheid. In 1994, South Africa’s apartheid officially ended with the first general elections. With universal suffrage, Nelson Mandela was elected president.

In a  speech to the UN General Assembly , newly elected Nelson Mandela recognized the role that the UN and individual countries played in the ending of apartheid, noting these interventions were a success story of the human rights system. The human rights values embodied in the UDHR, the ICSPCA, and numerous UN Security Council resolutions, provided an external normative and legal framework by which the global community could identify unlawful state action and hold South Africa accountable for its system of apartheid. The international pressure applied via the human rights system has been considered a major contributing factor to the end of apartheid. While the country has not fully recovered from the trauma that decades of the apartheid regime had left on its people, the end of the apartheid formal legal system has allowed the country to begin to heal and move towards a government that works for all people, one that has openly embraced international human rights law and principles in its constitutional and legislative framework.

This is what a human rights system can do. When state governments and legal orders fail to protect people within their control, the international system can challenge the national order and demand it uphold a basic standard of good governance. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights system has grown, tackled new challenges, developed institutions for review and enforcement, and built a significant body of law. Numerous tools have been established to help states, groups, and individuals defend and protect human rights.

So why human rights? Because the human rights system has been a powerful force for good in this world, often the only recourse for marginalized and minority populations. We, as the global community, should work to identify shortcomings in the system, and work together to improve and fix them. We should not —  as the US has been doing under the current administration  — selectively withdraw, defund, and disparage one of the only tools available to the world’s most vulnerable peoples. The human rights system is an arena, a language, and a source of power to many around the world fighting for a worthwhile future built on our shared human values.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Mathias Risse Photo

Faculty Director Mathias Risse joins the  Writ Large  podcast to discuss how  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights  came to be and what this document represents in the long journey to realize equal rights for all human beings.

Listen to  the full episode . 

This is an episode of Writ Large , a production of Lyceum Studios. It is produced by Jack Pombriant, Galen Beebe, and Zachary Davis. More information available at  writlarge.fm .

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  • Back to Contents
  • 2 Chart of Australian Treaty Ratifications as of May 2012
  • 3 Chart of related rights and articles in human rights instruments

4 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • 5 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • 6 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • 7 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • 8 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • 9 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • 10 Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • 11 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • 12 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 13 Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles)
  • 14 Useful resources

Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948.

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

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.

Global Citizenship Curriculum Project - Georgetown University

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  • Global Dialogues

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted by the UN General Assembly, December 1, 1948

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Everyone has the right to a nationality.

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

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.

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  1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Essay

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be analyzed within the context of the political, cultural, and religious situation, emerging in the middle of the twentieth century. As it is widely known, this act was adopted in 1948. According to this document, every person (or it would be better to say human beings) must be entitled to ...

  2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It establishes the rights and freedoms of all members of the human race. It was accepted by the UNGA as per Resolution 217 during the session on December 10, 1948. Among the United Nations members at the time, 48 ...

  3. Essay on Human Rights: Samples in 500 and 1500

    Essay writing is an integral part of the school curriculum and various academic and competitive exams like IELTS, TOEFL, ... On the 10th of December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its adoption led to the recognition of human rights as the foundation for freedom, justice and peace for ...

  4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    A milestone document in the history of human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It has been ...

  5. Introductory essay: the drafting and significance of the Universal

    Canadian legal academic John Peters Humphrey (1905-95) served as Director of the United Nations Division of Human Rights from 1946 to 1968. On several occasions, Humphrey wrote about the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its legal significance, most notably in his memoir: Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Transnational Publishers ...

  6. Introduction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has inspired many individuals and policymakers around the world to work toward a better world. Today there are "around two hundred assorted declarations, conventions, protocols, treaties, charters, and agreements dealing with the realization of human rights in the world. Of these postwar [documents] no ...

  7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings.Drafted by a UN committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was accepted by the General Assembly as Resolution 217 during its third session on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.

  8. 9 Inspiration: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will be the inspiration for your writing this term. To choose your first topic, follow these steps: 1. Read the simple English version (above) again carefully. Then skim the original version (follow the link above). Finally, read or listen to the the UDHR in your first language, too, so that you ...

  9. What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an enduring commitment to prevent the repetition of history's bleakest moments. . The UDHR emerged from the ashes of war and the horrors of the Holocaust. The UDHR marked an important shift by daring to say that all human beings are free and equal, regardless of colour, creed or religion.

  10. PDF Exploring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Social Justice

    This collection of social justice writing prompts introduces students to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR can serve as the course theme for a whole term or the inspiration for an individual assignment. Students can read the UDHR in both English as well as their first language.

  11. The Universality of Human Rights Essay (Critical Writing)

    In spite of the fact that the core idea of the human rights remains the same, the form it takes can vary depending on the field of use. The universality of human rights allows them to get into every single part of people's lives, and this is a subject that needs further exploration. We will write a custom essay on your topic.

  12. History of the Declaration

    History of the Declaration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War ...

  13. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Essay Example

    The two articles that best represent the human nature are Articles 1 and 19. Article 1 states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." (United Nations).Article 1 emphasizes the fact that all human beings are born as masters of their own destiny and not as ...

  14. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the first UN documents to elaborate the principles of human rights mentioned in the UN Charter. It was adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) on 10 December 1948, by a vote of 48-0-8.. Resolution symbol: A/RES/217 A (III) Meeting record: A/PV.183 Voting summary: 48-0-8 Human Rights Day is celebrated on 10 December every year.

  15. 70 Years of Impact: Insights on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Human Rights. On December 10, the most translated document in the world - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - turns 70 years old. While the declaration has established enduring human rights principles for everyone, everywhere and has become a central guiding force for the United Nations, the full reach and scope of its impact ...

  16. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Contact the UDHR Team. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and this section of OHCHR's website, please contact: ( [email protected]) or write to: Methodology, Education and Training Unit. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais des Nations. 1211 Geneva 10. Switzerland.

  17. Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Endnotes. 1 HRC, Nuclear Commission, 1st Meeting, Summary Record, 29 April 1946, (E/HR/6/1 May 1946), 1-3, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.. 2 Eleanor Roosevelt, "The Promise of Human Rights," by Eleanor Roosevelt, Foreign Affairs, April, 1948, in Allida Black, Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 156-168.

  18. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

    The Declaration consists of the following: The preamble of the Declaration outlines the social and historical factors that led to the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 1: Free and equal. All humans are born free and equal, and they should all be treated equally.

  19. Essays on Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Absolutely FREE essays on Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All examples of topics, summaries were provided by straight-A students. Get an idea for your paper. search. Essay Samples Arts & Culture; ... Let us write you an essay from scratch. 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help; Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours;

  20. "Why Human Rights?": Reflection by Eleni Christou

    In other words, we need human rights because it provides us a way of evaluating and challenging national laws and practices as to the treatment of individuals. The foundational human right text for our modern-day system is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December, 1948, this document ...

  21. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Faculty Director Mathias Risse joins the Writ Large podcast to discuss how The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came to be and what this document represents in the long journey to realize equal rights for all human beings.. Listen to the full episode.. This is an episode of Writ Large, a production of Lyceum Studios.It is produced by Jack Pombriant, Galen Beebe, and Zachary Davis.

  22. PDF Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, Now, therefore, The General Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of ...

  23. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    4 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948. PREAMBLE. Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

  24. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures ...