Short Note on Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December, 1948 in Paris. The Declaration arose directly from experience of the World War II and represents first global expression of rights for human being. The provisions of this UDHR subsequently followed and adopted by various constitutions and legal systems of the world. The International Bill of Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two optional protocols. In 1966, the General Assembly adopted the two detailed covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights; and in 1976 after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of International law.

The authorship of this Declaration is credited to John Peters Humphrey (Canada), Rene Cassin(France), Stephane Hessel(France), P.C.Chang (China), Charles Malik(labanon), Eleanor Roosevert(U.S) and others.

Background of UDHR, 1948:

During the World War II the allied powers adopted the Four Freedoms i.e speech, assembly, freedoms from fear and freedom from want as their basic war aims. The United Nations Charter reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights and dignity and worth of the human rights and committed all member states to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

When the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany on Jews became apparent after the World War II, the consensus within the world community was that the UN Charter did not sufficiently define the rights it referenced. A Universal Declaration that specified the rights of individuals was necessary to give effect to the Charter’s provision on human rights.

Making of UDHR

Canadian expert John Peters Humphrey was the main drafter to the UDHR and Director of UN secretariat and division of Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights a standing body of the UN, was constituted to undertake the work of preparing what was initially conceived as an International Bill of Rights. The membership of the commission was designed to be broadly representative of the global community with representative of the countries like Australia, Belgium, Chile, China, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Lebanon, Panama, Philippines, UK, US, USSR, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. Among above authors John Humphrey provided the initial draft which became the working text of the Commission.

Member Countries to Vote for UDHR

The UDHR was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December, 1948 by a vote of 49 in favour and zero against with 8 countries abstained from it such as USSR, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, South Africa, Czechoslovakia and Saudi Arabia.

Despite the central role played by Canadian John Humphrey the Canadian Government at first abstained from voting on the Declaration’s draft, but later voted in favour of the final draft in the General Assembly.

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