Conflict & Justice

Living up to human rights ideals

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in the aftermath of World War II and was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948. the concept of human rights has evolved over centuries, but the catalyst for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the Holocaust says this historian. One of the key people behind the document was Eleanor Roosevelt and she spoke to the U.N. General Assembly on the date of the vote. At the time critics derided the declaration as just words, devoid of any binding legal force according to the historians. But within just a few months the vision of the declaration took on more political meaning and it took the subject of human rights from the margins of international relations. He says it then inspired a series of treaties we now take for granted, treaties having to do with refugees and equal rights for women and torture, for example. The current U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the declaration marks the first time human rights were seen as belonging to all people. that's the ideal, and then there's the reality, and she said for many people it becomes an unfulfilled promise. But in many ways the declaration is a vision, and not an end point, meaning the vision is never done.

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