Universal Declaration for Human Rights 194: An Analysis

Introduction

Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) is a document which lays down the fundamental freedom and basic rights to which all human beings are entitled. This document is of great importance to the world. It has been ratified by all the countries in the world and it has been translated into 337 languages. It is the benchmark for governmental, individual, and non-governmental actions. UDHR is a quantum leap and has been the source of inspiration since its inception on 10th December 1948. UDHR states that human rights are universal and it provides right to life, liberty, free speech, and privacy. It also includes economic and social rights like right to social security, health, and education.

Genesis of UDHR

The aftermath of World War II, directly or indirectly, affected each and every country of the world. In the spring of 1945-50, hundreds of Governmental and Non-Governmental organisations met in San Francisco to tackle the unfortunate conditions and succeed the ‘League of nations’. At that venue, the states gave rise to the ‘Constitution’ of a new United Nations.

The UN’s Educational, Cultural and Scientific helped in formation of a Commission on Human Rights which was headed by the Eleanor Roosevelt. This commission was called by the Charter of UN. The purpose of this commission was to study the attitude and behavior of different cultures, philosophers and nations towards the human rights.

The draft was sent by the commission to the U.N. General Assembly in September 1948. The draft took two years to get the approval in which 81 meetings were held, 168 amendments were done in the text of the draft and around 1400 votes were taken. On 10th December, 1948 the General Assembly adopted the UDHR without any dissenting vote but 8 states abstained from it.[1]

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Challenges

Many challenges were also faced while promoting and protecting the Human Rights. The first and the foremost challenge was the implementation of the International Human Rights norms of the UDHR. There were many other challenges, for instance:

  1. The adaption of economic and social rights in the UN Human Rights mechanism.
  2. The merger of human rights of women with the International Human Rights mechanism.
  3. The application of Human Rights in the peaceful and secured areas of United Nation.
  4. To held the private economic actors accountable for the violation of Human Rights.[2]

For curbing these challenges, the education for Human Rights must be given in every country, every school, and every society and in every family. The concept of the Human Rights must be understood clearly and all Human Rights must be respected including civil rights, political rights, cultural rights or social rights.

Status of UDHR

When the UDHR was adopted in 1948, then it was just given the status of “manifesto with primarily moral authority”. There were four stages in the generation of documents of General Assembly. UDHR was the first one and was labelled as the International Bill of Human Rights. The other three documents- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, its Optional Protocol, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, were given the status of legally binding treaties. The International Communities considered the UDHR only as a goal or aspiration which would be converted into binding norms if the customary International accepts it.

On the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration, a major international conference of non-governmental organisations unequivocally proclaimed that the Declaration has over the years, became part of customary International law. In the same year, at a Governmental Conference, 84 states observed that the UDHR constitutes an obligation on the members of the International Community. Subsequently, in December 1969, the International Law Institute adopted a declaration which affirmed that there is an “obligation” on the states to guarantee respect for the human rights which streams from the recognition of human dignity in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[3]

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After Effect

UDHR originated many major treaties which were ratified by more than 100 countries:

  1. The International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1965).
  2. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966).
  3. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).
  4. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979).
  5. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).
  6. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

After ratifying an agreement, the state gets abided by the legal obligation of that agreement and when the citizens of the state sign to the UDHR, the citizens and their descendants, get the opportunity to enjoy those rights which were not available earlier as their Government did not acknowledge those rights.[4]

Conclusion

On 10th December 2018, the world will celebrate 70th Anniversary of UDHR. But after so many years also the World witnessed horrifying incidents which demeans the very concept of Human Rights. This is because the UDHR has become a part of Constitution and law but is still not legally binding. The incidents in India like Nirbhaya case, Kathua Case, the Rohingya case compel us to reconsider the position of Human Rights in the nation. But on the other hand the Judicial decisions like legality of Section 377, the Right to Privacy , the democracy of the country and the supremacy of the Constitution prevent the grim facts from obscuring the right’s rainbow in the sky of Human Rights and ensures that tomorrow there will be another expansion of that Rainbow.

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[1]Claude Welch, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Why does it matter, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/campus/campus-host-page.host.html/content/shared/university/news/ub-reporter-articles/stories/2015/12/qa_welch_udhr.detail.html.

[2]Elsa Stamatopoulou, The Importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the past and Future of the United Nation’s Human Rights effort, 5:281 ILSA J. OF INT’L & COMP. L. 281, 285-286 (1999).

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[3]Hurst Hannum, The UDHR in National and International Law, 25:287 GA. J. INT’L & COMP. L. 287,322-323 (1995/96).

[4]Claude Welch, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Why does it matter, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/campus/campus-host-page.host.html/content/shared/university/news/ub-reporter-articles/stories/2015/12/qa_welch_udhr.detail.html.

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