UNITED NATIONS: Read ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’

History of the Document

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 never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict 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.

In 1950, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students at the UN International Nursery School in New York viewed a poster of the historic document.   After adopting it on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly had called upon all Member States to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”  (UN Photo)

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 Werstern ideas and Dr. Humphrey would have to be eclectic in his approach.  His remark, though addressed to Dr. Humprhey, 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.


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.

Article 1.

  • 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.

Article 2.

  • 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.

Article 3.

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

Article 4.

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

Article 5.

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

Article 6.

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

Article 7.

  • 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.

Article 8.

  • 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.

Article 9.

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

Article 10.

  • 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.

Article 11.

  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.

Article 12.

  • 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.

Article 13.

  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.

Article 14.

  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.

Article 15.

  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.

Article 16.

  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.

Article 17.

  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.

Article 18.

  • 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.

Article 19.

  • 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.

Article 20.

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

  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.

Article 22.

  • 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.

Article 23.

  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.

Article 24.

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

Article 25.

  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.

Article 26.

  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.

Article 27.

  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.

Article 28.

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

Article 29.

  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.

Article 30.

  • 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.

To view this document on UN’s site, click here.

Burundi: UN Expert Urges Defence of Human Rights Activists to Promote Transparency

Originally posted on UN News Centre on November 25, 2014—
“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders expressed regret today that defenders in Burundi are deemed to be political opponents, saying that in reality they are activists working to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties.

In a press release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the expert, Michel Forst, emphasized that threats and defamation campaigns by certain media outlets weigh on human rights defenders, who also report a high number of cases of physical threats, anonymous phone calls, assaults, arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment.

“I was very struck by the incredible vitality and professionalism of civil society in Burundi despite the difficult environment in which they work,” Mr. Forst said.

“They face serious obstacles that can amount to violations of their rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as their legitimate right to promote and protect human rights,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that while Burundi is fortunate to have a “dynamic” civil society and a “bold and free” press, the country’s public authorities attempt to restrict their freedom of expression by accusing them of being opposition actors when they report on events or testimonies questioning State institutions.

He said he shared his concerns with the Government regarding provisions of the law on the press that are contrary to international obligations. In particular, he noted the requirement that journalists reveal their sources, which would limit effective enjoyment of freedom of expression.”

For the rest of the original article, please click here.

Women in Mauritius Making ‘Geminist’ T-shirts Earning Less than the ‘Living Wage’ Set by the Government

After our revelations last week about the ‘sweatshop’ conditions endured by workers producing the garments, The Mail on Sunday has discovered that the women’s pay falls far short of the £1.47 an hour set by the official statistics office, and designed to provide a decent, basic level of income.

Unions and campaigners last night condemned high street chain Whistles and Left-wing women’s rights group The Fawcett Society for refusing to withdraw the T-shirt, made by women living 16 to a room.”

For the original article, please click here.

Islamic State Group Recruits, Exploits Children

Originally posted on Yahoo News Digest on November 23, 2014—
“In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods. Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups. A United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State group is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale “in a systematic and organized manner.”

What is new is that ISIS seems to be quite transparent and vocal about their intention and their practice of recruiting children.

Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF regional child protection adviser for the Middle East and North Africa

The use of children by armed groups in conflict is, of course, nothing new. In the Syrian civil war, the Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front rebel groups also recruit children for combat, said Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict. But no other group comes close to IS in using children in such a systematic and organized way. And the effect is that much greater because IS commands large areas in which the militants inculcate the children with their radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law.

Once they’re done training, their skills and abilities are tested before they decide where to send them off. Many want to be on the front lines.

a man who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Falluji in a video


For the original post, please click here.

The Faces Behind the Sex Trade in King County

By Thanh Tan, Times Editorial Columnist, on November 20, 2014—
“How many of us associate the word “pimp” with cable reality shows about fancy cars rather than a trade that exploits vulnerable human beings?

“It used to be a noun, someone who managed people in prostitution,” says Leslie Briner ofYouthCare, who has trained more than 3,500 individuals to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children. “Now it is a verb used to promote and improve something. That, to me, is the height of normalizing this behavior.”

Here’s the new normal: Pimps in the traditional sense still recruit and solicit customers on the streets, but much of the sex industry in Washington has migrated online. Gangs are involved. Kids are selling themselves. Some of the most gut-wrenching stories involve parents soliciting their own children.

In this unfettered online market, grown men play dumb and pretend they have no idea that the “daddy’s little girl” they ordered up for sex may be 12 years old.

The disconnect is disturbing. A 2008 studyestimated 300 to 500 Seattle-area children work in prostitution each night, but those numbers are likely much higher. The Internet has amplified demand.

That’s why Seattle journalist Tim Matsui’s upcoming film, “The Long Night,” is an important look into the underbelly of the Northwest region’s sex trade. Anyone who cares about kids should view it.”

For more information and the original article, please click here.

Child Prostitution Runs Rampant in India

By Human Rights Society’s Asia-Pacific Ambassador, Stephanie-Mai Lowe, Nov. 11, 2014—
“The issue of child prostitution and other forms of trafficking in India has been widespread throughout a number of media outlets in the Asia-Pacific region this year. Examples in the news can be seen here, here, and here.

India has relatively relaxed laws on prostitution. While the exchange of sex for money remains legal (The Immoral Trade (Suppression) Act), organised activities, such as running brothels or acting as a pimp, are illegal.

Despite criminalization, brothels are extremely common in most of the country. The biggest regions for prostitutions include Sonagachi in Kolkata, G.B. Road in New Delhi, and Kamatipura in Mumbai. These areas contain hundreds of multi-story brothels, with approximately 11,000 prostitutes in Sonagachi alone.

Underage prostitution remains a great issue as well.  It is believed that over one million prostitutes are underage; many of the girls have been trafficked internally from within India, or brought from regions such as Nepal. In fact, an Indian government report released earlier this year stated that around half a million children have been abducted and forced to work as prostitutes in India (source).

Other sources state that at least 67,000 children in India went missing just between 2013 and 2014, and that almost half of these were underage and forced into prostitution.

Indian authorities have a poor record of tracking down children who go missing. It is estimated that approximately one in every three children who goes missing becomes completely untraceable.

But what is it that makes children of this part of the world so vulnerable?

  • Many of Indian victims of human trafficking come from very poor and marginalized communities within the country.
  • India does not have a very precise/comprehensive legal structure that is able to deal with human trafficking and enforce applicable legislation.
  • Indian authorities do little to link up child trafficking with cases of child labour, cases of abduction, or child marriages (despite the Indian act known as The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006).

India serves as a source, a transit, and a destination region for human trafficking. It serves as a source country in the sense that many Indians are trafficked both internally and across borders to work as prostitutes, or into forced labour — up to 12.66 million children used as forced labour (source). This has been seen especially within Middle Eastern nations such as the United Arab Emirates, in which there have been a number of reports of Indians who have been subject to slave-like conditions. They are drawn to the construction industry which is booming in the area, but then fail to receive pay, have their passports confiscated, and are told they must pay off the debt that has been accrued by their recruitment costs.

The issue of human trafficking in India is a multi-dimensional problem. There are a number of factors at play that makes it difficult for Westerners to understand the extent of the problem. This ranges from a history of colonialism (the British were involved in setting up trafficking rings), to severe inequalities between men and women, and severe poverty.

As a result, we should look into a number of measures rather than one clear-cut solution.

  • We need to look into how we can help India develop into a more sustainable country, while fostering equality among its people, in hopes of reducing the disparities that have forced people to accept risky job opportunities or sell off their children.
  • We need to provide advice and research on how to make legal institutions more effective and enforce legislation that prevents women, men, and children from being subject to the current shocking conditions.
  • Furthermore, we need to use education to bring the population up overall and realise that such behaviours are not okay – that while we, as westerns, cannot press our culture upon others, slavery is not okay anywhere and universal human rights do exist. Education helps people to see and compare their culture to others, but what’s more is that it empowers individuals. It provides them with the tools that help them to avoid the sticky cycle of poverty that often exposes them to traffickers.
  • We should also assist in providing employment. Children are treated as slaves in a number of ways in India in order to meet wWestern needs, whether it is weaving rugs for our living rooms, or sewing the $5 T-shirt we bought from the supermarket, and so on. We need to find ways of changing this by cutting off the demand that we’ve created.

I recently met a representative from the organisation FreeSet at a human trafficking conference in Otago, New Zealand. Freeset is a fair trade business that provides jobs to women who have managed to escape the sex trade. It trains them to sew, and in doing so, provides them with the skills and confidence they need for a safe and secure lease on life. Along with FreeSet, we believe dealing with the roots of the issues will strongly contribute towards the abolishment of the modern slave trade in the future of our world.”

About the author:
Steph-Mai is originally a British Citizen who moved to New Zealand at the age of 16. New Zealand is a country with a small population, recognised as one the least corrupt places in the world and possibly the best example for what human rights should look like on an international scale. Steph-Mai believes living in such a great country has given her the tools and ideas to try and help combat issues in less fortunate regions of the world. After completing her Bachelors Degree in Politics at the University of Otago (NZ) in 2013, she is currently finishing a Masters Degree in International Studies with a dissertation focusing on the link between human sex trafficking and the deployment of peacekeepers. Steph-Mai has travelled to a number of countries to further her knowledge in human rights, including Poland, which provided her with an opportunity to meet people researching the trafficking industry in Eastern Europe. She has helped raise awareness about human trafficking issues in New Zealand by helping to organise awareness events, creating the Human Trafficking in NZ website, and being cited in a number of national blogs. For more info on Steph-Mai: LinkedIninfo(at)humanrightssociety(dot)org.

Video Shows ISIS Fighters Trading Women

From CNN.com
“A newly released video seems to show ISIS fighters bargaining over the price of Yazidi women. Lynda Kinkade reports.”

Watch the video by clicking the link below: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/11/06/pkg-kinkade-isis-yazidi-women-trade.cnn.html

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

By Marie De Santis, for Women’s Justice Center, http://www.justicewomen.com—
“In a centuries deep sea of clichés despairing that ‘prostitution will always be with us’, one country’s success stands out as a solitary beacon lighting the way. In just five years Sweden has dramatically reduced the number of its women in prostitution. In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of johns has been reduced by 80%. There are other major Swedish cities where street prostitution has all but disappeared. Gone too, for the most part, are the renowned Swedish brothels and massage parlors which proliferated during the last three decades of the twentieth century when prostitution in Sweden was legal.

In addition, the number of foreign women now being trafficked into Sweden for sex is nil. The Swedish government estimates that in the last few years only 200 to 400 women and girls have been annually sex trafficked into Sweden, a figure that’s negligible compared to the 15,000 to 17,000 females yearly sex trafficked into neighboring Finland. No other country, nor any other social experiment, has come anywhere near Sweden’s promising results.

By what complex formula has Sweden managed this feat? Amazingly, Sweden’s strategy isn’t complex at all. It’s tenets, in fact, seem so simple and so firmly anchored in common sense as to immediately spark the question, “Why hasn’t anyone tried this before?””

For the rest of the original article, please click here.