UNITED NATIONS: ‘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.

Santa Cruz Human Trafficking Victim Shares Her Story

Originally posted by Ryan Masters on January 21, 2015, for Santa Cruz Sentinel—
“Deborah Pembrook is an advocate for victims of human trafficking. She is also a survivor of the human sex-trafficking trade.

On Tuesday night, Pembrook joined a panel of community leaders which included police officers, social workers and representatives from faith-based organizations for a community conversation about human trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Described as one of the fastest growing problems in the Monterey Bay region, human trafficking is a misunderstood epidemic that requires community education, increased dialogue and greater trust between victims and support services, according to members of the panel.

As a child and teenager in Ohio, Pembrook was sexually exploited for financial gain by a trusted adult in her community. Unfortunately, like most human sex-trafficking victims, the support she needed was not readily available. She eventually escaped the cycle of abuse by moving to California at the age of 17.

Yet even after arriving in the Santa Cruz area, she had a difficult time finding resources to effectively help her cope with the traumatic experience.

“Although each survivor’s story is unique, they are all sadly similar,” Pembrook said. “The average age of entry into the human sex-trafficking trade is 12.”

Human trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, however, is not restricted to the sex trade.

“There’s a myth that it only occurs in brothels and massage parlors,” said Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante. “It can also be committed at legitimate businesses like restaurants, nanny services and the agriculture industry.””

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

HOUSTON: Feds Move to Seize Buildings Connected to Human Trafficking

Originally posted by Robert Arnold on click2houston.com on January 19, 2015—
“The federal government is attempting to seize several buildings in the Houston area that are connected to a massive human trafficking operation.

Documents filed in a Houston federal court on Jan. 13 said the government is attempting to seize 11 properties in southeast Houston, Huffman and Channelview.

Some of the buildings have become neighborhood eyesores and nuisances since FBI agents broke the back of the operation in late 2013.

“Disturbing actually, embarrassed, too — you know, having all that stuff and our clients see it,” said Jose Martinez.

Martinez and his family operate a boxing club and Zumba fitness business on Telephone Road near Park Place Boulevard. The business primarily caters to families and is connected to a pair of shuttered nightclubs that federal agents said were the hub of an operation forcing young girls into prostitution.

Since those operating the businesses were arrested, the area has become a dumping ground and both buildings are wide to open to vagrants.

“We have kids here and sometime they can go and you never know what’s in there,” said Zumba instructor Stephany Lopez.

Federal officials said the plan would be sell the buildings so the spots can be used for something productive in these communities.”

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

The 4th Annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights


Date: 16-18 November 2015
Location: Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
Registration: Registration will open on this webpage during the first half of 2015 (date to be confirmed)
Programme: The programme will be announced on these pages in due course. An invitation to stakeholders to propose parallel events will be posted on this page during the first half of 2015 (date to be confirmed)
Contact: General inquiries: forumbhr@ohchr.org

The United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights is a space for representatives and practitioners from civil society, business, government, international organizations and affected stakeholders to take stock of challenges and discuss ways to move forward on putting into practice the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – a global standard for preventing and addressing adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. The Forum was established by the Human Rights Council, and is guided by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The third annual Forum, which was held in Geneva from 1 to 3 December 2014, attracted around 2,000 persons from over 100 countries. Videos of sessions at the 2014 Forum are available at UN Web TV.

Building on the previous events, the fourth annual Forum will focus on:

  • Strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue and engagement
  • Discussing effective ways to measure and report on progress to implement the Guiding Principles
  • Discussing national action plans to implement the Guiding Principles
  • Exploring access to effective remedy
  • Examining current practice of States and business enterprises and “unpacking” what implementation of the Guiding Principles means in concrete areas

Human Rights Watch Says China Draft Terrorism Law a ‘License to Commit Abuses’

Originally posted on Reuters.com on January 20, 2015—
“U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged China to revise draft legislation aimed at combating terrorism, saying it was little more than “a license to commit human rights abuses”.

The law, which was made public for consultation last November, would establish a new counter-terrorism body that would have the power to designate organizations and members as terrorists without any protections of due process.

The draft’s definition of terrorism includes “thought, speech, or behavior” that attempt to “subvert state power”, “incite ethnic hatred” or “split the state”. Subversion and splittism are catch-all charges that have been used against dissidents.

Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson called for the draft law to be brought in line with international standards, saying that “in its present form this law is little more than a license to commit human rights abuses”.

“The Chinese government needs to respect rights, not build a new architecture of surveillance,” Richardson said in a statement.”
For the rest of the original article, please click here.

UN Deputy Chief Says Uprooting Seeds of Racism, Hatred Vital to Prevent Genocide

Originally posted on UN News Centre on January 17, 2015—
“During a memorial service in honour of victims of the Holocaust at the Park East Synagogue in New York today, Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that preventing genocide required efforts to understand the forces behind it.

“The Holocaust did not start with Auschwitz,” said Mr. Eliasson in his speech. “It started with bias, discrimination, looking down on people, the anti-Semitic slogans and laws that preceded Kristallnacht, and with rallies which provided both an identity and a cause, however perverted, for people who evidently needed both.”

Mr. Eliasson related his own experience as a child seeing images from Nazi death camps and responding with the thought that such suffering should never be allowed to happen again.

The same “Never Again” response to the horrors of the Holocaust was a major part of the UN’s formative experience, paying tribute to all Holocaust survivors, including those present at the memorial.

“We are grateful and humble, and we are inspired by your example of the resilience of the human spirit,” he said, adding that “disbelief and incomprehension” surround the Holocaust and genocides committed since, including those in Rwanda and Srebrenica.

“Every time we say ‘never again,’ we are in fact admitting failure to prevent,” he said, noting that a gap remained between international rhetoric and action and point to “terrible acts of inhumanity” in Iraq, Syria, the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

“The seeds of discrimination, racism and hatred are planted and often allowed to grow. People too often turn away instead of up-rooting these seeds,” he said calling for earlier action to prevent situations escalating to violence and the point of no return. “Preventing genocide must not begin when we are witnessing atrocities that fit the definition of genocide.””

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

UN: I Was Sold Into Sexual Slavery at 14

Originally posted by Elizabeth Day on January 18, 2015 for The Guardian—
“A few weeks ago, Megan Stephens got on a bus in a bustling city centre in the north of England. A man sat across the aisle from her. He was wearing sunglasses and had a moustache. For a horrible moment, she thought she recognised him.

“I just froze and missed my stop,” Megan says. “I was using my phone as a mirror to see if it was him. I was really paranoid.”

The man on the bus had exactly the same features as someone from her past. As a result of what that person did to Megan, I am not allowed to use her real name or describe where she lives. I can tell you that she is 25. Other than that, she has asked me not to mention any details which might undermine her anonymity.

Every one of Megan’s days is shaped by the fear that she will be discovered and that her true identity will be revealed. This is because 11 years ago, at the age of 14, Megan was trafficked into the sex industry.

According to the United Nations, she was one of an estimated 2.4 million people around the globe who are victims of human trafficking at any one time, 80% of whom are being exploited as sexual slaves. One woman can earn a trafficker between £500 and £1,000 a week and can be forced to have sex with multiple partners in a single day. Megan, however, claims she used to net her abusers a similar figure each day.

The man Megan saw fleetingly on the bus reminded her of one of her traffickers: “I felt more scared than I thought I would be,” she says. “I was on a bus full of people in the middle of the city and I was terrified. Absolutely terrified.” It wasn’t him.

Megan’s story is a horrifying one. It is a story of how a vulnerable teenage girl on holiday in Greece with her mother was trafficked into the sex industry and spent six years as a prostitute – in brothels, on the streets, in dingy hotel rooms – before finally making her escape from a life of relentless physical and sexual abuse. It is horrifying not only because of the sadistic violence she endured, but also because of how easily she seemed to slip into this spiral of depravity and how difficult she found it to get out.”

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

Human Trafficking Awareness Month 2015

Celebrate Human Trafficking Awareness Month by learning and making aware of this global crisis to your family and friends. Help to end human trafficking (aka “modern-day slavery”) which continues to exist today with an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. Learn about the problem, the solutions, and how to join in the fight to end human trafficking in our generation through Polaris Project. USA’s White House press release here.

United States’ American History on Slavery

'First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln' on July 22, 1862 by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

‘First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln’ on July 22, 1862 by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

Did you know over 1 million Americans died during the Civil War (soldiers + civilians) to ensure freedom for the slaves of that day? Preserving the Union and freeing slaves in the Confederacy, ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ will be forever identified with President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy:

Emancipation ProclamationThe Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN                                                             WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


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