The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The document was designed for world leaders to guarantee the civil rights of every individual. The Commission responsible for the articles’ adoption was spearheaded by Eleanor D. Roosevelt. The original drafters of the document were Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon), Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR), Dr. Peng-chun Chang (China), René Cassin (France), Eleanor Roosevelt (US), Charles Dukes (United Kingdom), William Hodgson (Australia), Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile), and John P. Humphrey (Canada).
Within its Preamble, the document stated that:
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.
In 1996, then South African President Nelson Mandela adopted the Declaration of Human Rights to lead the country in a new direction. Two years later, at the country’s 50th anniversary, Mandela addressed the U.N. General Assembly challenging them to work harder to enforce the words of the declaration for years to come. He said, “The new constitution obliges us to strive to improve the quality of life of the people. In this sense, our national consensus recognizes that there is nothing else that can justify the existence of government but to redress the centuries of unspeakable privations, by striving to eliminate poverty, illiteracy, homelessness and disease. It obliges us, too, to promote the development of independent civil society structures.”
This week marks the Declaration of Human Rights’ 65th anniversary.
Below is the complete preamble of the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights.
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.