Jorge and I had been discussing our adolescent expectations as to how life in our adulthood would turn out. We both had a good laugh when he said, “I thought we’d all own flying cars, by now.” I retorted with, “If we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we have pothole-free streets?” He then asked, “If we can have pocket-sized computers, why can’t everyone enjoy the same human rights?”
I was glad Jorge brought up one of our favorite topics, the never-ending struggle for human equality. It’s easy to feel dejected by the news about human rights abuses overseas and in the United States. At times, it seems as if humanity takes one step forward and two steps backwards. Jorge and I were youths during the Civil Rights period of the 1960s and 70s, so our expectations don’t seem unreasonable.
An important document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was adopted on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agreement was first drafted by the Commission on Human Rights. The group consisted of members from different cultural, religious, and political persuasions. The specific committee was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the world’s most outspoken promoters of civil and human rights.
The document’s first draft was proposed in September of 1948. The General Assembly debated and adjusted terms of the agreement the next few months. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was finally adopted on December 10th during the General Assembly meeting in Paris. Eight nations abstained from voting, no nation dissented. The document is not a treaty, therefore there are no direct, legal obligations for any nation to uphold it.
The main idea was to lay down an outline of fundamental values that are purportedly shared by all nations on Earth. However, due to the fact that various nations have invoked the Declaration ever since its adoption, it’s become binding as part of traditional international law. Forward thinking nations have been inspired by the document when formulating their own human rights and civil rights legislation. Furthermore, several binding, international agreements are based on rights that are found within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The document consists of 30 concise Articles that outline specific prohibitions and privileges regarding universal rights for everybody. A few of them are:
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 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
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 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
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
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
Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure,
including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay.
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.
Basically, the agreement states that human rights are to be granted to all persons,
regardless of who they are or wherever they happen to live. The rights include all civil and
political rights. Respect for privacy, free speech, liberty, and life are utmost. Included are the rights to social security, education, and health.
After we looked over the Universal Declaration, Jorge said that he feels vindicated in his opinion that every single person on Earth should have been granted these basic rights,
long ago. If one person claims a particular right, then everybody on the planet deserves the exact, same right.
I said that I certainly agree and have a Gandhi quote to go along with my view. “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”