The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a document that acts like a global road map for freedom and equality – protecting the rights of every individual, everywhere. It was the first time countries agreed on the freedoms and rights that deserve universal protection in order for every individual to live their lives freely, equally and in dignity.
The UDHR was adopted by the newly established United Nations on 10 December 1948, in response to the “barbarous acts which […] outraged the conscience of mankind” during the Second World War. Its adoption recognised human rights to be the foundation for freedom, justice and peace.
Work on the UDHR began in 1946, with a drafting committee composed of representatives of a wide variety of countries, including the USA, Lebanon and China. The drafting committee was later enlarged to include representatives of Australia, Chile, France, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, allowing the document to benefit from contributions of states from all regions, and their diverse religious, political and cultural contexts. The UDHR was then discussed by all members of the UN Commission on Human Rights and finally adopted by the General Assembly in 1948.
The Declaration outlines 30 rights and freedoms that belong to all of us and that nobody can take away from us. The rights that were included continue to form the basis for international human rights law. Today, the Declaration remains a living document. It is the most translated document in the world.
WHAT IS IT DESIGNED TO DO?
The UDHR is a milestone document. For the first time, the world had a globally agreed document that marked out all humans as being free and equal, regardless of sex, colour, creed, religion or other characteristics.
The 30 rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR include the right to be free from torture, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education and the right to seek asylum. It includes civil and political rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and privacy. It also includes economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to social security, health and adequate housing.
WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 70 YEARS AFTER ITS ADOPTION?
The UDHR is, as its title suggests, universal – meaning it applies to all people, in all countries around the world. Although it is not legally binding, the protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration has been incorporated into many national constitutions and domestic legal frameworks.
The Declaration has also provided the foundation from which a wealth of other legally binding human rights treaties have been developed, and has become a clear benchmark for the universal human rights standards that must be promoted and protected in all countries.
The UDHR continues to serve as a foundation for national and international laws and standards. For organizations like Amnesty who are committed to protecting and fighting for human rights, it acts as a guiding inspiration for our mission and vision. Read more about the UDHR here or sign up now and turn yourself into an agent of change with our new online course on the UDHR.