December 10, 1948 (a Friday)

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt (USA) holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949.

On this date, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. At present, there are 384 different translations of UDHR, available in HTML and/or PDF format.

As noted by the UN, this document was the result of the experience of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the UN, 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 UDHR, 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.

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 UDHR with eight nations abstaining from the vote but none dissenting. 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.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo

Since then, twenty international human rights treaties have been adopted governing a wide range of rights, including most recently for the disabled. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and her staff of over 900 personnel monitor rights and assist governments and victims across the globe. A peer review system, established in 2006 with the creation of the more elevated Human Rights Council, ensures that all 193 member states take public account of their performance. Civil society organizations, academic experts and the media use this platform to contribute evidence, ideas and visibility to the incessant global clamoring for more and better defense of human rights.

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