The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most translated document on Earth. A product of the United Nations, the Declaration grew out of a desire to prevent the kind of atrocities that occurred during World War II.

The United Nations (U.N.) itself came into being after the war, on Oct. 24, 1945. The U.N. Charter created several well-known groups, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the International Court of Justice. Another group created at the same time was the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and out of that group came the Commission on Human Rights.

One of the first important pieces of work from the Commission on Human Rights was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The driving force behind the creation of this document was Eleanor Roosevelt, a former American First Lady and wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was one of 18 people on the Commission. Others were from countries around the world.

The Declaration incorporated representatives and legal traditions from all over the world. The Declaration sets out 30 fundamental rights to which all people should have access. Among those rights are these:

  • Everyone is born free and should be treated in the same way.
  • No one has the right to torture or enslave another person.
  • Laws must treat all people fairly.
  • Trials should be public.
  • All people have the right to make up their own minds about everything – about politics and religion and allegiance of any kind.
  • Husbands and wives have the same rights.
  • All adults have the right to work, to get paid a far wage for that work, and to join a union.
  • All people have the right to join a group and, at the same time, the right to refuse to join a group.
  • All people have the right to an education.
  • All adults have the right to choose their own leaders.

The United Nations formally adopted the Declaration on Dec. 10, 1948. This date is celebrated around the world each year as Human Rights Day.

The Declaration now exists in more than 460 languages, making it the most translated document in the world.

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David White