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Honoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75
4 MINUTE READ
December 10, 2023

Honoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75

Children at the United Nations International Nursery School look at a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (© Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), ratified 75 years ago on December 10, 1948, for the first time articulated the rights and freedoms to which every person is entitled.

At the first United Nations General Assembly session in 1946, the newly formed organization proposed the creation of a document that would promote universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” reads the first article of the UDHR. “They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

U.S. President Harry S. Truman speaks at the first United Nations General Assembly in 1946. (© Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

 

Influenced by the core values at the heart of the U.S. Constitution, the UDHR affirmed that “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was tasked with creating the framework for the document.

Roosevelt worked with the 17 other members of the commission, including representatives from France, Lebanon, China and Canada, to create the UDHR over the course of two years.

Former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt listens through headphones during a conference at the temporary U.N. headquarters at Lake Success, New York. Roosevelt chaired the U.N. Human Rights Commission. (© Keystone/Getty Images)

 

Under Roosevelt’s leadership and guided by American principles of liberty and freedom, the U.N. ratified the UDHR. Available in more than 500 languages, the UDHR is the most translated document in the world.

Championing human rights — and the defenders of those rights — remains a U.S. government priority. The Department of State’s Global Human Rights Defender Awards, issued annually, honor people around the world who have shown leadership and courage while promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The United States has worked to make real our own commitment to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights — both here at home but also around the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a December 7 meeting of human rights advocates in Washington. “Defending human rights, affirming human dignity, simply put, reflects our values, reflects who we are.”