#StandUp4HumanRights: Hernán Santa Cruz

Published 21 November 2018 in:

UN Photo

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone in human history. It was signed in Paris on 10 December 1948 – 70 years ago.

To mark the 70th anniversary, we want to honour some of the heroes who held the pen.

The Declaration was drafted by diplomats of different religious, cultural and legal backgrounds from all regions of the world. One of the them was Hernán Santa Cruz from Chile.

Hernán Santa Cruz played a key role in formulating the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. As a member of Chile’s UN delegation, he wrote one of the first drafts of the Declaration. In the work that followed, he fought for the inclusion of social, economic and cultural rights in the Declaration, which were far from obvious at the time.

When Santa Cruz was asked in 1946 to serve at the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations, he had no experience of international law or foreign policy. As a lawyer, his work involved social issues, administration and military legislation.

 “I have visited more than 70 countries on five continents to work with and for – to use Goethe’s words – the only truly interesting thing there is in this world: the human being.”

He came to see the UN not only as an institution to maintain the balance of power between the major powers, but also as an instrument for global development and human prosperity. Democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination were principles that needed to be achieved practically, in a way that allowed economic growth for the ‘third world’, according to Santa Cruz.

Hernán Santa Cruz. Photo: UN Photo

Hernán Santa Cruz. Photo: UN Photo

When Santa Cruz, together with the other delegates, began working on what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there were various ideas on how the document should be designed. While some argued for a binding agreement, with legal mechanisms to ensure State compliance, Santa Cruz and others envisaged a manifesto or declaration. The Declaration was not only to be a charter, said Santa Cruz; it also needed to provide spiritual guidance for humanity, with a list of rights that should be respected everywhere.

The decision to follow the line advocated by Santa Cruz and his supporters has been called the single most important factor behind the success of the Declaration, as it allowed compromises and unity behind a number of ground-breaking principles that could otherwise have been difficult to unite around.

Santa Cruz’s strong emphasis on social and cultural rights had a huge impact on the end product that became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He would later be a driving force when the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean was established.

Today, 70 years after the Declaration was signed, demanding justice and equal rights is still one of the UN’s central tasks.

Respect for human rights has increased since 1948, but today democracy and human rights are being challenged around the world. This requires their defenders to make their voices heard.

Sweden will always stand up for human rights.

70 countries on five continents to work with and for – to use Goethe’s words – the only truly interesting thing there is in this world: the human being.”

He came to see the UN not only as an institution to maintain the balance of power between the major powers, but also as an instrument for global development and human prosperity. Democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination were principles that needed to be achieved practically, in a way that allowed economic growth for the ‘third world’, according to Santa Cruz.

When Santa Cruz, together with the other delegates, began working on what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there were various ideas on how the document should be designed. While some argued for a binding agreement, with legal mechanisms to ensure State compliance, Santa Cruz and others envisaged a manifesto or declaration. The Declaration was not only to be a charter, said Santa Cruz; it also needed to provide spiritual guidance for humanity, with a list of rights that should be respected everywhere.

The decision to follow the line advocated by Santa Cruz and his supporters has been called the single most important factor behind the success of the Declaration, as it allowed compromises and unity behind a number of ground-breaking principles that could otherwise have been difficult to unite around.

Santa Cruz’s strong emphasis on social and cultural rights had a huge impact on the end product that became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He would later be a driving force when the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean was established.

Today, 70 years after the Declaration was signed, demanding justice and equal rights is still one of the UN’s central tasks.

Respect for human rights has increased since 1948, but today democracy and human rights are being challenged around the world. This requires their defenders to make their voices heard.

Sweden will always stand up for human rights.