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 Eleanor Roosevelt from the United States.
As chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt fought for economic, social and cultural rights to be included in the UN Charter. She played a key role in the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
During her school years, Eleanor Roosevelt had a teacher called Marie Souvestre, who played a major role in her personal development. With her commitment to social issues and justice, Marie Souvestre opened up a new world of thoughts and ideas for her young pupil. After her studies, Eleanor Roosevelt became involved in social work and taught immigrant children and families in the poor parts of New York. She saw the problems that affected the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society.
She took this knowledge with her when she was appointed a UN delegate by President Harry S. Truman in 1945. She soon also became chair of the United National Commission on Human Rights and led the negotiations when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being drawn up.
As chair, she made sure to constantly remind both the Commission and the UN that the Declaration should act as a counterweight to the darkness that had grown during the Second World War.
Roosevelt wanted the Declaration to be easy to read and understand so that people from all over the world would embrace its message. She also fought to ensure that the US State Department would not see the Declaration as an American or Western document. Roosevelt wanted the Declaration to be universal.
Although it was not legally binding, Roosevelt saw the Declaration as an instrument that could move the world away from war.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly in 1953, she said:
“We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere.”
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.