Human Rights

Graphic: Alexa auf Pixabay 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR of 1948 is probably the best-known human rights document and also represents the cornerstone of international human rights protection. For until the Second World War, human rights and the protection of human rights were almost exclusively a matter for national constitutions, and only very few issues were regulated at the international level. The Nazi terror and the horrors of the Second World War, however, led to a turning point. Already during the war, the Allies fighting against Germany and its allies declared their intention to create conditions so that all people could live in peace and free from fear and want. That is why the Charter of the United Nations, founded in 1945, contains a clear mandate to the international community to promote respect for and realization of human rights and fundamental rights for everyone.

The real breakthrough of the idea of human rights for all then came with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in December 1948. 48 states voted in favor of the Declaration, 8 abstained. This had been preceded by a two-year discussion process in the newly founded UN Commission on Human Rights, in which the representatives of 18 states met under the chairmanship of the American Eleanor Roosevelt. The process of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights took into account the Western tradition of human rights declarations and catalogs of fundamental rights on the one hand, and new emphases on the other, especially in the area of social rights.

Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a legally binding document, it carries a great deal of political and moral weight, and certain of its guarantees now have the character of customary law. The UDHR has also been an important reference point for the elaboration of the binding UN human rights conventions since the 1950s.

Content of the UDHR

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes civil, political and social rights to which people should be entitled for the sake of their dignity. Thirty articles guarantee guarantees for the protection of the human person (right to life, prohibition of slavery, prohibition of torture, prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention, etc.), procedural rights (right to effective remedy, etc.), classical liberties such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, guarantee of property or freedom of marriage, and economic, social and cultural rights (right to social security, right to work, right to food and health, right to education, etc.). These rights should apply to all people regardless of their race, gender or nationality (Art. 2), because all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights (Art. 1).