HISTORY OF THE UDHR – THE DRAFTING COMMITTEE
The Commission on Human Rights was made up of eighteen members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee. With her were René Cassin of France, who composed the first draft of the Declaration, the Committee Rapporteur Charles Malik of Lebanon, Vice-Chairman Peng Chung Chang of China, and John Humphrey of Canada, Director of the United Nations Human Rights Division, who prepared the Declaration’s blueprint. But Mrs. Roosevelt was recognized as the driving force for the Declaration’s adoption. The Commission met for the first time in 1947. The entire text of the UDHR was composed in less than two years.
“Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in, the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
“For those people forced to fight in order to halt that immense machine geared for the destruction of human liberty and dignity, the Second World War constituted a genuine crusade for human rights... because today, barely a quarter of a century after that victorious crusade, we still hear too many national leaders expressing themselves on the subject of absolute and exclusive sovereignty of the state over human beings under its jurisdiction, enunciating principles which threaten to again lead the world into a state of anarchy and to plunge it into wars, supposedly local and limited in scope, but in reality damaging to all of humanity.”