Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the
conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief
and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against
tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights,
in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to
promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the
promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization
of this pledge,
as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every
organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote
respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their
universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and
among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience
and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the
country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any
other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to
law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a
penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty
be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to
attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such
interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from
acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry
and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his
religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his
religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen
(2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic
and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by
equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national
effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the
economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,
including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the
event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances
beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of
wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.
Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available
and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect
for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all
nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in
scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary
or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined
by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of
meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71 (1948)
by the General Assembly of the United Nations (without dissent)
The below article is from Amnesty International.
Some 50 years have elapsed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the
United Nations on 10 December 1948. The Declaration was one of the first major achievements of the
United Nations, and after 50 years remains a powerful instrument which continues to exert an
enormous effect on people's lives all over the world. This was the first time in history that a document
considered to have universal value was adopted by an international organization. It was also the first
time that human rights and fundamental freedoms were set forth in such detail. There was
broad-based international support for the Declaration when it was adopted. It represented "a world
milestone in the long struggle for human rights", in the words of a UN General Assembly
representative from France.
The adoption of the Universal Declaration stems in large part from the strong desire for peace in the
aftermath of the Second World War. Although the 58 Member States which formed the United
Nations at that time varied in their ideologies, political systems and religious and cultural backgrounds
and had different patterns of socio-economic development, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
represented a common statement of goals and aspirations -- a vision of the world as the international
community would want it to become.
Since 1948, the Universal Declaration has been translated into more than 200 languages and remains
one of the best known and most often cited human rights documents in the world. Over the years,
the Declaration has been used in the defense and advancement of people's rights. Its principles have
been enshrined in and continue to inspire national legislation and the constitutions of many newly
independent states. References to the Declaration have been made in charters and resolutions of
regional intergovernmental organizations as well as in treaties and resolutions adopted by the United
The year 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this "Magna Carta for all humanity." The theme of the
fiftieth anniversary--"All Human Rights for All"-- highlights the universality, the indivisibility and the
interrelationship of all human rights. It reinforces the idea that human rights--civil, cultural, economic,
political and social--should be taken in their totality and not disassociated from one another.
Drafting and adopting the Declaration, a long and arduous task
When created in 1946, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was composed of 18
Member States. During its first sessions, the main item on the agenda was the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. The Commission set up a drafting committee which devoted itself exclusively to
preparing the draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The drafting committee was
composed of eight persons, from Australia, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The United Nations
Secretariat, under the guidance of John Humphrey, drafted the outline (400 pages in length) to serve
as the basic working paper of the Committee.
During the two-year drafting process of the Universal Declaration, the drafters maintained a common
ground for discussions and a common goal: respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Despite
their conflicting views on certain questions, they agreed to include in the document the principles of
non-discrimination, civil and political rights, and social and economic rights. They also agreed that the
Declaration had to be universal.
Personally dedicated to the task of preparing this Declaration, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired
the Human Rights Commission in its first years, asked, "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 neighbourhood 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
concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger
On 10 December 1948, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, the 58 Member States of the United Nations
General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with 48 states in favour and
eight abstentions (two countries were not present at the time of the voting). General Assembly
resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, which proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, was adopted as follows: In favour: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil,
Burma, Canada, Chile, China,Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador,
Egypt, El Salvador,Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon,
Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama,
Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Siam (Thailand), Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States,
Uruguay, Venezuela. Abstaining: Byelorussian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Ukrainian
SSR, Union of South Africa, USSR, Yugoslavia. The General Assembly proclaimed the Declaration as a
"common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and
societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal
and effective recognition and observance".
The Declaration, a vision of what the world should be
Although the Declaration, which comprises a broad range of rights, is not a legally binding document,
it has inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international
standard of human rights. These instruments include the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which are
legally binding treaties. Together with the Universal Declaration, they constitute the International Bill
The Declaration recognizes that the "inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the
foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world" and is linked to the recognition of fundamental
rights towards which every human being aspires, namely the right to life, liberty and security of
person; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries
asylum from persecution; the right to own property; the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
the right to education, freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the right to freedom from
torture and degrading treatment, among others. These are inherent rights to be enjoyed by all
human beings of the global village -- men, women and children, as well as by any group of society,
disadvantaged or not -- and not "gifts" to be withdrawn, withheld or granted at someone's whim or
Mary Robinson, who became the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in
September 1997, expressed this opinion when she declared that "human rights belong to people,
human rights are about people on the ground and their rights". She has stated that she would take a
"bottom-up" approach in promoting human rights, an approach which reflects the first words of the
United Nations Charter, "We the Peoples".
The rights contained in the Declaration and the two covenants were further elaborated in such legal
documents as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
which declares dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred as being punishable by law;
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, covering measures
to be taken for eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life, education,
employment, health, marriage and family; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lays
down guarantees in terms of the child's human rights.
International mobilization in favour of the Declaration: Government commitment
At the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna (Austria) in June 1993, 171 countries
reiterated the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, and reaffirmed their
commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They adopted the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action, which provides the new "framework of planning, dialogue and cooperation", to
enable a holistic approach to promoting human rights and involving actors at the local, national and
international levels. The five-year review of the Vienna Programme of Action will also take place in
1998. This review provides a substantive dimension to the fiftieth anniversary, which many human
rights activists and professionals see as a time for States to renew their commitment to the
promotion and protection of human rights.
It is a time for Governments to ensure that the rights set forth in the Declaration are reflected in their
national legislation and to move to ratify those international human rights treaties that are still
pending. Governments could consider formulating and implementing a pro-active strategy in favour of
the promotion of and respect for human rights. This could be translated into action by adopting
national plans of action for advancing human rights and fostering human rights education. This
anniversary also provides the opportunity for more countries not only to condemn blatant violations
of human rights but also to take responsibility and action to break the cycle of impunity whenever
human rights are violated.
Public awareness campaign
The fiftieth anniversary is a time to promote public awareness of the meaning of the Universal
Declaration and its relevance to our daily lives. Providing information about human rights in the
languages understood by peoples everywhere is one aspect of a global public awareness campaign.
Falling during the Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), the anniversary also provides
another focus for education and action. In addition to the 200 language versions already available, a
number of other local language translations are to be released for the fiftieth anniversary.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration is an opportunity for people worldwide to
commemorate the adoption of this landmark document. It also represents an opportunity to mobilize
all strata of society in a reinvigorated and broad-based human rights movement. The involvement of
civil society and non-governmental organizations in fighting for and demanding recognition of basic
rights has played a central role in the advancement and promotion of human rights around the world.
National Committees have already been set up in many countries, with the aim of undertaking
activities to mark the Anniversary.
Grass-roots movements to encourage entire communities to know, demand and defend their rights
will send a positive and strong message: that people everywhere are adamant that human rights
should be respected. At local level, concerned citizens can approach their congressional or
parliamentary representatives and ask their Governments to ratify international human rights treaties
if they have yet not done so.
The United Nations
In accordance with the recommendations made at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights for
increased coordination within the United Nations system, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United
Nations, stated, "I will be a champion of human rights and will ensure that human rights are fully
integrated in the action of the Organization in all other domains". Human rights, indeed, cut across all
the work of the United Nations, from peacekeeping, child rights, health and development to the rights
of indigenous peoples to education, social development and the eradication of poverty. Consultations
have already taken place among all agencies and programmes of the United Nations, leading to
strategies and campaigns being devised.
Since the inception of the United Nations, the promotion and protection of human rights have been at
its very core. Reference to the promotion of and respect for human rights was made in Article 1 of
the United Nations Charter and in the establishment of a commission for the promotion of human
rights, mentioned in Article 68 of the Charter. Over the years, the United Nations has created a wide
range of mechanisms for monitoring human rights violations. Conventional mechanisms (treaty
bodies) and extra-conventional mechanisms (UN special rapporteurs, representatives, experts and
working groups) have been established in order to monitor compliance of States parties with the
various human rights instruments and to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. In recent
years, a number of field offices have been opened at the request of Governments, inter alia, to assist
in the development of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights and to
conduct education campaigns on human rights.
Challenges still lie ahead, despite many accomplishments in the field of human rights. Many in the
international community believe that human rights, democracy and development are intertwined.
Unless human rights are respected, the maintenance of international peace and security and the
promotion of economic and social development cannot be achieved. The world is still plagued with
incidents of ethnic hatred and acts of genocide. People are still victims of xenophobic attitudes, are
subjected to discrimination because of religion or gender and suffer from exclusion. Around the
world, millions of people are still denied food, shelter, access to medical care, education and work, and
too many live in extreme poverty. Their inherent humanity and dignity are not recognized.
The future of human rights lies in our hands. We must all act when human rights are violated. States
as well as the individual must take responsibility for the realization and effective protection of human
Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information.