The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered a monumental document in human rights history. It was created after the Second World War. After World War II ended, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of the war to happen again. It was created by representatives of multi-cultural backgrounds from all areas of the world. This was the first time that nations agreed on an inclusive statement of basic human rights. The declaration was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 at the United Nations general assembly in Paris. It stated for the first time that fundamental human rights should be universally protected.
Global legislation regarding the topic of human rights has, in many ways, been successful in making the world a better and more peaceful place. Global governments are striving to promote human rights domestically and abroad, and are collaborating with multinational institutions to achieve this. The UDHR has greatly influenced the development of human rights laws internationally. It is responsible for advancing regional political structures protecting basic human rights, such as the European Convention of Human Rights. Since its inception, the declaration has also been regularly utilized by other countries. Maskara, Shreya. “How Effective Has the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Been in 70 Years?” Qrius (Formerly The Indian Economist), 22 June 2018, qrius.com/how-effective-has-the-universal-declaration-of-human-rights-in-70-years/.
The world’s response to mass atrocities has seen the greatest progress, even though actual enforcement is not always consistant. The US in particular leads in creating governmental processes to prevent, predict, and respond to mass violence against civilians globally. Such actions include trainings to help American diplomats to recognize the signs and risks of mass violence and improve collaboration among federal agencies. There is still much work to do however, and this is one way the UDHR falls short. In the years following the tragedies of Bosnia and Rwanda, many of the world powers who apologized for their lack of action and effective response to genocide during the 1990s, and have yet to organize themselves sufficiently to act early and effectively to prevent or stop mass atrocities in the future. One example would be the massacres now going on in Syria. The United Nations needs to do more to intervene and rescue Syrian Citizens who are now currently trapped by the Syrian armed forces.
Article 25 in the UDHR expresses the fundamental right to adequate health. After adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, another crucial goal to provide people with the right to basic and adequate public health care is strongly promoted, and significant resources have been devoted to the challenge. Realistically speaking, there are still many governments in the developing world that fail to provide adequate health care and living conditions for their population, their citizens can suffer unnecessarily from diseases and ailments that are routinely treatable or even preventable in more developed nations. In order to improve conditions in developing nations the focus needs to be, and has been, on some fundamental improvements. Access to and distribution of clean water, cultivating and maintaining sufficient food supplies, access to vaccinations and medications, basic preventative health care, pre and post-natal care, as well as basic health education. Thanks to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, efforts are being made and some improvements are resulting. The Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations was formed to improve and increase agriculture to help with global famine and malnutrition. There’s also the Global Fund, which was established in 2001, to combat Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS, by way of allocating funding to nationwide projects in nations with higher disease rates. UNICEF, which is the United Nations Children’s fund, strives to improve children’s welfare around the world. This organization promotes education programs aimed at reducing infant and child mortality rates by means of intervening in nations where children are suffering from malnutrition, disease and the effects of war around them. Most notably, the World Health Organization was also formed in 1948 to secure that all people have access to the highest possible level of health. WHO actually defines the term health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity?” “Home.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/. The WHO strives to improve the practice of healthcare and create standards for the international community. “ .” United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (Condemning the Invasion of Kuwait by Iraq), S.C. Res. 660, 45 U.N. SCOR at 19, U.N. Doc. S/RES/660 (1990)., World Health Organization, hrlibrary.umn.edu/edumat/studyguides/righttohealth.html.
The UDHR states in article 1 that all human beings are created free and equal. Across the globe women’s rights and voices are now in the forefront and gender equality is making strides in developed countries like the US. However, women still lack equality in much of the Islamic word. Religious separatists are still being persecuted and some political freedoms are denied. While there still needs much improvement globally for basic equal rights violations the effort put forth by the UN is notable.
Although the Declaration is important in the history of human rights today as we know it, it has many weaknesses that prevent the each article from fully being implemented and recognized. One notable issue is that the Universal Declaration itself is not legally binding; it does not have the force of a binding treaty. The emphasis seems to be more on western societies.
One political issue that was involved in trying to force countries to comply with the articles of the UDHR was the issue that not all nations agreed nor signed it. Eight countries in total elected to abstain from signing the declaration; Belorussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Ukraine, the USSR, and Yugoslavia. It has been criticized that the Declaration didn’t apply to women, homosexuals, or members of select political, religious, economic and social groups. In the case of the right to seek asylum, it was made clear that this right “does not apply in the case of prosecution genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes of the United Nations. “ In other words, it’s of the concern that anyone involved in crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts that directly contradict the very principles of the United Nations should not be granted the protection.
Overall, I believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is monumentally important. It’s when we came together as a whole to attempt to define and protect basic human rights. Without it, atrocities like those seen in World War II would run the risk of repeating. Although not all countries have agreed to its terms, the heightened awareness the declaration gives to the subject of human rights helps to keep the ideals in the forefront. Improvements do need to be made to better address and protect those not clearly defined in the Declaration. I’m confident, however, in today’s global climate the subject of Human Rights will continue to evolve and improve.
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