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Universal Declaration of Human Rights
by The Ovi Team
2007-12-10 09:41:34
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Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which became an advisory declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris. It consists of 30 articles which outline the view of the General Assembly on the human rights guaranteed to all people.

The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols.

In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants which complete the International Bill of Human Rights; and in 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law.

Below you can find the full text in English.

For other languages, please click here.

* * * * * * * *


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 co-operation 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,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 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.

Article 1.

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.

Article 2.

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.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

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.

Article 8.

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.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

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.

Article 11.

(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.

Article 12.

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.

Article 13.

(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.

Article 14.

(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.

Article 15.

(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.

Article 16.

(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 State.

Article 17.

(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.

Article 18.

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.

Article 19.

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.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of 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.

Article 22.

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.

Article 23.

(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.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(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.

Article 26.

(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 peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(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.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(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 Nations.

Article 30.

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.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-10 14:45:54
The UN universal declaration on human rights are ideals that ought indeed be acceptable to all human beings exactly because they are universal. Having said that, let me point out a philosophical problem regarding the word “universal” which is especially acute in the West. The problem is this: is it a tautology to declare anything universal without explaining on what is universality grounded upon? In posing such a query to some of my friends and colleagues the usual response is this: they are grounded on reason and common sense which are also universal. Fair enough! But when one reaches further back and asks: where did we in the West get this propensity to declare anything universal simply because it is based on reason and not on the emotions and passions and pleasure and self-interest? The usual answer is: from the Enlightenment and its philosophers who taught us that if a truth is rational, then it will be true for everyone, and furthermore, if a truth is rational then it will be objective, it will be true of the object and not of the subject who is stating the truth. Some even go back to Plato and the Stoics who argued that Reason organizes the universe and also organizes our thought about the universe. In other words, objectivity implies rationality and universality since what is objective is knowable by reason and the same for everyone. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-10 14:47:45
So far so good. But then if one gets a bit more particular and asks: and who were some of the philosophers who taught us this nexus between rationality and universality? The ones who come up most often are Descartes and his method of doubt, Kant and his universal of morality, Hume and his universal empiricism and Locke and his universal human rights. Rousseau also comes up but less often probably because he put too much emphasis on feelings. At this point I show them a passage from David Hume’s “Of National Characters” where Hume states that “there is some reason to think that all nations which live beyond the polar circles or between the tropics, are inferior to the rest of the species, and are incapable of all the higher attainments of the human mind.” When people first read that passage they are incredulous and often say that I must have taken the passage out of context. (continued below)

I then show them a more explicit footnote from the same work by the same Hume: “I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular…In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.” So much for universal objectivity.(continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-10 14:48:59
To this footnote the response is usually that it is indeed the statement of an ignorant racist but that does not invalidate Hume’s objective universal philosophy. So the objectivity resides in Hume’s public persona not his private beliefs. At that point I remind them that Kant had read Hume’s remarks and far from condemning them, cites them approvingly in his essay “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime.” In fact, Kant adds a story of his own in an apparent attempt to reinforce Hume’s views. He cites a story of a Dominican missionary, Father Labar, concerning an African carpenter. Labar criticized the carpenter for his haughty treatment of his wives, Kant tells us. The carpenter replied: “You whites are indeed fools, for first you make concessions to your wives, and afterward you complain when they drive you mad.” Kant then adds his own appalling comment: “And it might be that there were something in this which perhaps deserved to be considered; but in short, this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.” So, here we have the great universally rational objective Kant judging the merits and the truth of a statement by the color of the skin of its author. Sounds like an argumentum ad hominem. At this point I ask my friends and colleagues if indeed the Western philosophical tradition is composed of old white men, the same white “enlightened” men who invented universality and objectivity and rationalism. The wiser of my colleagues and friends will reply: “I’ll have to do some thinking about that.”

Sand2007-12-11 07:08:04
Shorn of baroque reasoning it is reasonable to accept that "universal" in this context refers to all humanity. Minimum respect for any human being does not seem to require any special emotional input.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-11 16:51:25
The philosophical point was simpler actually. If one cannot ground universal one is involved in a tautology: rights are universal because they are universal or because I have the power to declare them so and have them observed. A philosopher worth his salt must reason with more than the "will to power," with all due respect to Machiavelli.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-11 19:05:12
P.S. There is also an underlying historical-philosophical point: that even a Hume and a Kant were creatures of their times despite their vaunted "objectivity."

Sand2007-12-13 15:05:03
Rights can be declared universal even though they are not universally observed. Otherwise any minor violation of the rights can be accepted as destroying their universality and thereby invalidating totally the rights which is totally idiotic. Declaring the rights universal is an indication that over time and proper procedure they will be observed. They are a declaration of humanitarian hope that they will be generally realized. To say that any violation destroys those rights becomes silly and counterproductive.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-13 16:37:18
That was not the point. The point was this: on what do you ground the concept of universality given that the ones who proposed showed that they were far from being objective at all times?

Sand2007-12-13 20:50:04
Objectivity is an impossible ideal in this situation. A dolphin or an elephant or a mosquito each could be objective from a particular point of view which would not be particularly useful from a human point of view. Less extremely, a Muslim or a Catholic or a Jew or some other religious enthusiast might not be amenable to what might be generally acceptable to views of human rights. If you feel, for instance, that women should be absolutely subservient to men (as some religions do) you might have a problem. But there is a general tradition that all humans, whatever their sex or color or whatever deserve to be treated decently and that seems to be a good starting point.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-21 00:09:22
General traditions are not philosophical rational groundings. As an extreme rationalist I would have expected you to know that. I suppose any wich way will do to sell one's point of view.

Sand2007-12-21 10:57:04
Since you spend all your aware life immersed in intellectual bullshit I would not expect you to acknowledge that life in general regards abstract philosophy as irrelevant to living. People are much more responsive to generally accepted behavior than intellectually baroque knotted reasoning.

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