Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The International Bill of Human Rights, coherence and complementarity?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights derives its political inspiration and its legal standing from the United Nations Charter. It gave hard substance to the general commitment to cooperate to bring about “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” pursuant to article 55 (c) of the UN Charter. For want of time, the participants at the San Francisco Conference had been unable to draw up a list of human rights and so confined themselves to the incantatory references to human rights that form a sort of leitmotiv of the Charter in answer to the hopes and expectations of NGOs, especially US associations and trade unions.However, in his closing speech to the San Francisco Conference, President Truman voiced the wish that the UN would adopt ‘an international bill of rights acceptable to all the nations involved’. Actually, this mission was to be the first mandate given to the new Commission for the Promotion of Human Rights, the creation of which was expressly provided for by UN Charter article 68. ECOSOC resolution E/RES/1946/9 (II) of 4 June 1946 setting up the Commission on Human Rights asked it to draw up an “international bill of rights” (para. 7) on the basis of the early work of the “nuclear commission” which had been tasked with preparing the ground.