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ADDRESS BY SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE C. MARSHALL BEFORE THE THIRD SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1948
We are particularly happy to meet here in Paris. France has, through the centuries, nourished the arts and sciences for the enrichment of all mankind and its citizens have striven persistently for expanding freedom for the individual. It is entirely fitting that this General Assembly, meeting in France which fired the hearts of men with the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, should consider in 1948 the approval of a new Declaration of Human Rights for free men in a free world.
Not only is it appropriate that we should here reaffirm our respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms but that we should renew our determination to develop and protect those rights and freedoms. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right of a people to choose their own government, to take part in its work, and, if they become dissatisfied with it, to change it; the obligation of government to act through law—these are some of the elements that combine to give dignity and worth to the individual.
The Charter of the United Nations reflects these concepts and expressly provides for the promotion and protection of the rights of man, as well as for the rights of nations. This is no accident. For in the modern world, the association of free men within a free state is based upon the obligation of citizens to respect the rights of their fellow citizens. And the association of free nations in a free world is based upon the obligation of all states to respect the rights of other nations.
Systematic and deliberate denials of basic human rights lie at the root of most of our troubles and threaten the work of the United Nations. It is not only fundamentally wrong that millions of men and women live in daily terror of secret police, subject to seizure, imprisonment, or forced labor without just cause and without fair trial, but these wrongs have repercussions in the community of nations. Governments which systematically disregard the rights of their own people are not likely to respect the rights of other nations and other people and are likely to seek their objectives by coercion and force in the international field.
The maintenance of these rights and freedoms depends upon adherence to the abiding principles of justice and morality embodied in the rule of law. It will, therefore, always be true that those Members of the United Nations which strive with sincerity of purpose to live by the Charter and to conform to the principles of justice and law proclaimed by that Charter will be those states which are genuinely dedicated to the preservation of the dignity and integrity of the individual.
Let this Third Regular Session of the General Assembly approve by an overwhelming majority the Declaration of Human Rights as a standard of conduct for all; and let us, as Members of the United Nations, conscious of our own shortcomings and imperfections, join our effort in good faith to live up to this high standard.
Our aspirations must take into account men's practical needs-improved living and working conditions, better health, economic and social advancement for all, and the social responsibilities which these entail. The United Nations is pledged in the Charter to promote “higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development."
The Secretary-General has devoted a considerable part of his annual report to the nature of the progress thus far made in this field. It is evident from the record that we can be encouraged by what is being done. The United Nations is directly engaged in efforts to alleviate the social and economic disorder and destruction resulting from the war. The International Refugee Organization is giving assistance to displaced persons. The International Children's Emergency Fund is providing emergency aid to children and mothers over wide areas. As a part of the United Nations' efforts to increase productivity by applying new and advanced techniques, the Food and Agriculture Organization is broadening the use of improved seeds and fertilizers. The tuberculosis project jointly sponsored by the World Health Organization and the International Children's Emergency Fund represents another example of the constructive work of our organization.
Through the United Nations we are seeking to combine our efforts to promote international trade, to solve the difficulties of foreign exchange, to facilitate the voluntary migration of peoples, and to increase the flow of information and ideas across national boundaries.
The International Trade Organization charter would establish procedures for expanding multilateral trade, with the goal of raising living standards and maintaining full employment. The Conference on Freedom of Information and the Press was responsible for three conventions now before this Assembly which embody principles and procedures for expanding the exchange of information. It is our hope that the Assembly will give these conventions thoughtful and favorable consideration.
While the United Nations and its related agencies are increasingly helpful in the economic and social field, primary responsibility for improving standards of living will continue to rest with the governments and peoples themselves. International organizations cannot take the place of national and personal effort, or of local initiative and individual imagination. International action cannot replace self-help, nor can we move toward general cooperation without maximum mutual help among close neighbors.
The United Nations was not intended to preclude cooperative action among groups of states for common purposes consistent with the Charter of the United Nations. It has been disappointing that efforts at economic recovery consistent with this concept have been actively opposed by some who seem to fear the return of stability and confidence. We must not be misled by those who, in the name of revolutionary slogans, would prevent reconstruction and recovery or hold out illusions of future well-being at the price of starvation and disorder today.
A year ago I expressed the view to the General Assembly that “a supreme effort is required from us all if we are to succeed in breaking through the vicious circles of deepening political and economic crises”. I believe that most of us in this organization have sought to make such an effort—and that this is beginning to bring results.
Despite the cooperative action of most nations to rebuild peace and well-being, tension during the past year has increased. The leaders of the other nations are creating a deep rift between their countries and the rest of the world community. We must not allow that rift to widen any further, and we must redouble our efforts to find a common ground. Let us go back to the Charter, to words that were solemnly written by the peoples of the United Nations while the tragedy of war was vividly stamped on their minds.
“We the peoples of the United Nations”, says the Charter, are “determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of
and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors”. Three years
later, we are confronted with the need to save not only succeeding generations but our own.
The first purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end all Members are pledged to settle their international disputes by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law.
We are pledged to seek an accommodation by which different cultures, different laws, different social and economic structures, and different political systems can exist side by side without violence, subversion, or intimidation.
An elementary requirement is that international obligations be respected and that relations among states be based on mutual confidence, respect, and, tolerance. How can we establish among governments and peoples the confidence which is necessary to a just and stable peace and which is basic to the work of the United Nations ? The need at this session of the General Assembly and in subsequent months is to achieve, or at least to move nearer, a settlement of the major issues which now confront us. For its part, the United States is prepared to seek in every possible way, in any appropriate forum, a constructive and peaceful settlement of the political controversies which contribute to the present tension and uncertainty.
I do not wish to deal at this time with the details of any particular issue, but there are broad lines along which a just and equitable settlement of each of these questions might be reached. Some of these matters are on the agenda of the United Nations; others such as those dealing with the peace settlements, are to be dealt with in other forums. Nevertheless, whatever the forum, as Members of the United Nations, we are all subject to the principles of the Charter.
If we want to have peace we must settle the issues arising out of the last war. The Charter was written with the expectation that the solution of the problems before the United Nations would not be made more difficult by long delay in completing the peace settlements.
We should, therefore, make every effort to achieve an early and just peace settlement so that Japan and Germany may exist as democratic and peaceful nations, subject to safeguards against the revival of military or economic means of aggression, and so that they may in due course demonstrate their qualification for admission to membership in the United Nations. In Austria our aim is the restoration of its political and economic freedom within its 1937 frontiers and its immediate admission as a Member of the United Nations.
Other questions affecting world peace are now before the United Nations, some of them before this General Assembly. We believe