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He urged that the alleged safeguards for workers in the U.S.S.R. should be subjected to expert and impartial analysis by the Ilo as the United Nations specialized agency for labor problems.
Two of the great achievements of the Third Session of the General Assembly were the approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by an overwhelming majority and the unanimous approval of a convention on genocide (destruction of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such). In addition, in the Commission on Human Rights, further work was done toward the completion of a draft text of an international covenant on human rights. In the field of freedom of information, three conventions were initiated at a United Nations Conference held in Geneva in March and April 1948.
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings, as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The Declaration therefore is a great event in the struggle of men for freedom, a struggle which in our own history began with the Magna Charta and continued with such great instruments as the English Bill of Rights of 1688, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789, and our own American Bill of Rights. A further step, on a regional basis, was the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by the Ninth International Conference of American States at Bogotá in April 1948. Now the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, applicable as its name indicates on a world-wide basis, has emerged to take its place in this great historic development.
The action of the General Assembly was the culmination of two and a half years of painstaking labor within the United Nations, particularly in the Commission on Human Rights. That Commission was established by the Economic and Social Council in the spring of 1946 pursuant to article 68 of the Charter. It has had, as its able chairman, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The position of the United States with respect to the Declaration in general and also with respect to its various provisions is a matter of record in the United Nations. In his opening address at the General Assembly, the Chairman of the United States Delegation, Secretary Marshall, called for “the approval of a new declaration of
human rights for free men in a free world.” He then went on to point out:
“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.”
Mrs. Roosevelt, as United States Delegate, also called for the approval of the Declaration in her opening statement. In stating the general position of the United States she made it clear that this Government did not regard the text submitted by the Commission on Human Rights as perfect and, in fact, was not fully satisfied with certain provisions in the document. However, the United States favored the approval of a Declaration which was substantially sound and which would be generally acceptable to most of the Members of the United Nations.
The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the Declaration, setting forth various specific human rights and fundamental freedoms, "as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations". This document is therefore a statement of principles, an enunciation of rights and freedoms of the individual. It is not a treaty or international agreement, as distinguished from the draft international covenant on human rights. The Declaration does not create legal rights and obligations. It is not intended to impose legal obligations upon governments. It does, how. ever, proclaim standards of conduct which all Members of the United Nations should endeavor to attain. Its approval by the General Assembly exerts a moral influence upon Members of the United Nations to "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".
The first part of the Declaration contains the great traditional political and civil rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, the right to participate in government, the right to fair trial, the right to life, the right to personal liberty, and the right to own property. These are followed by an
enumeration of the newer economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms which have in the twentieth century come to be recognized as fundamental to man.
The United States made it clear in the course of the development of the Declaration that it does not consider the economic, social, and cultural rights stated in the Declaration to imply an obligation on governments to assure the enjoyment of these rights by direct governmental action. Article 22 of the Declaration recognizes that the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights must be in accordance with the organization as well as the resources of each state.
Article 29 recognizes the fact that individual liberty can never be absolute and provides for limitations on individual rights and freedoms including respect for the rights of others and the “just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society."
This Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects the composite views of the many people and of the many governments who contributed to its formulation. Such a document obviously could not entirely satisfy every person or every government, but it is significant that the Members of the United Nations were able to find such a large and substantial measure of agreement in the field of human rights. Only eight Members of the United Nations abstained from the 48 to 0 vote approving the Declaration. These eight countries were six in the Soviet bloc—the U.S.S.R., the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia—and Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa. Two countries were absent, Honduras and Yemen.
The General Assembly approved a resolution requesting the Economic and Social Council to ask the Commission on Human Rights to give further examination to the problem of petitions when studying the draft covenant on human rights and measures of implementation, in order to enable the General Assembly to consider what further action, if any, should be taken at its next regular session regarding the problem of petitions.
The General Assembly also requested the Economic and Social Council to ask the Commission on Human Rights and the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities to make a thorough study of the problem of minorities in order that the United Nations may be able to take effective measures for the protection of racial, national, religious, and linguistic minorities
DRAFT INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON
The Human Rights Commission is expected to convene at Lake Success on May 9, 1949, to proceed with the drafting of an international covenant on human rights. The General Assembly in a resolution adopted at Paris requested the Economic and Social Council to ask the Commission to continue to give priority to the preparation of a draft covenant and measures of implementation.
The draft text of the proposed covenant at present includes only certain basic civil rights comparable to those in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. Other conventions now being developed in the United Nations are concerned with some of the other specific aspects of the Declaration on Human Rights. The convention on genocide approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Paris and the proposed conventions on freedom of information still under consideration in the United Nations are illustrations of such specific agreements in the field of human rights. The formulation of the United States position with respect to the covenant on human rights is being given careful consideration within our own Government, through an interdepartmental committee consisting of representatives of the Departments of State, Labor, Justice, and Interior, and the Federal Security Agency. The suggestions and comment of interested nongovernmental organizations have also been obtained.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
During 1948 the United Nations gave increasing attention to the subject of freedom of information, and the United States continued its initiative and leadership in this field. A United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information was held from March 23 to April 21, 1948, in Geneva. The preparatory work for the Conference had been done by the United Nations Subcommission on Freedom of Information and the Press with the approval of the Economic and Social Council.
The Conference on Freedom of Information prepared three draft conventions, recommended articles for inclusion in the Declaration of Human Rights and the covenant on human rights, and adopted some forty substantive resolutions. Most of its decisions were carried by overwhelming majorities, with only the Soviet group of countries customarily in opposition.
The draft conventions prepared by the Conference are as follows:
1. The draft convention on the gathering and international transmission of news, sponsored by the United States Delegation, seeks to promote the free flow of information between countries by facilitating the freest possible movement of foreign correspondents, protecting them from expulsion for any lawful exercise of their rights, and insuring equitable treatment of their outgoing despatches.
2. The draft convention concerning the institution of an international right of official correction, submitted by the French Delegation, is intended to afford protection against false or distorted reporting likely to injure relations between nations. It would apply to situations where a state felt that a report sent from one country to another and likely to injure its foreign relations was false or distorted. The complaining government could send its version of the facts to the state in which the report was published, and the latter would be obliged to make this version available to its domestic information agencies. No power to compel publication is involved.
3. The draft convention on freedom of information sponsored by the United Kingdom Delegation provides that contracting states shall secure to their nationals and to the nationals of other contracting states certain broad rights to freedom of information without governmental interference, such as the right to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions. It forbids states to regulate the use of the media of communication in any manner involving discrimination on political grounds or on the basis of race, sex, language, or religion.
The three conventions approved by the Geneva conference will be considered by the General Assembly during the Second Part of its Third Session, to be held in April 1949 at Lake Success.
The Chilean Delegation to the Third Session of the General Assembly protested against the refusal of the Soviet Union to permit the Soviet wives of foreigners to join their husbands abroad. Other delegations, including that of the United States, joined in this protest, and a resolution was adopted in the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly condemning this practice as not in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations. The resolution recommended that the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics discontinue this practice.
The concern of the Chilean Government regarding this matter initially arose because of the refusal of the Soviet Union to permit the