What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote on Human RightsThe Declaration was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations. Its adoption marked the first time in history that a document considered to have universal value was adopted by an international organization. It was also the first time that human rights and fundamental freedoms were set forth in such detail. There was broad-based international support for the Declaration when it was adopted. Sometimes described as a Magna Carta for all humanity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a common statement of goals and aspirations — a vision of the world as the international community would want it to become. The Declaration is one of the best known and most often cited human rights documents in the world. Over the years, the Declaration has been used to defend and advance people’s rights. Its principles have been enshrined in and continue to inspire national legislation and the constitutions of many nations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has lead to a number of treaties ensuring human rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights along with two optional protocols are considered the International Bill of Rights.

From this International Bill of Rights flow additional international human rights treaties that are more specific and focused regarding both the group of people receiving protection and the topic addressed. Some of the treaties are supplemented by optional protocols dealing with specific concerns. Among these international human rights treaties are:

Each treaty and protocol has a committee of experts that monitors implementation of the treaty provisions by States that have ratified the treaty. Each State that has ratified the treaty, including the United States, is required to make periodic reports to the appropriate committee.


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