Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1 to 10 - An Interpretation

Authors Avatar

Annette Fisher

Word Count = 2,246

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1 to 10 – An Interpretation

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a yardstick by which to measure the degree of respect for, and compliance with, international human rights standards”

Throughout this essay I will deal with the Declaration itself, the context in which it was written, commentaries for and against and my own opinions and thoughts on it.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) on the 10th of December 1948 in resolution 217 A III, with 48 votes for and 8 abstentions. It was proclaimed “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. The Declaration consists of a preamble and 30 articles setting forth the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, which were assumed by many since as long ago as ancient Babylon. This interpretive essay deals with the first ten articles only, however in order to understand them better we need to place them in the context in which they were written. The rights proclaimed in the UDHR fall into two categories: civic and political rights and economic and social rights. The first ten fall into the former category, these rights have been recognised in constitutions and laws throughout the world ever since 1948. Since then it has been and “rightly and continues to be, the most important and far-reaching of all UN declarations, and a fundamental source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms”1. The declaration’s 3 principle drafters were J. P. Humphrey, R. Cassin and Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of the late US president); the latter headed an 8 member drafting committee for the declaration. When the UDHR was written it was intended for “every individual and every organ of society”2, and its motivation was to “turn naturalistic nonsense into hard-nosed positive rights”

The first ten articles deal directly with life and its rights, article 1 expresses the basic principle: the right to a free and equal life. Article 2 states the essential principle: the right to the said life without discrimination. Articles 3 to 10 express the freedoms and fundamental rights of the person, the most influential of which are articles 3, 4 and 5.

Article 3 – the right to life has been endeavoured to be promoted by the UN in such ways as: preparing international conventions that make the taking of life a crime, promoting the abolition of capital punishment, calling upon governments to end arbitrary executions and formulating measures to prevent acts of international terrorism. “The safeguarding of the right to life is an essential condition for the enjoyment of the entire range of economic, social and cultural, as well as civil and political rights”1. Article 4 and 5 – the right to life without slavery or suppression and the right to life without torture, respectively, are significant because they have led to a large number of subsequent treaties and conventions.

Join now!

In the 55 years since the UDHR was adopted it has received worldwide acclaim. Although “it is not a treaty and it is not intended to impose legal obligations” nevertheless “its real force lies in the fact that it is a proclamation, supported by the vote of almost all the nations of the world” therefore it possesses a very great moral authority. What many people mistakenly assume is that the UDHR holds some legal authority, it does not, it is a recommendation and a set of standards for states. The legal authority comes from the conventions and treaties that have followed ...

This is a preview of the whole essay