A History and Significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On October 24, 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations came into being as an intergovernmental organization to promote peace and prevent future wars. Under the chairmanship of Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin Roosevelt, the Charter of the new United Nations organization went into effect it was a date that is celebrated each year as United Nations Day. The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 with over 50 Member States participating in the final drafting.

It was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, in Paris. In the introduction and Article 1, the Declaration explicitly states the inherent rights of all human beings. The Member states of the United Nations pledged to work together to promote the thirty articles of human rights that would assemble and be codified into a single document. The blueprint for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written by Canadian John Humphrey. John Humphrey was a Canadian lawyer and scholar who served as Director of Human Rights for the United Nations Secretariat from 1946 to 1966.

The Universal Declaration covers the range of human rights in 30 clear and concise articles. In the Declaration the first two articles set the universal foundation of human rights. In articles 3 to 21 establish the civil and political rights to which everyone is entitled. Articles 22 to 27 are about economic, social, and, cultural rights. The final parts of the Declaration, articles 28 to 30 provide a larger protective framework in which all human rights are to be universally enjoyed.

Significance to the Canadian Legal System

The Declaration was the first international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms and it continues to be a living and relevant document today.

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The Universal Declaration is considered the foundation stone for modern human rights. Since the Declaration was adopted in 1948, it had inspired over 80 international conventions and treaties. The Universal Declaration along with two significant covenants make up the International Bill of rights. In Canada, the Universal Declaration played a huge part in a great shift toward freedom and justice. Although Canada may have been slow to introduce human rights laws in the first half of the century, it became a world leader in this field by the end of the millennium. The Declaration inspired Canadian leaders to enshrine many of the fundamental human rights championed by the UN into Canadian law and at all levels of government. In Canada, protecting human rights is a shared responsibility, in keeping with the sharing of powers of governments in Canada’s federal system. Canada has historically assumed a leading role in the global advancement of human rights. It was Canadian, John Humphrey, who initiated the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, in various parts of the world, is now a model for laws that protect human rights. In addition to spearheading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Canada adopted the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1977, and this led to the creation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. For 28 years, the Commission has worked toward equality and the advancement of human rights for Canadians.


  1. Canada, Historica. A Part of Our Heritage. https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/john-humphrey (Accessed February 23, 2016)
  2. United, Nations. Human Rights Education. http://www.humanrightseducation.info/hrmaterials/the-universal-declaration-of-human-rights/220.html (Accessed February 23, 2016) United, Nations. History of the Document United Nations. http://www.un.org/en/sections/universal-declaration/history-document/ (Accessed February 23, 2016)
  3. United for Human Rights. United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, History: United for Human Rights. 2008, http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-humanrights/brief-history/the-united-nations.html (Accessed February 23, 2016)

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A History and Significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2022, Aug 18). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-history-and-significance-of-the-universal-declaration-of-human-rights/

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