Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a statement affirming the dignity and rights of all human beings, adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1948. It is based on principles expressed in the UN Charter. The declaration is the first section of a proposed three-part international covenant, or agreement, on human rights. When adopted, the covenant will bind the participating nations in the same way as any international treaty. The two remaining sections of the covenant amplify the initial declaration in specific and enforceable terms. One is concerned with civil and political rights, and the other with economic, social, and cultural rights.
The rights described in the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include the right to life, liberty, and security of person; to freedom of conscience, religion, opinion, expression, association, and assembly; to freedom from arbitrary arrest; to a fair and impartial trial; to freedom from interference in privacy, home, or correspondence; to a nationality; to a secure society and an adequate standard of living; to education; and to rest and leisure. The declaration also affirms the rights of every person to own property; to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; to travel from a home country at will and return at will; to work under favorable conditions, receive equal pay for equal work, and join labor unions at will; to marry and raise a family; and to participate in government and in the social life of the community.
The declaration affected the terms of several national constitutions that were written after World War II (1939-1945). In 1956 the UN requested progress reports on human rights every three years from member nations.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was prepared by the Commission on Human Rights of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Eleanor Roosevelt, social activist and widow of United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the commission. French jurist and Nobel laureate René Cassin was the declaration’s principal author. In 1950 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 10, the anniversary of the 1948 adoption of the declaration, as Human Rights Day. In 1963 the General Assembly approved a part of the supplementary section on economic, social, and cultural rights that prohibited discrimination on grounds of race, color, or creed in addition to the universal declaration of human rights.