How human rights gained international support

tags: human rights

Jennifer Vannette is a graduate from Central Michigan University, recently earning her PhD in U.S. History with an emphasis on 20th century human rights.

“What is a person worth?”

That was the question Liam Neeson’s character posed 25 years ago in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” It is the same question that the U.N. General Assembly attempted to answer 70 years ago when it adopted both the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These agreements, passed in the aftermath of the Holocaust, marked the first time that the international community defined human rights and agreed to cooperate in securing those rights.

Though it’s common now to say genocide is wrong and human rights are worth protecting, if left to the nation-states themselves, these actions might not have occurred. Nongovernmental organizations, particularly those representing world Jewry, were key to the crafting and adopting both the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There could be no proportional response to the Holocaust, a trauma that nation-states allowed to happen by prioritizing their own interests over the suffering of millions. International NGOs clearly saw that a global effort to prevent genocide and human rights violations provided the only chance for healing. With no national constituencies to answer to, they were more willing to find effective solutions that transcended state borders.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the legally binding Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly referred to as the Genocide Convention, on Dec. 9, 1948. One day later, the assembly also adopted the nonbinding Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The international press corps noted that these actions created something entirely new: a common language of human rights where none had existed before. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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