A Magna Carta for All Mankind*

Did you know that today, December 10, 2008, marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)? The UDHR was adopted Eleanor Roosevelt and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, France on December 20, 1948, and is often cited as the most-translated document in the world. Although the document was not legally binding, the creation of the UDHR marked a time when world leaders joined together in recognizing that a universal declaration needed to be drafted to further flesh out the rights referenced in the United Nations Charter. The UDHR is the foundation of international human rights law, and its provisions have been mirrored, incorporated, adopted, and referenced in various treaties, constitutions, and bills throughout the world.

With a preamble stating that the “foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world,” is the “recognition of the inherent dignity….and….equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” the UDHR contains

Photo by Flickr user ILoveMyPiccolo

Photo by Flickr user ILoveMyPiccolo

a full list of thirty articles elaborating civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Since its creation, the Declaration has continued “to affirm the inherent human dignity and worth of every person in the world, without distinction of any kind.” Even without the weight of a binding treaty, the UDHR has gained much traction around the world, primarily because it defines “human rights” and “fundamental freedoms”, two words found within the United Nations Charter, a document by which all United Nations members are bound. Some even believe the UDHR has become part of international customary law.

So why is the 60th anniversary of the UDHR so important to the nonprofit sector? Because we, as nonprofits, exist to provide programs and services for the benefit of all. We work with people from every cross section of humanity; people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders. We work to better the lives of all people and we know that universal human rights should be a reality for every person across the globe.

Photo by Flickr user tao_zhyn

Photo by Flickr user tao_zhyn

Although we may not be able to directly help every person in the world, we remain aware of those we’ve helped and those we can still help, and resilient in the face of tough times. We remind ourselves that we make an impact on the people of our communities, and that important work is being done each and every day. We stay cognizant of the fact that we are all members of the human family and that we all deserve a chance at living a life free of constraint and full of opportunity. I encourage you to look at the UDHR if you haven’t done so and celebrate that even though we still have much ground to cover, the world has come a long way in the past 60 years.

*Quotation attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Submitted by Megan Engle

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