75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Audio Brief

A short, spoken-word summary from CSIS’s Marti Flacks on the commentary series, 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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This compilation of commentaries to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) points to the breadth of impact the UDHR has had on international norms and on U.S. foreign policy in the seven decades since its adoption by the UN General Assembly.

Driven by the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, the UDHR was drafted by a broad mix of thinkers from around the world, including representatives from Australia, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It called for equality for all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, at a time when such rights were not being protected in most of the countries that adopted the UDHR, including the United States. Several commentaries point to the influence of Global South voices in the formation of the UDHR, and the challenges that governments have faced in applying its principles consistently across countries and regions, including in the context of great power competition. They also emphasize the continued relevance of the UDHR to current global challenges, from access to water to managing the impact of emerging technologies. Finally, while acknowledging difficulties in enforcing UDHR’s protections, many experts make the case for continued U.S. leadership in defending the global human rights, and for better operationalizing these commitments in U.S. foreign policy.

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