DECEMBER 18, 1947
GENEVA—As a result of the work the Human Rights Commission has done here, I feel that the governments in the United Nations will have some very good working papers to consider and comment on—a draft declaration of rights, a draft convention or covenant on rights, and a report on methods of implementation. I hope that these documents will receive close attention in every government.
In the United States, any international convention on rights must be very carefully considered, because it would have the effect of legally binding signatory countries to change their laws to meet its provisions. This would be particularly complicated for us since, under our Constitution, so many rights are reserved by the states. But we have a precedent in the International Labor Organization conventions, and I think some way will be found for working it out.
In both the declaration and the convention, there will be provisions which will entail a change of attitude toward the value of the human being as such, and this may require considerable education among our people—but it's a step forward in the conception of civilization throughout the world.
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In order to cover all that we had before us at this session of the commission, every member has had to work under great pressure. And in the latter part of the meeting, we've had to curtail the speeches and discussion in order not to repeat what had already been said in the three working groups.
The commission decided that any amendment proposed could have only one speaker for and one against before a vote was taken. Everyone agreed to this until some of the members decided they had something to say, and then there was strenuous objection to the rule which they'd accepted earlier in the day.
Finally, however, the rule was sustained. And that's one of the reasons why a fairly complete bill of rights, covering all three sections under discussion, will now go to the governments.
I think there's more interest in an international bill of human rights over here than in the United States. That's largely because, except for a few minority groups, the people of our country don't feel the need of protection. That's not so for many people in other parts of the world, however. Where there's a need of something which will be really binding among nations, the people await such a bill with eager anticipation.