JUNE 22, 1948
HYDE PARK, Monday—As I promised, I want to tell you a little more about the conclusion of our work on the Human Rights Commission.
I think, on the whole, the International Declaration of Human Rights is a good declaration. It took far longer to get it written than anyone had expected. One reason for that is that it is not ratified as a Covenant would be by the individual nations, but only accepted by the governments in the General Assembly.
Some of the legal-minded people on the commission felt that because the Charter of the United Nations is a treaty, and the Declaration will be a spelling out of some of the general statements in the Charter on Human Rights, the Declaration itself has a quasi-legal status not just the moral value which most of us feel will be a strong force in itself.
After all, even legal documents are of little value if there is not behind them the force of public opinion and public approval. If the peoples of the world feel that the rights and freedoms enumerated in this Declaration should become realities for all human beings, there will be built up a gradual observance that will have the weight of precedent in time. Also, legal bodies, by referring to the document, may give it greater weight as time goes on.
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I feel, of course, that to have finished the Declaration is a very important piece of work. I hope that in the General Assembly it will be discussed and brought to the attention of the governments of the world by the Economic and Social Council so that they can be preparing public opinion for its observance. I feel it would be wiser, however, if the final acceptance were reserved for the completed document, which must contain the Covenant with its implementation clauses.
The Covenant will be a simpler document in one way. It will have to cover fewer rights. But in another way it will be more complicated, because the way those rights are to be assured to people throughout the world, under law, must be spelled out and every nation in ratifying the Covenant—which will have the weight of a treaty—must be prepared to change its domestic laws so that it will be able to live up to its undertakings under the Covenant.
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The United States and China, in a separate document submitted purely for the consideration of the Economic and Social Council, jointly made some suggestions of future implementation of the Covenant of Human Rights. The Draft Committee in Geneva submitted the report of a working group, and the French submitted some suggestions on implementation, as did the Australians. All of these will be available to the Economic and Social Council.
In our joint proposal, the United States and China felt that methods of implementation should be developed rather slowly and that nations ratifying the Covenant should, in future, have a share in working out implementation.