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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PARIS, Friday—The work of Committee Three (Social) on the draft declaration of the Bill of Human Rights has been progressing a little faster during the past week. And it may be possible by next week to have two meetings a day of our group. Certainly something will have to be done if we are to finish all the business on our agenda.

I have come to the conclusion that one of the difficulties we labor under is the fact that the covenant was not ready to be placed before the General Assembly at the same time as the declaration. This has given a number of the delegates the opportunity to say that the declaration should carry as much weight as it possibly can because it may be that we never will get to the covenant part of our job.

Many of the delegates have even tried to say that because the declaration is written under the mandate of the Charter it should carry some legal obligation. On the whole, I think the committee thinks this is far-fetched. But if the covenant were under consideration at the same time as the declaration we would have fewer amendments and there would not be any effort made to include in the declaration so many of the things that actually cover implementation and guaranteed ways in which to carry out the rights specified in the declaration.

Article Seven, which we were considering on Tuesday, is a very good example of our difficulties. It states: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention."

That is clear and concise, and it covers the field. But I think the reason the Human Rights Commission at Lake Success last spring reached agreement on this short text was because it had before it the work which the drafting committee had been able to do on the covenant previously. The drafting committee had not been able to take up the work done on the declaration by the Human Rights Commission in Geneva in December of 1947 and, therefore, that document with its more detailed Article Seven was put before the Human Rights Commission at Lake Success last spring.

Their final decision (on the short article now before us) was made because they also had the covenant before them by which to be guided.

Now several delegates, especially those from Latin America and the Soviet group, are anxious to put in as much detail as possible, which is entirely understandable since neither do they have the covenant to guide them.

In a spirit apparently of complete guilelessness, our Soviet colleague on last Tuesday begged us to make of this declaration the kind of document that would carry guarantees, since we were really not sure when the covenant would be before us.

Also, I imagine the covenant will be difficult document for the whole Soviet group to come to agreement on, since it will have to be translated into national law. There is nothing that obliges us to do that with the declaration.

* * *

There is one other little-understood complication in the life of a delegate to the General Assembly. This is the fact that on extremely short notice meetings have to be changed by the Secretariat. This is done through the means of a daily journal.

On Tuesday, for instance, we were informed that we would have a meeting of Committee Three at 10:30 on Wednesday morning. But on Wednesday morning, when we received the journal, we discovered that Committee Three would meet at 3 P.M. and that on Thursday evening we would have a meeting at 8:30. That meant that many evening engagements had to be cancelled.

This uncertainty makes it almost impossible to accept either luncheon or dinner invitations, and certainly makes it impossible to make any unbreakable engagements. I think many people must believe we are just making excuses to get out of doing something when we explain we cannot accept invitation. But, as a matter of fact, it is out of consideration for our hosts that keeps us from taking any chances under such uncertain conditions.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Paris (France) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Charter (United Nations)
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  • Soviet Union--delegation to the United Nations

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 30, 1948

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

TEI-P5 edition published on 2017-04-28

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.