NOVEMBER 27, 1948
PARIS, Friday—I managed to get away from the wordy confusion that is the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission for a while yesterday. It was my first real break in many days and I was glad to have the opportunity to accomplish a few personal things.
I looked around for Christmas gifts to take home with me, but Paris seems to be only for little girls. I can get all sorts of things for the female species, but it is very difficult to find anything for little boys.
Franklin Junior and his business partner joined me. Their aerial business trip around Europe had been interrupted by bad weather, so they passed the time with me until flights were resumed and they could continue on.
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After this brief respite, I plunged back into the session arguing over the very important Article 27 of the Declaration of Human Rights. This is the article in which the duties of individuals to their neighbors and their communities are set forth.
We were, however, permitted to leave before the session's end—mainly because, I think, the chairman was appalled at the number of speeches scheduled for debate on this article. He undoubtedly thought it would be better if all of us retired for a short rest and started over again the next morning.
His judgment, if it was such, paid off, for the next day Article 27 was voted on and passed without incident.
"Everyone has duties to the community in which the free and full development of his personality is possible.
"In exercise of his rights and freedoms everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law solely for purposes of securing due recognition and the respect for the rights of others and just requirements of morality, public order and general welfare in democratic society.
"These rights and freedoms can in no case be exercised contrary to purposes and principles of the United Nations."
The American delegation suggested inclusion of the words "rights and freedoms" in the second paragraph because it has been used so frequently in the declaration it was felt it also should be included in this paragraph for consistency.
Another change, a rather extensive one, also was made in this paragraph by the delegate from Uruguay. He suggested the original words "necessary to secure" be replaced with "prescribed by law solely for the purpose of securing..."
Though this was accepted, it troubled many of the commission members, for they felt that this article should have moral and spiritual force behind it and that to limit it to "prescribed by law" was a mistake.
The article, incidentally, is very important, for it conditions practically every other article in the Declaration of Human Rights.
The USSR, of course, had wanted to say in this article—as well as in every other one—that the law of the individual country must govern rights that were declared or that these rights could only be obtained in measure in which laws of the country permitted them to be obtained.
In this point, the committee as a whole has not agreed. Since this is a declaration of the rights of the individual human being and since we are setting standards toward which all nations of the world shall strive, it does not seem wise to drag in legal points of the many different legal systems as represented in some 58 countries.
In some cases, however, religious differences and customs of the various countries will have to be considered. You can be sure that careful consideration will be given when the declaration is translated into five different languages.