The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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GENEVA, Thursday—The delegate from Russia took a long while the other day to explain to the Human Rights Commission, meeting here, that in the view of the Soviet government every article that they agreed to in the Covenant of Human Rights should be fully guaranteed so each article should carry the obligation of the state to see that any given right was actually granted. It is fairly evident to all of us, of course, that a granting of these rights must be achieved by the action of nations themselves. But if no international machinery is to be set up to which an appeal can be made by any state that feels another state is not living up to its agreement under the convenant, a tremendous loophole is created. The recalcitrant nation would merely have to point out that in its country certain laws exist that must be respected and that it considers an infringement and an excursion into internal affairs any action by an international body that so much as listens to complaints against it. Such a nation might insist that it will not submit to this infringement of its sovereignity.

The Soviet Union put forth a resolution covering its attitude on this and it was voted down. So, it is evident that the other countries think some machinery for international review is necessary.

The next point to be decided is whether this machinery should be encompassed within the covenant or whether all of it should be in a separate document.

The Yugoslavs propose that whatever international control there is should be in a separate document which nations can accept or not as they see fit. They even say that you might make the acceptance of the covenant conditional on also accepting this separate document if that is the desire.

Some of us would like to see the machinery for state-to-state complaint put in the covenant to cover the first 18 articles of the document. And we are open to discussion as to whether the other articles should have machinery for enforcement in a separate covenant or attached to the particular articles they cover.

The delegate from India has come out with an entirely new idea. He suggests that no enforcement should be put in the covenant, but that it should be in a separate document and every member of the United Nations should accept it. Of course, this would be perfect if every member also accepted the covenant. But that can hardly be hoped for. And a universal acceptance of enforcement when you have not accepted the documents themselves that are to be enforced seems a trifle confusing.

One very evident fact is now emerging. That is that we must vote our way out of our difficulties. And I hope that we have reached a point where the commission as a whole is willing to do so. On Thursday morning we sat down to discuss in a closed session with the specialized agencies their recommendations on economic and social rights.

One very encouraging thing seems to be the number of really earnest, hard-working young people who are serving in various U.N. capacities. I find a number of people here about the age of my son, Franklin Jr., and one night this week I had the pleasure of dining with some of these young folks. While they may be far from their homes and somewhat cut off from the activities of the world as whole, they are living very happy, useful lives in this city where representatives of so many different nations work together in the U.N.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Geneva (Switzerland) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 27, 1951

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

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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.