The Promise of Human Rights

Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. FDR Library

The real importance of the Human Rights Commission which was created by the Economic and Social Council lies in the fact that throughout the world there are many people who do not enjoy the basic rights which have come to be accepted in many other parts of the world as inherent rights of all individuals, without which no one can live in dignity and freedom.

At the first meeting of the Economic and Social Council in London, early in 1946, a Nuclear Commission was named to recommend a permanent setup for the full Commission of Human Rights, and to consider the work which it should first undertake. These first members of the Nuclear Commission were not chosen as representatives of governments, but as individuals. Naturally, however, each government was asked to concur in the nomination from that country. There were nine members nominated, but two of them were not able to come; and one or two nations insisted on nominating their own representatives. I was one of the members of the original Nuclear Commission, and when we met at Hunter College, I was elected chairman. The other members were: Mr. Fernanda de Husse, Belgium; Mr. K. C. Neogi, India; Professor René Cassin, France; Dr. C. L. Haai, China; Mr. Dusan Brkish, Jugoslavia; Mr. Borisov, U. S. S. R.

The representative from the U. S. S. R. was at first a young secretary from the Soviet Embassy. The other members of the Nuclear Commission did not realize that he was not the regular representative and was not empowered to vote. It was not until three days before the end of the meeting that the regular member, Mr. Borisov, arrived; and then we discovered that the representative of the U. S. S. R. who had been attending the meetings actually had had no right to vote, and such votes had to be removed from the record. The Commission was a little disturbed because a number of concessions had been made in order to obtain

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