Welcome to Day 4. The end of the first meeting of the Human Rights Commission in February of 1947 marked the drafting of the document first referred to as the International Bill of Rights, later known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Over the next 23 months, members of the drafting committee faced major challenges in defining what human rights were and which human rights would be considered universal. The sovereign nations of the world community did not have a basic agreement on human rights, and the more powerful Western nations needed to be careful that their interpretations did not have so much influence that the Declaration became seen as a Western document.
Underlying all discussions was the memory of the Holocaust, when the Nazi state had asserted its superiority over other groups and sought to eliminate diversity.
The reading “Beyond National Sovereignty: How to Protect Citizens from Their Own Government” examines the difficulties that arise when there is no way for the international community to intervene in nation-states where individual rights are violated. John Humphrey, the author of the first draft, stressed that the struggle for human rights “has always been and always will be a struggle against authority.”
This whole debate about protecting individual rights within sovereign states presented a dilemma because those nation-states would have to compromise some of their autonomy in order to comply with international laws. To this day, states are not willing to sacrifice their sovereignty. That is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains an inspirational document but not a legal one.