The Universal Declaration and the Distortion of Human Rights

Dec 11, 2018 by

Conservatives cannot afford to abandon the institutions of power that seek to redefine human rights for the entire world.

Three years ago, in one of the many drab, windowless negotiation rooms of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, delegates were negotiating a resolution on the protection of the family. The room was divided along familiar lines—African and other developing nations supported the resolution, and the cohort of Western secular nations were outraged with the text.

At one point, a Western delegate took the microphone and demanded to know where the contentious language on the family had come from. She wanted to know how delegates could talk of the family as being the “natural and fundamental group unit of society,” and warned the room that her delegation could not possibly accept such terms.

The African chair of the negotiation gently pointed out that the language was taken verbatim from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At this point, the visibly embarrassed delegate retreated, and a few chuckles broke out around the room.

This short episode was not only amusing, but also illustrative.

The Declaration was unanimously adopted in 1948 by the new UN General Assembly, consisting of fifty-eight countries of global geographic representation. The Declaration’s drafters appealed to the common intuition that every person, regardless of circumstances, challenges, privileges, or merits, has an inherent value, equal to that of all other persons. Respect for dignity became the keystone of all human rights.

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