The importance of discussing an international human rights instrument under the auspices of the United Nations was initially proposed during the drafting of the UN Charter in 1945. Due to time constraints, the idea was recommended to the UN General Assembly for further consideration.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations in 1946 established the Commission on Human Rights with the mandate to submit recommendations, proposals and reports to the Council regarding an international bill of rights (E/RES/5 (I)). The Commission subsequently established a Drafting Committee to produce the human rights instrument.
The Commission held three sessions from 1946 to 1948. The drafting process was a gruelling effort, involving the consideration of numerous reports and documents from governments, non-governmental organizations, and petitioners of human rights.
During the Human Rights Commission’s second session, three working groups were formed to discuss the various elements of an international bill of human rights: a declaration, a convention, later renamed covenant, and the measures of implementation; these elements were presented in its report to ECOSOC (E/600).
The Commission completed the drafting of the international bill of human rights at its third session, based on the Drafting Committee’s work (E/CN.4/95), and submitted the proposed text of an International Declaration on Human Rights to ECOSOC for its consideration (E/800). After concluding its deliberations on the draft text, ECOSOC subsequently transmitted it to the General Assembly (E/RES/151 (VII)).
Drafting Committee on International Bill of Rights (Commission on Human Rights, EcoSoc Council)
Henri Laugier, UN ASG in charge of Department of Social Affairs; Mrs. Eleanor D. Roosevelt, USA, chairman. First meeting, 9 June 1947.
UN Photo, #52811
The General Assembly’s Third Committee held 84 meetings to discuss the proposed text and, after considering 168 draft resolutions with numerous amendments, finally adopted the Draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recommended it to the plenary for adoption (A/777). The plenary of the General Assembly subsequently discussed the draft text and, after voting on several last-minute amendments, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by resolution 217 (III) on 10 December 1948.
The General Assembly considered the adoption of the Declaration “an historic act, destined to consolidate world peace through the contribution of the United Nations towards the liberation of individuals from the unjustified oppression and constraint to which they are too often subjected”. Member States pledged to take progressive measures to ensure the effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms among all peoples living in their countries and territories.