History of Human Rights

Over 60 years ago, the world joined together in recognizing that all peoples, in all nations, were free and equal regardless of race, religion, economic status, age and gender.  Through the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations brought into force  the first international document recognizing human rights as a basis for peace, justice and freedom.


The Universal Declaration is in essence a formula which outlines 30 articles essential to enabling all human beings the ability to achieve their full potential and to live a life free of fear and want. It was a unique, new approach that developed from the world saying ‘never again’ to the horrific events of World War Two.

The Declaration has become the heart of international law which has lead to the development of a rich body of human rights instruments and treaties around the world, both domestically and internationally.  There are more than 80 international treaties that build upon the basic tenets set out in the Universal Declaration.  In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms represents our country’s approach to implementing the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration.

The United Nations now also has six expert committees that are responsible for monitoring human rights around the world:

Human Rights Committee;

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

Committee on the Rights of the Child;

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women;

Committee Against Torture

What makes the declaration important, and continually relevant today, is that this was the first international document that was developed and embraced by people from all regions of the world with all countries officially ratifying it.  Lead and principally drafted by Canadian lawyer, John Peters Humphrey, this document overcomes barriers of culture and difference.

Now, more than ever, when our world is threatened by racial, economic and religious tension, the Declaration, and its universal principles, must be defended and become part of our daily lives.

Human Rights are Your Rights. Know them, promote them and defend them.