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Inside Geneva : 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

June 14th, 2023
Imogen Foulkes
Swissinfo/Genève Vision

The Inside Geneva podcast's team has produced a series marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Born out of the terrible cruelty of World War II, millions hoped the declaration would prevent atrocities.

"This Universal Declaration of human rights may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere," said Eleanor Roosevelt.

But there was no UN human rights chief until the Cold War ended in the 1990s.

José Ayala Lasso, first UN human rights commissioner says: "Yes, it is an impossible mission to try to guarantee the effectiveness of all human rights: social, economic and political, cultural, even the right to development of the whole people of the world."

UN member states still differ on what the Universal Declaration even means.

Lasso continues: "If you see human rights through the lens of communism, probably you see them in a different manner when you see them through the eyes of democratic governments. I do not think that we should be permissive in order to accept violations. But we should try to understand the reasons of the other: why the regime, the totalitarian regimes act in a way. Why?"

But some principles are non-negotiable.

"The basic principle is the human being. Human beings are to be respected, they are equal in dignity and in rights as the declaration says in the first article. We should believe, we should not lose our faith in the capacity of human beings to act correctly," concludes Lasso.

Join Imogen Foulkes for an in-depth interview with the first ever UN human rights chief.

Photo of Eleanor Roosevelt (Wikipedia creative commons). She was the inspiration behind the draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights, alongside Frenchman René Cassin.

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