On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is considered the world’s most translated document according to the Guinness Book of Records.
It was accepted by a vote of 48 in favor, 0 against, with eight abstentions: the USSR, Ukranian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are essentially entitled.
The document was drafted by a committee headed by Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of the late U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Among the committee members were Jacques Maritain (a famous Catholic philosopher) and Charles Malik (a Lebanese Orthodox Christian), but the main role was played by Canadian John Peters Humphrey.
It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws.
The Declaration expresses the right to freedom of expression, right to education, protection from torture etc.
However, the document was repeatedly criticized. For example, several member countries had dubious human rights records, including states whose representatives had been elected to chair the commission. Another criticism was that the discussion of human rights issues were not conducted constructively instead it was rather a forum for politically selective finger-pointing and criticism.