The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Member Group : David Kirkpatrick

The following excerpts are from the above-named document which may be found online at the United Nations website, Alternatively, a Google search for the document results in a hit total of 2,510,000, setting aside one total of 5,340,000, but, then, as the saying goes, who’s counting?

Despite what would seem to be overwhelming utilization of the Declaration there seems to be an equally overwhelming lack of knowledge of its existence and a discouraging record of its implementation despite the fact that most nations belong to the UN and thus are at least theoretically committed to its implementation.

The slightly more than 8-page document, is composed of a Preamble and 30 Articles. However, its allowance of ample space between Articles makes it possible to read the entire document in a few minutes. It passed its 61st birthday just one week ago although, to most people, it might as well have been adopted yesterday.

Since the main emphasis of these commentaries is with education, Article 26 is of prime concern here.

The following is from the Declaration:

"On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and ‘to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.’ …


Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (emphasis in the original) as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. …

Article 19.

o Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. …

Article 21. …

o (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. …

Article 26.

o (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

o (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.


Article 30.

o Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein."
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A cynic might note that the Declaration is a typical government statement, a noble sentiment almost totally lacking in governmental followup. Now, some sixty one years later, there is at last emerging action to provide parental choice, action in nations as dissimilar as the Soviet Union, where examples of school choice now exist, even if not universally, and much more common adoption in the very Democratic but socialist Sweden.

As for individuals, the approaching end of the year typically sees the initiation of resolutions for the New Year. Few of us are in a position to initiate or implement school choice but all are in a position to promote.

Sixty one years is long enough to wait.