I want us to examine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the thirty (30) stated and defined human rights outlined in this vital document. It is vital that we examine the UDHR in the context of history to reference the necessity of this written document and analyze its currency, structure, and how this impacts social workers’ work. I ask you to examine these issues in four (4) parts.
- Before 1945, or the end of World War II (WWII)
- Nuremberg Trials
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948)
- Behavior Post 1945, or after WWII
Part I: Before 1945, or the end of World War II (WWII)
We took a look at some of the Nazi human rights violations. The world became aware of the holocaust and the atrocities before the end of the war. Remember, this was a world before television and the internet, and clarity became increasingly apparent over time.
The USA and other nations rightfully protested the mistreatment of human beings by the Nazi powers. The human rights violations were numerous and included the persecution of the Jews, gay people, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.
Also, setting the tone of the new era, the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to conclude WWII – and the world had never seen such a technological feat. We now entered the nuclear age – and people began to realize the magnitude of the moment.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgp6ZH-by-E (Links to an external site.)
The USA helped to get the United Nations to pass the UDHR in response to the Nazi atrocities and the atomic era’s realities.
Part II: Nuremberg Trials
At the end of WWII, the Allied Powers – led by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union – decided to try several Germans after the war. There was no standard set of laws or principles to charge these individuals, so they set up a system to charge them with crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The trials took place on German soil to demonstrate the end of the era and hold people accountable. This was also the sight of many significant Nazi events. The Nuremberg Trials were one of the first efforts to recognize the expanding role of human rights in world peace and individual accountability – and the world recognized the need to have a common standard of human rights for all to follow.
Part III: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948)
We read the document, and we will focus on the 30 articles in a while. Place this document in the context of history.
Part IV: Behavior Post-1945, or after WWII
The UDHR is a document of the world created by the United Nations, but the United States played a large role in making this guiding document. While the USA was correct to point out the atrocities created by others during WWII, they did not examine our challenges.
The Christian tradition relies on a biblical passage to address issues of hypocrisy. I refer to the Christian tradition here as it is often used as the basis for many people’s perspectives in the western hemisphere.
“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3 (International Standard Version)
Look at the issue of Japanese Internment camps and African American discrimination. Do you see the hypocrisy in these actions?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZTioTkHcB0 (Links to an external site.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LqNMA3Vpdo (Links to an external site.)
After the UDHR was passed, the United States had a few more blunders.
Let us examine these within the context of Willowbrook, the Tuskegee Study, and the Johns’ Committee.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWDt5IE8RPI (Links to an external site.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz4jE7huhMA (Links to an external site.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dfuv3ZTg4w (Links to an external site.)
Finally, go to the New York Times website. Log on with your password to access the newspaper. Search this for current issues related to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” This review of the paper will start our class discussion and help bring your current on this topic.
Share your thoughts and feelings with your colleagues. The USA took the lead to get the UDHR established – but we had our own blemishes to manage as well. What do you think about the USA as the world’s leader in human rights? Share your thoughts and opinions with your colleagues.