Thursday, 10 February 2022



The UDHR consists of a Preamble and 30 Articles, setting forth the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any discrimination. The rights specified therein encompass both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Proclaimed by the General Assembly as a ‘common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’, the UDHR is addressed to every individual and every organ of the society that they shall strive to promote respect for and to secure the universal and effective recognition and observance of the rights and freedoms enumerated in it. Based on the content and the nature of the rights enumerated therein, the 30 Articles of the UDHR can be broadly classified into four categories

  • Articles general in nature

  • Articles proclaiming civil and political rights

  • Articles proclaiming economic, social and cultural rights

  • Concluding articles

The UDHR has exercised a profound influence, both internationally and nationally, since its adoption. The UDHR provided the framework, upon which the two international human rights covenants, i.e., ICCPR and ICESCR, were constructed and adopted by the UNGA on 16 December 1966. It has been the source of inspiration and has been the basis for the UN in making advances in standard setting as contained in number of international human rights treaties. The core international human rights instruments make reference to the UDHR. It has inspired a number of declarations and international conventions concluded under the auspices of the UN and of the specialized agencies. The UDHR as a whole or its different articles have been frequently quoted in the resolutions of the UNGA as justification for actions taken by the UN. The UDHR has also inspired major regional human rights instruments. These instruments refer to the UDHR in their preambles. e UDHR, since its adoption in 1948, has undergone a dramatic transformation. It might not have been binding when it was adopted but it has now become binding or assumed legal implications. It has an indirect legal effect. Scholars who support this view advance three theories in support of their claim. Firstly, they argue that the UN’s consistent reliance on the UDHR when applying the human rights provisions of the UN Charter compels the conclusion that the Declaration has come to be accepted as an authoritative interpretation of these provisions. According to this view, the Member States of the UN have agreed that they have an obligation under the Charter to promote ‘universal respect for, and observance of’ the rights which the Declaration proclaims. Secondly, they contend that the repeated reliance on and resort to the UDHR by governments and intergovernmental organizations represent the requisite state practice which is capable of giving rise to customary international law. This theory leads to the conclusion that the Declaration, in toto, or, at the very least, some of its provisions, e.g., prohibition of slavery, torture, etc., and not all, have become customary international law and thus binding on all states, not only on Member States of the UN. And thirdly, they contend that the international human rights norms contained in the UDHR constitute general principles of law.

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