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Why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' Preamble Is More Important and Relevant Than You Think

Gianfranco is a student at St. John's University, who has a passion for learning and helping others.

First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt holding up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt holding up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UDHR Consists of a Preamble and Articles

Although not legally binding, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an important document that serves as a guide to how we, as humans, should live among each other. It was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 in Paris, France. Coming off of World War II, which was marked by immense death by total war and ethnic cleansing, a declaration such as this one was much needed so that we as humans could at least try to make the world a safer and more loving place.

The document consists of 30 articles and a preamble, similar to style of the United States Constitution. The preamble to the Declaration is written as a pledge for all countries of the world to strive to protect the natural rights of all human beings in the world. This article will detail each paragraph of the preamble and how it is more important in the modern era in lieu of human rights violations and crimes against humanities all across the globe.

The Human Family

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

The preamble starts with a firm opening statement declaring that all humans regardless of gender, race, orientation, or religion are all part of one, equal family: the human family. It states that the human race is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace and that all its members have inalienable and equal rights.

In 2018, however, we still face discrimination in America and throughout the world. Transgender military bans, racism at sporting events in Europe, discrimination against Muslims, along with too many other examples that flood the news on a daily basis.

The simple sentence in the preamble should be simple advice to follow. All people deserve to be treated equally because all people are equal, in the sense that we are all humans. The first excerpt finishes by declaring that if equality is achieved and people's rights are recognized globally, there will be justice, freedom, and perhaps most importantly, peace.

Aspiration in the Face of Atrocity

"Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people."

Since the creation of this document, the world has witnessed global atrocity time and time again. The preamble acknowledges that humans had been disgusted by heinous acts throughout history but perhaps a brighter future lied ahead. Unfortunately, their optimism would not last. The world suffered genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Cambodia, as well as a war in Vietnam, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many other major conflicts throughout the world.

In the 21st century, the violence only escalates. There are mass killings in Myanmar, political assassinations of journalists and others with opposing viewpoints, work camps in North Korea, and much more horror. We must do more to condemn and stop these attacks and try to heed the advice of the preamble.

Rebel Against Oppression

"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law."

This section of the preamble states that if there are no other options or help from others, rebellion against tyranny and oppression are acceptable, so long as human rights are protected.

We should take this excerpt to mean that in the 21st century, all nations should fight back or speak out against oppressive governments or governments with oppressive tendencies. It is important now more than ever because of the rise of populism in the United States, Europe, and South America. The discrediting of the media, abuse of power, and rhetoric against immigrants should be a wakeup call for people to shine a light on power and speak out against it.


One World

"Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This excerpt stresses the importance of friendly relations between nations as well as a reiteration of the worth of human life. It states that we should promote social progress and observe fundamental human rights. Each nation today seems to always be in conflict economically, politically, and militarily. It is one thing for adversaries to compete but we now see a retreat to isolationism throughout the world and allies are now becoming "enemies" of sorts.

We also see a crusade to discredit the United Nations by American President Donald Trump. If the United States were to leave the United Nations it would leave a large hole which would be a disservice to the Declaration's aspirations of the promotion of human rights. It would also further alienate the other nations involved given the large role the U.S historically had, a pillar of human rights.

Respect for Rights

"Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 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."

The last section of the preamble summarizes the previous points but also adds that we, as members of the human race, are responsible for teaching and educating others on the importance of human rights and freedoms. This is extremely important because if we ignore human rights violations and ignore the contents of this whole document we run the risk of having a future similar to our dangerous and violent past.

The preamble states that these messages should constantly occupy the mind of every person living in the world which remains true today.

Can We All Just Get Along?

We are all brothers and sisters in this world no matter how we look, how we act, or how we feel about things. In the end we are not just American, British, Brazilian, Japanese, etc. We are not just black, white, asian, or hispanic. We are not just conservative or liberal. However, we are all humans and we all share this world, regardless of which landmass we live on.

Every person's life matters and everyone in this world has rights they are born with. We must all strive to treat people equally and to stop killing and hurting each other, otherwise we will live in chaos and discord. Let's follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let's all just get along.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.