The UN Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights  (website)


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris. 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 inherently entitled. The full text is published by the United Nations on its website.


The US Constitution vs The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What follows is a comparison of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The United States Constitution (Bill of Rights) and Declaration of Independence . It may be advisable to use the above links to have copies of each in new browser windows for your consideration.

A critique should start with the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the preamble of the two US Documents. I have included the Declaration of Independence because it singularly summarizes the founding philosophy behind the US Constitution. As such, it is a virtual preamble to our Constitution.

The first striking difference I see is that the UN document uses the word “inalienable” whereas our Constitution uses “unalienable” as a descriptor for the rights of men. Is this a semantic difference or is there a subtle change in meaning being introduced here? I cannot say for certain, however, I found an examination of the issue online.

It is clear that both “unalienable” and “inalienable” describe rights that may not be taken away.  Some would argue that  inalienable rights can be transferred by consent whereas; unalienable rights are a permanent part of a person and are not transferable by their very nature.  The two words both seemed to have been used in drafts of the Declaration of independence. The final edited version specifically changed that word from inalienable to unalienable. I’ll leave this item for further research and discovery.

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