Leading up to Human Rights Day, annually observed on December 10th, we contribute to the awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by shedding a light on one or more of its articles by means of a personal interview with one of our members from our several offices. This in combination with some facts about the history, achievements and legal impact of the UDHR.
Today we gave the word to Marion Soulé, associate in our office in Paris:
- When was the first time you have learned about the UDHR and in which context?
I first heard about UDHR while in middle school, when learning how discrimination and disregard of human life can lead to the most terrible consequences, at an age where we start sensing and understanding how discrimination can easily appear in and affect our everyday life.
2. How would you describe the UDHR in only three words?
Reference, inclusive, dignity
3. Which Article of the UDHR has sparked your interest the most?
There can be multiple answers to such question and what is interesting is that the answer can change depending on society changes and/or personal growth. At the moment, I would quote Article 25:
“1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”
The recent years have been a cruel reminder that the most vulnerable people are more exposed and impacted by social crisis.
4. Has thinking about the UDHR changed your perception and/or behaviour – if yes, in what way?
Knowledge of the principles enunciated by the UDHR makes us aware that it has been indirectly incorporated in a lot of norms, either legal or social and, at the same time, how it is daily challenged by the same norms. It helps in reminding us they should not be taken from granted, while learning about privilege and the social responsibility that comes with it.
The impact and legal effect of the UDHR
The UDHR is considered ground-breaking for providing a comprehensive and universal set of human rights principles in a secular and apolitical document across cultures, religions, legal systems, and political ideologies.
The UN made an effort to translate the document into as many languages as possible in order to achieve the proclaimed aim of the UN, sharing the UDHR with the entire world. At present there are 538 different translations available which makes the UDHR the most translated document in the world.
From a legal perspective the UDHR is neither a treaty nor an international agreement and it is also not considered a statement of law or legal obligation. Rather, it aspires the deep and mutual understanding among the parties.
Nevertheless, the UDHR leads to a certain binding effect. The UN Charter, which is binding for all 193 member states, refers in Article 1 to the “fundamental freedoms” and “human rights” established in the Declaration. Also, resolutions of the UN General Assembly, such as the UDHR, strongly indicate binding by customary international law. Furthermore, many of the rights established in the UDHR have been transferred to other human rights instruments and treaties so that a great part of the UDHR is now bindingly codified.
However, the status of the UDHR as legally enforceable document still varies widely around the world: while some countries have integrated them also into their national law, others consider it a mere statement of ideals.
Interested in the other interviews? Find them here:
- Laura Lettow – Düsseldorf
Article 27 : I have the right to share the benefits of my community’s culture, arts and sciences.
Article 12 : I have the right to protection.
Article 19: I have the right to think and say what I like and no one should forbid it.
Find out more about HOYNG ROKH MONEGIER’s D&I activities, goals and policies here