human rights

LONDON – Building on yesterday’s post about the magical London conference launching Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas (Margaret M. deGuzman and Diane Marie Amann eds.), today’s post profiles the book itself, which, thanks to excellent assistance from John Louth, Blake Ratcliff, and their staff, has just been published by Oxford University Press. (The hardback may be ordered via OUP or Amazon, and the book’s also available on Kindle.)

Very pleased to have coedited this volume with my colleague Meg. The concept, in our words:

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Testing the optimism of that claim were the many fits and starts in the struggle for human rights that King helped to catalyze. The same is true of other events in the last half-century, from resistance to apartheid and genocide to equal and fair treatment in domestic criminal justice systems, to the formation of entities to prevent atrocities and to bring their perpetrators to justice. Within this display of myriad arcs may be found the many persons who helped shape this half-century of global justice-and prominent among them is William A. Schabas. His panoramic scholarship includes dozens of books and hundreds of articles, and he also has served as an influential policymaker, advocate, and mentor.

This work honours William A. Schabas and his career with essays by luminary scholars and jurists from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The essays examine contemporary, historical, cultural, and theoretical aspects of the many arcs of global justice with which Professor Schabas has engaged, in fields including public international law, human rights, transitional justice, international criminal law, and capital punishment.

In all, the book includes 29 contributions by 35 academics, advocates, and jurists, as detailed in the table of contents below. Providing jacket-cover testimonials were Steven Kay QC, Philippe Sands QC, Professor and former Ambassador David Scheffer, and Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert. We hope that you’ll follow their recommendations and give these important, substantive essays a very good read.

Arcs of Global Justice:
Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas

Foreword by Diane Marie Amann and Margaret M. deGuzman, coeditors
Introduction: William Schabas: Portrait of a Scholar/Activist Extraordinaire by Roger S. Clark, Board of Governors Professor of Law, Rutgers University School of Law

Human Rights
Human Rights and International Criminal Justice in the Twenty First Century: The End of the Post-WWII Phase and the Beginning of an Uncertain New Era by M. Cherif Bassiouni (He died at age 79 in September, just weeks after he completed final changes on this essay; as posted, our conference included a memorial to him. At the time of his death, he was Emeritus Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law; Honorary President, Siracusa Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights; and Honorary President, L’Association internationale de droit pénal.)
William Schabas, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and International Human Rights Law by Justice Thomas A. Cromwell, Supreme Court of Canada, and Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, formerly a law clerk on that court and now a Cambridge PhD candidate
The International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as a Victim-Oriented Treaty by Emmanuel Decaux, Professor Emeritus, Université Paris 2 (Panthéon-Assas), and former President, Committee on Enforced Disappearances
The Politics of Sectarianism and its Reflection in Questions of International Law & State Formation in The Middle East by Kathleen Cavanaugh, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway, and  Joshua Castellino, Professor of Law & Dean of the School of Law, as well as the Business School, at Middlesex University, London

Capital Punishment
International Law and the Death Penalty: A Toothless Tiger, or a Meaningful Force for Change? by Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Faculty Director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
The UN Optional Protocol on the Abolition of the Death Penalty by Marc Bossuyt, Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Emeritus Professor of the University of Antwerp, Emeritus President of the Constitutional Court of Belgium, and former Chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights
The Right to Life and the Progressive Abolition of the Death Penalty by Christof Heyns, formerly the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 through 2016, and now a member of the UN Human Rights Committee and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, Thomas Probert, Research Associate, Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge, and Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, and former researcher for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution
Progress and Trend of the Reform of the Death Penalty in China by Zhao Bingzhi, Dean of the College for Criminal Law Science of Beijing Normal University, President of the Criminal Law Research Association of China, Vice-President of the International Association of Penal Law, and President of that association’s Chinese National Group

International Criminal Law
Criminal Law Philosophy in William Schabas’ Scholarship by Margaret M. deGuzman, Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law
Is the ICC Focusing too Much on Non-State Actors? by Frédéric Mégret, Associate Professor and Dawson Scholar, Faculty of Law, McGill University
The Principle of Legality at the Crossroads of Human Rights and International Criminal Law by Shane Darcy, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway
Revisiting the Sources of Applicable Law Before the ICC by Alain Pellet, Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris Nanterre, former Chairperson of the UN International Law Commission, President of the French Society for International Law, Member of the Institut de droit international, as well as Counsel and Advocate before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and other forums
The ICC as a Work in Progress, for a World in Process by Mireille Delmas-Marty, Member, Institut de France, and Professor Emerita, Collège de France de Paris
Legacy in International Criminal Justice by Carsten Stahn, Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice, Leiden University
Torture by Private Actors and ‘Gold Plating’ the Offence in National Law: An Exchange of Emails in Honour of William Schabas by Andrew Clapham, Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and Paola Gaeta, Professor of International Law and International Criminal Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Secrets and Surprises in the Travaux Préparatoires of the Genocide Convention by Hirad Abtahi, First Legal Adviser, Head of the Legal and Enforcement Unit, at the Presidency of the International Criminal Court, and Philippa Webb, Reader (Associate Professor) in Public International Law at King’s College London and a barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers
Perspectives on Cultural Genocide: From Criminal Law to Cultural Diversity by Jérémie Gilbert, Professor of International and Comparative Law, University of East London
Crimes Against Humanity: Repairing Title 18’s Blind Spots by Beth Van Schaack, Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at Stanford Law School and Visiting Scholar at the Center for International Security & Cooperation at Stanford University
A New Global Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity: Future Prospects by Leila Nadya Sadat, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law and Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law, Special Adviser to the ICC Prosecutor on Crimes Against Humanity, and Director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative

Transitional Justice and Atrocity Prevention
Justice Outside of Criminal Courtrooms and Jailhouses by Mark A. Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director, Transnational Law Institute, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Toward Greater Synergy between Courts and Truth Commissions in Post-Conflict Contexts: Lessons from Sierra Leone by Charles Chernor Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University, and a member of the International Law Commission
International Criminal Tribunals and Cooperation with States: Serbia and the provision of evidence for the Slobodan Milosevic Trial at the ICTY by Geoffrey Nice QC, a barrister since 1971, formerly at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Nevenka Tromp, Lecturer in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam and former member of the ICTY Leadership Research Team
The Arc toward Justice and Peace by Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Chair in Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School
The Maintenance of International Peace and Security through Prevention of Atrocity Crimes: The Question of Co-operation between the UN and regional Arrangements by Adama Dieng, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, as well as former Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists

Justice in Culture and Practice
Law and Film: Curating Rights Cinema by Emma Sandon, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Research Fellow to the Chair for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
The Role of Advocates in Developing International Law by Wayne Jordash QC, international human rights and humanitarian lawyer and founding partner of Global Rights Compliance
Bill the Blogger by Diane Marie Amann, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law

LONDON – “Optimism” was the byword for Friday’s magical conference launching Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas, the just-published Oxford University Press collection coedited by Margaret M. deGuzman and myself.

The event took place in a Christmas-tree-lighted conference room at 9 Bedford Row, the London chambers where our honouree, Bill Schabas (above center), is a door tenant. Joining Bill and his wife, Penelope Soteriou, were several of the 35 women and men whose 29 contributions comprise the volume, many friends, colleagues, PhD students, and relatives.

Gillian Higgins (left), Head of the International Practice Group at 9 Bedford Row, opened with a warm message of welcome and congratulations. Then followed a celebration that combined lighthearted anecdotes with serious presentations of scholarship. Topics ranged as far and wide as Schabas’ multifaceted career, which includes current appointments as Professor of International Law at Middlesex University, London, Professor of International Criminal Law and Human Rights at Leiden University, and Emeritus Professor of Human Rights Law and Honorary Chairman of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway; service as a member of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and as a consultant on capital punishment for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime; and authorship of hundreds of books, chapters, and articles.

A sobering moment came in Birkbeck Lecturer Emma Sandon‘s discussion of Schabas’ role as an organizer of and speaker at human rights film festivals. Sandon (above) concluded with a clip from Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). All fell silent while watching the characters in the video courtroom watch actual footage from the Allied liberations of concentration camps like Buchenwald.

Also moving was the memorial that Northwestern University Law Professor David Scheffer gave on behalf of contributor Cherif Bassiouni, who died at age 79 in September, not long after finishing his chapter, entitled “Human Rights and International Criminal Justice in the Twenty-First Century: The End of the Post-WWII Phase and the Beginning of an Uncertain New Era.” (Bassiouni also penned a dedication for our conference programme, available in PDF here.) Scheffer described the essay in light of his own and Schabas’ writings, and concluded on a optimistic note regarding the future of human rights.

That same note sounded in Schabas’ own interventions throughout the day. On issues ranging from the International Criminal Court to abolition of the death penalty, he assured his audience that even in these times, when the day-to-day “weather” may seem grim, the overall “climate” offers much room for optimism.

Here’s order of the day (full PDF programme here; additional contributors in attendance included Middlesex Law Dean Joshua Castellino and Cambridge PhD candidate Bruno Gélinas-Faucher):

Arcs of Global Justice:
Conference Launching Essay Collection in Honour of William A. Schabas
Friday, 8 December 2017, 9 Bedford Row, London

Opening
“Welcome” by Gillian Higgins, Head of the International Practice Group at 9 Bedford Row
“In Memoriam for Cherif Bassiouni” by David Scheffer, Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Chicago
“Introduction to Arcs of Global Justice” by coeditors Diane Marie Amann and Margaret M. deGuzman

International Law & Criminal Justice
“The Principle of Legality at the Crossroads of Human Rights & International Criminal Law” by Shane Darcy, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway
“Criminal Law Philosophy in William Schabas’s Scholarship” by Margaret M. deGuzman, Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law
“Perspectives on Cultural Genocide: From Criminal Law to Cultural Diversity” by Jérémie Gilbert, Professor of International and Comparative Law, University of East London
“Toward Greater Synergy between Courts & Truth Commissions in Post-Conflict Context: Lessons from Sierra Leone” by Charles Chernor Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University, and a member of the International Law Commission
Moderator: Kathleen Cavanaugh, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway

Justice / Scholarship / Culture / Practice
“Bill the Blogger” by Diane Marie Amann, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law
“Advocates, Scholars & Maintaining the International Criminal Law Momentum” by Wayne Jordash QC, international human rights and humanitarian lawyer and founding partner of Global Rights Compliance
“Law & Film: Curating Rights Cinema” by Emma Sandon, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Research Fellow to the Chair for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
Moderator: Michelle Farrell, Senior Lecturer in Law in the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Abolition of the Death Penalty
“International Law & the Death Penalty: A Toothless Tiger, or a Meaningful Force for Change?” by Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Faculty Director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
The Right to Life & the Progressive Abolition of the Death Penalty by Thomas Probert, Research Associate, Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge (on behalf of himself & co-authors Christof Heyns & Tess Borden)
Moderator: Jon Yorke, Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Centre for Human Rights at Birmingham City School of Law

Closing
Introduction by John Louth, Editor-in-Chief of Academic Law at Oxford University Press
Remarks by William A. Schabas OC MRIA

Reception

With thanks to our host, 9 Bedford Row, & cosponsor, Oxford University Press

◊ ◊ ◊

Tomorrow’s post: Details on Arcs of Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas (Margaret M. deGuzman and Diane Marie Amann, eds.) (OUP 2018) (The hardback may be ordered via OUP or Amazon, and the book’s also available on Kindle.)

nobloodforoilSo, I don’t march.

I stayed home when millions protested the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Stayed home for “No Blood for Oil” too (though I did have the T-shirt, at left). Avoided the streets of my Paris sabbatical home on May Day 2002, when half a million marched to the chants of “Là-Bas Le Pen.”

Pretty much avoided all public demonstrations since childhood, never having really seen the point of taking to the streets instead of concrete action – that is, instead of litigating/teaching/reasoning/writing/policymaking toward lasting solutions.

So why march today?

► Because the promise of the election of Barack Obama – hands down, the best President of my lifetime – so soon was dashed by never-believed yet oft-repeated undercuttings of his citizenship. The spurious claims and the events that ensued sunk the hope that had lifted many of us in 2007 and 2008. Fell particularly hard on those of us who are immigrants, or who count immigrants among our loved ones.

aliceroom3Because in the last years we’ve been forced to swallow bile: cruel falsehoods about the 1st woman to be nominated by a major U.S. political party; harsh slaps against everyone who has endured sexual assault; soulless insults about every disadvantaged group imaginable.

► Because Looking-Glass intrigue belongs to the fantasy world of Lewis Carroll, not to the real world in which we all must live.

Because aspirations to human dignity, equality, liberty, and justice, without borders, will not withstand anti-“globalist” attack unless those of us who hold these values dear come to their defense.

Because if we fail to object, we fail our children.

To quote other ‘Grrls:

“It seems like a day when numbers matter.”

“I couldn’t not go.”

And so even we not-marchers march, in D.C., in Philadelphia, and, at last count, in nearly 700 other places around the world.

march
(Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls)

mg_9238

A very special film event will open IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference, the global gathering we’re very pleased to host this spring.

On the evening of Thursday, March 2, 2017, the conference will begin with a screening of “500 Years,” a documentary about Guatemala. This Athens, Georgia, screening – taking place just weeks after the film’s premiere at the 2017 Sundance Festival – will feature a conversation with its award-winning director, Pamela Yates (below), and producer, Paco de Onís. Yates, who describes herself as “an American filmmaker and human rights defender,” has posted on her work at IntLawGrrls (see here and here), which is celebrating a decade as the pre-eminent international law blog written primarily by women.

yates_pamela“500 Years” concludes a Guatemala trilogy begun with “When the Mountains Tremble” (1983) and “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” (2011), As described at the Skylight Pictures website:

“From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, ‘500 Years’ tells a sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history, through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society.”

On Friday, March 3, 2017, IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference will continue with the daylong Research Forum at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center.  As introduced in prior posts, this Forum will feature presentations by international law academics, practitioners, and policymakers, plus a plenary panel on “strategies to promote women’s participation in shaping international law and policy amid the global emergence of antiglobalism.”

This IntLawGrrls event is part of the law school’s Georgia Women in Law Lead (Georgia WILL) initiative and of the Global Georgia Initiative of the university’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. Additional conference cosponsors include Georgia Law’s Women Law Students Association and International Law Society, the American Society of International Law and ASIL’s Women in International Law Interest Group, and the Planethood Foundation.

Details on the conference are at the webpage containing the call for papers (deadline January 1, 2017).

(Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls. Credit for Skylight Pictures’ photo above, by Daniel Hernández-Salazar; source for photo of Yates)

duo

“The biggest violators of human rights are states themselves, by commission or omission.”

This quote by Navi Pillay aptly summarized her talk on “National Sovereignty vs. International Human Rights.” Pillay, whose renowned legal career has included posts as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and as a judge on the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, spoke this morning at the University of Georgia School of Law Atlanta campus.

Elaborating on the quote above, Pillay decried national legislation aimed at restricting the activities – and with it the effectiveness – of local nongovernmental organizations. Such anti-NGO laws already have passed in Russia and are pending in Pillay’s home state of South Africa, among other countries. That said, she welcomed new means of speaking law to power; in particular, social media that permit human rights advocates to reach millions. Also welcomed were accountability mechanisms that the United Nations has developed in recent decades, such as Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, reporting processes of treaty bodies, and reports by special rapporteurs.

amann_pillayI was honored to give welcoming remarks at the breakfast. Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, which I lead, cosponsored this Georgia WILL event with the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute. (We owe special thanks to Judge Dorothy Toth Beasley for her hospitality this week.)

Conversing with Pillay was World Affairs Council President Charles Shapiro. They began by speaking of Pillay’s childhood in Durban, where she grew up the daughter of a bus driver. She spoke of how testifying as a 6-year-old in the trial of a man who’d stolen money from her helped spark her desire to become a lawyer – and how donations from her community helped make that dream a reality.

Shapiro then asked about capital punishment, noting a scheduled execution. Pillay acknowledged the absence of any universal treaty outlawing the death penalty, but found evidence of U.N. opposition both in the decision not to permit the penalty in U.N. ad hoc international criminal tribunals and in the growing support for the oft-repeated U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment.

“It started with just 14 states against the death penalty, and is now more than 160,” said Pillay, who currently serves on the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

img_0335On this and other issues, she said, advocates endeavor to encourage states first to obligate themselves to respect and ensure human rights, and then to implement the undertakings they have made in this regard:

“The United Nations was formed by states. It is a club of governments. Look how steadily they have adopted treaties and agreed to be bound by them. That doesn’t mean we are transgressing sovereignty.”

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

gjicl43_3

Very pleased to announce that papers from a Georgia Law conference “Children & International Criminal Justice” have just been published by our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

The conference was cosponsored by Dean Rusk International Law Center and the Georgia Law Project on Armed Conflict & Children, as well as the university’s African Studies Institute, the Planethood Foundation, and the American Society of International Law-Southeast.

About 2 dozen experts came to Athens, Georgia, from as far as Doha and Kinshasa, to discuss the topic at hand. In so doing, they assisted in the preparation of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children. As detailed in recent posts, available here and here, the public comment period for the draft of that Policy continues through August 5, 2016, with launch of the final document set for mid-November.

bensouda_me2_28oct14cropA keynote speech by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (at right) highlighted our conference, and the text of her speech headlines the edition. Other writings link the work of the ICC to the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, examine the experiences of children in armed conflict and similar situations. Student rapporteurs’ accounts of expert breakout sessions additionally treat a range of issues. All these papers contributed significantly to the Policy process.

The edition concludes with students’ notes apart from the conference; one of these, for which I was honored to serve as faculty adviser, examines the issue of child marriage.

Here, in full, is the table of contents for Volume 43, issue 3, with PDF links to each article:

Children and International Criminal Justice Conference

“Convening Experts on Children and International Criminal Justice,” by yours truly, Diane Marie Amann (above, at left), Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, and also Prosecutor Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict

“Children and International Criminal Justice,” by Fatou Bensouda (above, at right), Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

malone“Maturing Justice: Integrating the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the Judgments and Processes of the International Criminal Court,” by Linda A. Malone (right), Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Human Security Law Center, William & Mary Law School

drumblm“Children, Armed Violence and Transition: Challenges for International Law & Policy,” by Mark Drumbl (left), Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington & Lee University School of Law

“Child Protection in Times of Conflict and Children and International Criminal Justice,” by Kerry L. Neal neal(right), Child Protection Specialist, Justice for Children, UNICEF, New York

“Expert Workshop Session: Regulatory Framework,” by Ashley Ferrelli, Eric Heath, Eulen Jang, and Cory Takeuchi (all Georgia Law graduates, who were members of GJICL)

“Expert Workshop Session: Child Witnesses: Testimony, Evidence, and Witness Protection,” by Chelsea Swanson, Elizabeth DeVos, Chloe Ricke, and Andy Shin (now Georgia Law graduates, all then were members of GJICL)

“Expert Workshop Session: The Global Child,” by Haley Chafin, Jena Emory, Meredith Head, and Elizabeth Verner (all Georgia Law graduates, who were members of GJICL)

Student Notes

“Changing the Game: The Effects of the 2012 Revision of the ICC Arbitration Rules on the ICC Model Arbitration Clause for Trust Disputes,” by Colin Connor

“Water, Water Everywhere, But Just How Much is Clean?: Examining Water Quality Restoration Efforts Under the United States Clean Water Act and the United States-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement,” by Jill T. Hauserman

“REACHing for Environmental and Economic Harmony: Can TTIP Negotiations Bridge the U.S.-EU Chemical Regulatory Gap?,” by Ashley Henson

“Child Marriage in Yemen: A Violation of International Law,” by Elizabeth Verner

eleanorToday is Human Rights Day. On this day 67 years ago, at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted what has become the touchstone articulation of humans’ place in our world.

We – “All human beings” – proclaims the 1st article of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” All of us “are endowed with reason and conscience,” it continues. It follows, then, that each of us “should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” In the French version adopted at the same time, that last word is “fraternité,” and hearkens to the French Déclaration, the American Declaration and Bill of Rights, and many others.

Indeed, the document itself benefits from views of sages throughout the world. Gandhi was one who weighed in, thanks to a survey sponsored by UNESCO. The American Law Institute contributed a Statement of Essential Rights. That statement, like the Universal Declaration as a whole, owes much to the Four Freedoms that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt identified in a 1941 speech before Congress.

A half-decade later, that president’s widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, would chair the U.N. committee tasked with drafting the Universal Declaration. Among those joining her in the work were John Humphrey of Canada, Peng Chun Chang of China, Charles Malik of Lebanon, and René Cassin of France. At the time the document was adopted, she declared:

“This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”

It would be easy to look wistfully to that statement, to assume that the world once was better than it seems today. Yet even then, fissures were apparent:

► No state voted against the Universal Declaration, but not every state voted for it, either. Eight of 56 countries abstained: the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Yugoslavia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

► Since 1948, the United Nations has grown to nearly 200 member states. Many of the newcomers once were colonies of states that endorsed the Universal Declaration. Even some of the charter members have undergone profound changes – the China that sent diplomat Chang in 1948 is quite different from the China that now holds the U.N. seat.

► The challenges of sovereign-state diversity and the aims of universal equality – for women as well as men, sisters as well as brothers – change with globalization. The United Nations’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals represents the body’s latest effort to respond.

► Even the chief proponents hedged their support. By way of example, Roosevelt’s ringing endorsement quoted above occurred in a statement that took pains to stress what the United States did not mean to endorse. In a line that bears echo with later U.S. Supreme Court decisions in DeShaney and Gonzales, she said:

“[M]y government has made it clear in the course of the development of the declaration that it does not consider that the economic and social and cultural rights stated in the declaration imply an obligation on governments to assure the enjoyment of these rights by direct governmental action.”

► Other states turned a colder shoulder toward civil and political rights, signaling that even at its birth, the notion of the indivisibility of rights would prove difficult to sustain and enforce.

Thus today, even as we celebrate another Human Rights Day, we must redouble our efforts to make the promise of the Universal Declaration a reality for everyone who has been born, free and equal, in dignity and rights.

(Photo: IntLawGrrls’ Eleanor, in her new home at our Dean Rusk International Law Center)