Children from the UN International Nursery School (1950)  

On December 10 the world will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the unanimous adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN General Assembly.

This document was carefully and painstakingly crafted by a committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a global host of eminent men (and a few women) who were fully cognizant of the atrocities of the recently ended World War II. They intended to codify inalienable rights of all human beings to safeguard human dignity and create an enduring peace. Its 30 articles have withstood the test of time and remain a yardstick for all countries to adhere to for the protection of the “inherent dignity … of all members of the human family.” *

The lobby in the United Nations building in New York currently hosts an exhibit marking the role of all draftees with illustrations of each of the Articles and the rights they represent. None is more poignant than the panel representing the right to life. It depicts a father contemplating his newborn son and was photographed in Leiria, Portugal, in 2014. The right to life, enshrined in Article 3, simply states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Together with Article 9, it is the shortest article – only 11 words.    

Unfortunately, since the UN held its International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, the right to life has been under continuous attack by population control proponents that have increased and multiplied as accredited non-governmental organizations promoting a “reproductive rights” agenda at every opportunity.

Nowhere in the UDHR is there any reference to “reproductive rights.” Yet the agenda is being doggedly pursued as a sine qua non of the women’s empowerment movement.

Prodded by these NGOs, a coterie of delegates from developed countries attempt to include references to reproductive rights in just about every social document. Their most egregious accomplishment relates to the wording in the global Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015 to eradicate poverty by 2030. The SDGs contain this target (#5.6):

“Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences”

The reproductive rights agenda is an umbrella cover for all manner of family planning, modern methods of contraception and the pursuit of “safe and legal abortion everywhere.” Can abortionists believe in the right to life? They expound that one does not have any rights until one is born. But birth cannot occur without a prior fetal existence. And the fetus cannot be other than a human being in its initial stages.

The UN does not stop at reproductive rights.

As the UN goes about its business, it takes a “rights-based approach” to almost all its endeavors, so much so that it seemingly cannot distinguish between a right and a need.

Needs for food, water, shelter, health, and work have been turned into “rights”. Obviously, human beings cannot do without food; food is a necessity. But the UN speaks about “a right to food.” Clean water is very basic for human existence. Yet the UN refers to the “right to water.” The same goes for housing. People should be healthy. But is there a “right to health?” Or, rather, is there a need to be healthy and a need to get medical care for one’s ailments?

People need to work to care for themselves and their families. Article 23 does state “Everyone has the right to work.” But a UN agency, the International Labor Organization (ILO), makes references to the “right to decent work.” Those who toil for a living in the real world realize there is little “decent work” but there are, or should be, decent working conditions.

Moreover, when it comes to work, the UN still accepts (and unwittingly promotes?) prostitution. The women who ply this trade are known in UN parlance as “sex workers.” If countries rich and poor were to provide education for all female children they would grow up to make dignified choices for their working lives. Indeed, Article 26 of the UDHR states: “Everyone has the right to education….”

“Sex work” might even be considered a form of slavery given that the woman becomes a submissive object for the sole pleasure of men. Slavery is the subject of Article 4 in the UDHR: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude” while Article 5 bans “inhuman or degrading treatment.” Can anything be more servile, inhuman and degrading than “sex work?”

The UDHR is but a Declaration and does not have the force of a global treaty, convention or compact. It is more inspirational. Yet it has given rise to a vast human rights bureaucracy within the UN via the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, headed by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and the Human Rights Council that replaced the discredited Commission on Human Rights, while inspiring several human rights-based treaties starting with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which entered into force in 1976.

The UDHR was instrumental in the creation in 1959 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg, France, operating under the auspices of the 47-member Council of Europe. In 1969 it served as a blueprint for the American Convention on Human Rights, better known as the San Jose Pact, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Both courts serve as supranational bodies where supplicants can pursue human rights cases beyond national borders.

The UDHR relates to “inalienable rights”. In the words of the message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres to commemorate the 70th anniversary, the UDHR “has been a global beacon shining a light for dignity, equality and well-being.” Although seven decades have passed, those 30 articles deserve to be reread, especially by the members of the 193 UN delegations and the thousands of NGOs accredited at the UN to discern between universal, fundamental human rights and human needs.

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.

* The background to the UDHR is admirably documented in “A World Made New” by Mary Ann Glendon.

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.