Nevertheless, oppressed people throughout the world have drawn on the principles these documents express to support revolutions that assert the right to self-determination.
Contemporary international human rights law and the establishment of the United Nations (UN) have important historical antecedents.
The belief that everyone, by virtue of her or his humanity, is entitled to certain human rights is fairly new.
Its roots, however, lie in earlier tradition and documents of many cultures; it took the catalyst of World War II to propel human rights onto the global stage and into the global conscience.
Although a declaration is not a legally binding document, the Universal Declaration has achieved the status of customary international law because people regard it "as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations."With the goal of establishing mechanisms for enforcing the UDHR, the UN Commission on Human Rights proceeded to draft two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its optional Protocol and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Together with the Universal Declaration, they are commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights.The United States, however, has ratified only the ICCPR, and even that with many reservations, or formal exceptions, to its full compliance.(See From Concept to Convention: How Human Rights Law Evolves).The essence of these emerging human rights principles was captured in President Franklin Delano Roosevelts 1941 State of the Union Address when he spoke of a world founded on four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear (See Using Human Rights Here & Now).The calls came from across the globe for human rights standards to protect citizens from abuses by their governments, standards against which nations could be held accountable for the treatment of those living within their borders.Trials were held in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II, and officials from the defeated countries were punished for committing war crimes, "crimes against peace," and "crimes against humanity."Governments then committed themselves to establishing the United Nations, with the primary goal of bolstering international peace and preventing conflict.People wanted to ensure that never again would anyone be unjustly denied life, freedom, food, shelter, and nationality.Efforts in the 19th century to prohibit the slave trade and to limit the horrors of war are prime examples.In 1919, countries established the International Labor Organization (ILO) to oversee treaties protecting workers with respect to their rights, including their health and safety.Throughout much of history, people acquired rights and responsibilities through their membership in a group a family, indigenous nation, religion, class, community, or state.Most societies have had traditions similar to the "golden rule" of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran (Koran), and the Analects of Confucius are five of the oldest written sources which address questions of peoples duties, rights, and responsibilities.