by Faisal Kutty
Fifty-eight years after the universal declaration of human rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, the debate continues as to whether the document is truly universal.
Upon its adoption on Dec. 10, 1948, former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the commission on human rights, expressed her hope it would become "the Magna Carta of all mankind." Ironically, as was the fate with the "great charter" of 1215, the declaration has not fully lived up to its name.
The declaration was challenged from its very inception. The commission's first draft attracted 168 amendments from various countries. However, the final document was almost unchanged from the initial draft tabled by the commission. Forty-eight countries voted in favour, while eight countries â€” Poland, Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union â€” abstained and expressed reservations.