Article 2:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Concepts and Ideas

The principle of equality has a long history in the national law of some countries, beginning with the emergence of natural rights in the 17th century. It did not gain recognition at the international level, however, until the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945.

Unsuccessful efforts to entrench the principle of equality were made during the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations, during which time several proposals for equality and non-discrimination were put forward. None were adopted, however, and the prohibition of non-discrimination against national minorities was dealt with only in individual treaties with some States. The omission of a general minority clause in the Covenant in favor of specific provisions in territorial treaties applying only to certain States was later to cause much bitterness and sense of injustice regarding obligations towards minorities as many other states with minority populations were not bound by similar provisions. Such treaties with treatment of minority guarantees (which were only of limited scope after all) were signed between "the Victorious Principal Allied and Associated Powers" and Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Serb-Croat-Slovene State (Yugoslavia), Romania, Greece, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iraq assumed similar obligations upon their admission to the League of Nations.

The general provisions in the so-called Minority Treaties related to "all … inhabitants." These provisions, however, did not provide any guarantees to people other than those belonging to a minority race, language or religion. This was because the provisions of the Minority Treaties were guaranteed by the League of Nations only in so far as they affected members of such minorities. It was only after the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945 that non-discrimination clauses applying to every individual became part of written and recognized international law. In the Preamble of the Charter, the first indications of the later equality standard of the human rights provisions in the Universal Declaration are to be found. And throughout the Charter the principle of non-discrimination is quoted several times--in fact it is the only specification of the content of human rights to be found in the Charter.


See Asbjørn, at 58.

Peter Danchin, Columbia University