Malik, Charles Habib

Charles Habib Malik was a Lebanese existentialist philosopher turned diplomat. Malik was the chief spokes man for the Arab League, and with his mere 40 years, the youngest member of the Drafting Committee. Malik was educated in America, where he recieved a Ph.D in philosophy from Harvard. He then worked as a professor of philosophy at the American University in Beirut. Being a Thomist, Malik believed in “natural law”, but also in the importance of the family. His influence is directly visible in Art 16 which refers to the family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society”. Malik was rapporteur to the Commission between 1947 to 1950, after which he was elected chair. He remained the chair person of the Committee until 1953.

Charles Malik of Lebanon played a vital role in shaping the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Malik's fellow delegates credited him as the driving force behind the document’s arrangement. He was commended by U.S. State Department aids to Eleanor Roosevelt for being jointly responsible, along with Mrs. Roosevelt, for the document’s adoption.

A strong advocate of the "natural law" approach to defining human rights, Malik believed the UDHR to be more than a document of morally persuasive worth. Like many other representatives on the Commission he understood that the Declaration would be immediately followed by a specific, legally binding treaty. Still, he was hesitant to regard the Declaration as simply a proclamation of human rights. He believed it to be far more significant than that. In Paris, upon adoption of the Declaration, Malik said that,

Whoever values man and his individual freedom above everything else cannot fail to find in the present Declaration a potent ideological weapon. If wielded in complete goodwill, sincerity, and truth, this weapon can prove most significant in the history of the spirit.

Malik’s role in safeguarding international human rights was not confined to his position as Rapporteur within the Commission. He was also President of the Economic and Social Council and Chairman of the Third Committee in 1948 while the UDHR was being deliberated. Upon Eleanor Roosevelt’s retirement as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 1951, Charles Malik was chosen as her successor. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

National Coordinating Committee for UDHR50. Copyright Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved. From www.udhr.org