During the final General Assembly debate in December 1948 the drafters made it abundantly clear that the Declaration on which they were about to vote had been born out of the experiences of the World war that had just ended. The drafters summarized these sentiments in the first half of the second recital of the Preamble which refers to barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, words which are intended to evoke the horror of the Holocaust.
The second half refers to Franklin Roosevelts famous four essential human freedoms freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear; the drafters placed them in this recital to broaden the preamble, a decision that links this recital to the broader issue of social, economic and cultural rights.
This second clause of the Preamble reflects the unique atmosphere that opened the space for the creation of the United Nations and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The war had just ended; the Cold War had not started yet; the horrors of what had happened in the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald, had just been unveiled to the general public. There was a general consensus that this could never happen again and that something had to be done. The maxim "nunca más" ("never again") became the rallying cry in many quarters of government and civil society. The Four Freedoms, declared by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, came to symbolize not only the war aims of the Allies but also part of the blue print for the post-war world. In this spirit, the United Nations was founded a new international organization to maintain international peace and security and to promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion and the Universal Declaration was written - a document seeking to represent international consensus about human rights standards.
Peter Danchin, Columbia University