Preamble section 4:
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,


  1. International Law and Human Rights (1)
  2. International Law and Human Rights (2)
  3. Antecedents
  4. Influence of the Universal Declaration on International Human Rights Law (1)
  5. Influence of the Universal Declaration on International Human Rights Law (2)
  6. Compliance with International Human Rights Obligations

International Law and Human Rights

While in the Christian world both international law and domestic legal norms had their roots in an accepted morality and in natural law, and had common intellectual progenitors (including Grotius, Locke and Vattel,) for hundreds of years international law and the law governing individual life did not come together. What a state did inside its borders in relation to its own nationals remained its own affair, an element of its autonomy, a matter of "domestic jurisdiction."

Law to control how states behave toward their own inhabitants has developed only during the decades since the end of the Second World War, and the role of the Universal Declaration has been pivotal to this process. The international system has begun to show a commitment to values that transcend purely "state values," notably to human rights, and this change has influenced the traditional axioms and assumptions of the state system. As Henkin states:

Unlike other international law, the law of human rights serves idealistic ends, not particular national interests, although it becomes entangled in international politics especially when they are heavily ideological. The law of human rights contradicts the once deep-and-dear premises of the international system that how a state behaved toward its own citizens in its own territory was a matter of "domestic jurisdiction," i.e., not anyone else's business and therefore not any business for international law. Governments have not been eager to submit the manner in which they govern at home--the core of their "sovereignty"--to external standards and scrutiny. Officials of national governments who make and negotiate foreign policy have not been eager to scrutinize what goes on in other countries; by tradition, experience, and inclination, they are concerned with furthering national political and economic interests, and tend to look at efforts to make international human rights law as officious, unsophisticated, unrealistic, diversionary if not disruptive of real international politics, and detrimental to friendly relations between nations. In the face of these important obstacles, the impressive growth of an international human rights law tells of the influence of ideas and rhetoric, the sensitivity of modern governments to "public opinion," and the effectiveness of international organizations for exploiting that sensitivity to transform ideas and rhetoric into law and national policy and behavior.4


4. Louis Henkin, How Nations Behave: Law and Foreign Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968) at 228-9.

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Peter Danchin, Columbia University