Preamble section 5:
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Drafting History

The inclusion of the term "human rights" in the opening sentence of the Charter has been attributed to Virginia Gildersleeve, who, in addition to being the Dean of Barnard College, was the only female member of the American delegation to the UN. Gildersleeve is credited with the inclusion of the words stating that one of the aims of the UN is to promote "universal respect of, and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language and religion." Furthermore, she is said to have insisted that the Charter require the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights. Although her proposal was not accepted verbatim, it was accepted indirectly by mandating that the Economic and Social Council create a commission to promote human rights. It should be noted that other scholars have attributed to the creation of the Human Rights Commission to American NGOs exerting pressure on the State Department. Louis Henkin credits the United States for the overall inclusion of human rights within the Charter.

The Charter thus drew clear connections between the well-being of individuals and international peace, an idea made clear by President Harry Truman's statement that:

The Charter is dedicated to the achievement and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.... Unless we can attain those objectives for all men and women everywhere--without regard to race, language, or religion--we cannot have permanent peace and security in the world. (Lauren, 204)

It is interesting to observe that Truman's statement expressly raises the issue of gender equality. Yet, in the drafting of the Universal Declaration, it wasn't until the Third committee met that mention of the "equal rights of men and women" was added to the fifth recital of the Preamble. It was the representative of the Dominican Republic who pointed out that "everyone" did not necessarily include individuals of both sexes in all countries. It was therefore suggested that the Declaration should deal with the issue of gender more explicitly. Bodil Begtrup, the chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, worked actively to prevent a gender-biased document . The inclusion of a gender equality clause was not a suggestion that won favor with all delegates. When the issue came to a vote, the United States and China voted against, while Canada and Ethiopia abstained. The majority of the drafters, however, were in favor of such a clause, and this ultimately became an important part of the fifth recital.


On the formation on the UN and the Charter, see Lauren at 173-197.

On the creation of a Bill of Rights, see Morsink at 3.

On the role of NGOs in exerting pressure on the State Depatment, see Mary Ann Glendon, Eleanor Roosevelt.

On the role of NGOs at the San Francisco conference, see Susan Waltz, "Universalizing Human Rights: The Role of Small States in the Construction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Peter Danchin, Columbia University