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,


The fifth recital links the Universal Declaration to the different objects and purposes of the United Nations, and mentions the importance of promoting not only human rights but also social progress.

The United Nations Charter, at the pinnacle of the human rights system, has relatively little to say about the subject of human rights. But what it does say has been accorded great significance. Through interpretation and extrapolation, as well as frequent invocation, the sparse text related to human rights in the Charter soon became the point of departure for the nascent international human rights movement at the end of the Second World War. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is itself perhaps best regarded as an authoritative elaboration and interpretation of the brief references to human rights in the Charter.

The discussion that follows explores some of the historical and philosophical connections between the Universal Declaration and the founding of the United Nations.


For more on the implications of human rights in the Charter, see Henry J. Steiner and Philip Alston, Eds., International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals at 139-40.

Peter Danchin, Columbia University