Humphrey, John P.

born 1905, Hampton, N.B. died 1995


John Humphrey was a Canadian Law Professor who wrote the preliminary draft of the Declaration of Human Rights. Humprhey has been claimed by many to have been the main author of the document, since this first draft is still what lies at the core of what the Drafting Committee finally agreed on to be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


John Humphrey was the representative of the UN Secretariat to the Commission on Human Rights. His position within the United Nations was Director of the Human Rights Division in the Secretariat’s Department of Social Affairs.

Humphrey was well suited to sit on the Commission. Like Cassin, he combined an extensive knowledge of international law (he was Dean of Faculty at McGill University in Canada) with avid support for the protection of human rights worldwide. At Commission meetings he served as an invaluable mediator between different philosophical factions.

His most recognized contribution was the preparation of a four-hundred page blueprint for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was consulted by the Drafting Committee during the UDHR’s formation. That draft outline contained the comprehensive information that was used to define the UDHR’s thirty articles, including a bill of rights drawn up by Humphrey, and numerous suggestions by government Delegations and non-governmental organizations.

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