USUN Press Release 1688, April 9, 1953

Statement Made by the United States Representative ( Lord ) Before the Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, April 8, 1953

As this is the first occasion in which I have had the privilege of serving in the Commission on Human Rights, I hope you will permit me to make a few general remarks about the agenda. I am happy to be a member of this Commission and to join with you in the vital task of helping to advance the cause of freedom. I accepted this appointment from the President of the United States because I personally am convinced of the importance of promoting respect for human rights through international cooperation.

At the very outset of our work, I wish to assure you that the United States Government continues to support wholeheartedly the promotion of respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Both President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles have spoken to me personally about their deep concern that the United Nations move steadily forward toward the goals laid down in the Charter.

In order to assure steady progress toward those goals, the Government of the United States is suggesting a new and urgent approach to the promotion of human rights, to take account of changed conditions in the world. Today, disregard of the basic principles of human rights is widespread and fundamental freedoms are denied peoples in many areas.

Under these circumstances, the world does not yet appear ready for a treaty of such comprehensive scope as the proposed covenants on human rights. We need to work together immediately to develop a higher moral sense of human rights values in all areas of the world. For that reason, the United States is urging that this Commission give immediate consideration to the development of human rights action programs.

The Commission on Human Rights already has made an outstanding contribution to the constructive achievements of the United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands as a major landmark of progress in this difficult field. It is with understandable pride that I participate in this Commission, where our two past chairmen, Mrs. Roosevelt and Mr. Malik, and their colleagues have brought intelligence [Page 1572] and skill to bear upon some of the most challenging problems of our times.

The agenda of the Commission clearly falls into two distinct parts: the completion of the draft covenants and the consideration of a wide range of other matters.

The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council have asked that the Commission complete the drafting of the covenants. This task will necessarily occupy a considerable portion of our time; but perhaps, if we could set May 1 as a target date for completing the remaining portions of the two covenants, we need not devote more than half of our session to this task.

Since the completion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the Commission has been entirely engrossed in the drafting of the proposed covenants on human rights. As discussions have proceeded on the covenants, it begins to appear that they are not receiving the acceptance which had been initially anticipated and that they will not be ratified as widely as had been hoped. The climate of world opinion does not yet seem favorable to the conclusion of the covenants in the United Nations. The covenants will not have the expected effectiveness in the field of human rights. For these reasons, my Government has concluded that in the present stage of international relations it would not ratify the covenants.

Inasmuch as the United States is a loyal member of the United Nations, its delegation will continue to collaborate in the drafting of these covenants and to make suggestions for improving them. The Covenants will be looked upon as a more precise and definitive statement of the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, irrespective of their ratification or non-ratification. My Government hopes that there will be a time when human rights will be sufficiently respected in fact and when a human rights conscience will be sufficiently developed throughout the world so that a codification of the then prevailing principles will be worthwhile. When and if such a time comes the United States may give consideration to the ratification of a covenant on human rights, and for that reason we are concerned with the drafting of the covenants now so that they will be in the most acceptable form and will require the least possible change if they are used as a model for future treaties.

It seems increasingly important, therefore, that alternative and more effective and acceptable ways be devised by the Commission to achieve the goals of the Charter for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The remaining part of our agenda contains a large number of items not related to the draft covenants. The United States delegation endorses the listing on the provisional agenda and the order of that listing. At the appropriate time, however, I shall suggest that some of [Page 1573] these items be given priority. A number of these items are of the utmost significance and deserve our most earnest consideration. It is for this reason that I hope that perhaps the last half of our session might be devoted to programs of practical action.

It is the view of the United States Government that the guiding principle for the work of the Commission should be to find the surest and speediest methods of raising the level of practice around the world in the observance of human rights. This would require that we initiate a number of action programs. I shall be prepared to make detailed proposals about such action programs in connection with specific agenda items. For the present I should like merely to outline the three principal proposals which my Government wishes me to submit to the Commission.

  • First, we will propose that the Commission institute a study of various aspects of human rights througout the world. The Commission could undertake this with the assistance of a rapporteur. The rapporteur would consult with non-governmental organizations as well as governments and specialized agencies for relevant data to submit to the Commission. The report of the rapporteur would be considered in the Commission, which might then make general recommendations concerning the subject under discussion. Two subjects that might well be considered first are freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial.
  • Second, we will propose that annual reports on developments in the field of human rights be prepared by each member Government with the assistance of a national advisory committee. These reports would be considered in the Commission at the same time as the study of the proposed rapporteur would be submitted.
  • Third, we will propose that the United Nations establish advisory services on specific aspects of human rights along the lines of the advisory services now being provided in the economic, social, and public administration fields. These services would be in the form of experts going to countries requesting the services, scholarships and fellowships being provided for training abroad, and arrangements for seminars.

These are action programs that the Commission can undertake now. There is no need for the Commission to limit itself to the drafting of covenants on human rights, which in any event will have limited applicability. The Commission should give more of its attention to constructive programs which can be initiated without delay in the United Nations for the promotion of the human rights principles of the Charter. Indeed, it will be greatly to the advantage of the Commission itself if it can at this session begin work on some of these affirmative tasks even before the covenants are considered by the General Assembly. In this way the Commission could mark out the basic lines of its future action programs and establish firmly its position in this field.

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With all these potential programs for immediate action at this session of the Commission, I think that you can appreciate my view that we should reserve adequate time for the consideration of these later items.

It is my earnest hope that the work of this session will be successful, especially in the launching of new programs that will contribute effectively to the safeguarding of human liberty.