Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."
Eleanor Roosevelt

In April 1945 the Four Freedoms were included in the Charter of the United Nations. Following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor, continued to fight for them as chairperson of the United Nations Committee for Human Rights. Largely thanks to her determination, the Four Freedoms were included in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was officially accepted by the UN on December 10, 1948.

The United Nations and Human Rights

Because of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's role in the founding of the United Nations and Eleanor Roosevelt's leadership in the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, FERI is deeply committed to the United Nations and its continued success. In 1996, FERI established the Office for the 50th Anniversary of the UDHR to coordinate plans for UDHR50 in the United States in 1998. More than sixty human rights, civil rights, and social justice groups were involved in the creation of a "National Human Rights Agenda to mark the anniversary. The agenda's three broad goals were:

  • To foster a wider appreciation of and commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through education and a media campaign;
  • To further codify the protection of international human rights through the development and ratification of legal instruments, including the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and,
  • To promote more effective international institutions for the protection of basic human rights and freedoms by advocating the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court and the strengthening of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Office for the 50th Anniversary of the UDHR coordinated efforts to implement this agenda and to inspire young people to assume responsibility for expanding respect for human rights throughout the world.
To honor Eleanor Roosevelt on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, FERI organized a conference in cooperation with the UN Group on Equal Rights for Women and the United Nations Association-USA on "Women and the United Nations." The speakers at the conference, who included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr. Nafis Sadik, and Gertrude Mongella, urged the United Nations to live up to the commitment in its Charter to "the equal rights of men and women" by achieving gender equity in the Secretariat. FERI remains committed to this goal, not only because it is a basic human right, but because it will make the United Nations more effective in carrying out its mission and a better place to work for both men and women.
More detailed information on Eleanor Roosevelt is available on the website of the Roosevelt Institute and The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.