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Reclaiming and Rebuilding the History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Susan Waltz
Third World Quarterly
Vol. 23, No. 3 (Jun., 2002), pp. 437-448
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3993535
Page Count: 12
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Reclaiming and Rebuilding the History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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Abstract

The political history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is not well known and obscurity has fostered a number of assumptions that require inspection. Recent scholarship challenges the notion that the UDHR was uniquely sponsored and promoted by the Western powers, and indeed raises questions about great power support for efforts to craft international human rights standards. This article explores four political myths about the Universal Declaration, each of which contains a grain of truth, but each of which also misleads. If the historical role of large states in advancing human rights norms is exaggerated, the role and contribution of small states has likewise been overlooked. The Universal Declaration is a negotiated text and many states participated in its construction. Its legitimacy extends from the political process that gave it shape and all states thus have an interest in small states reclaiming their share in its history.

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