UN: Convention on Genocide (1948)
On December 9th 1948, the UN released its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. December 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the Convention. What has been learned? Read the full text here.
Read a commentary on the Convention and an interview with Norman Naimark on Genocide in literature here.
Ostensibly, UNESCO's first conference held in Paris in 1946 was to be the showcase of the nations of the world to agree on universal standards for human rights, justice and progress of persons.
The European nations present at the conference however represented more than half of all the delegates from around world; the UK, with an population of about 49 million in 1946 was represented by 52 delegates, closely followed by France with 48 delegates from a population of 40 million; India, with a population of 390 million had 10 delegates; Argentina, with a population of 171 million had just 8 (you can see the rest of the statistics in our report, here).
Of course, not every delegate represented a unique voting power; but certainly we have to examine the influence exerted over the proceedings by the most influential contributors to the conference. Consider, for example, the documents on our UNESCO Philosophy page, including "Visions for UNESCO" and Huxley's "UNESCO: It's Purpose & It's Philosophy" to get a sense of the direction the largest contributors were taking the conference.
On our Jacques Maritain page in the philosophy section, you will see that Maritain repeatedly denies the possibility in the modern world of arriving at a consensus on what constitutes a human right philosophically. This is not to say that he thought the endeavor to create a universal Bill of Rights was a waste of time; on the contrary; he was deeply concerned about the ideological landscape of the world and the threats to world peace; he understood that multinational agreement on rights was therefore essential to preserving world peace. But his argument was that this Bill of Rights could not be established on the basis of a shared philosophy because for him, philosophy entailed subscribing to a coherent “philosophy of life” which included religious, ethical and political beliefs. Since achieving a consensus in a world split apart by divergent ideologies (communism, capitalism, theocracy, etc) the only way to move forward on a universal declaration of rights was to get the UN member nations to agree on practical goals and to base a list of rights on these. For example, there would be little hope of getting member states to agree that the existence of God necessitated a freedom of religion. However, member states could be brought to agree that allowing people a right to exercise religious belief would eliminate or minimize civil unrest. All member states aspired to peace within their own borders, and so rights could be promoted along these shared, practical lines.