December 10, 2008, marked the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the founding document of the modern human rights system. The UDHR is a set of basic rights and protections that are to be enjoyed by all persons throughout the world, regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The UDHR recognizes that "the inherent dignity and... the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
The ACLU's mandate today includes not only protection of civil liberties, but protection of civil and human rights. Roger Baldwin, co-founder of the ACLU in 1920, called for ACLU involvement in the international civil liberties community, recognizing the indissoluble connection between what was happening in the rest of the world and American civil rights and civil liberties. Baldwin understood that American rights and liberties cannot be defended in isolation.
The ACLU works in the hope that American law will provide positive models for those defending rights and liberties in other countries. But in the areas where our country is not a leader, we hope that we can learn to follow.
I call for a recommitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes that "the inherent dignity and... the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
I accept and respect the principles outlined in the Declaration and call on my government and the newly elected President of the United States to recommit to the Declaration and lead the world by example.
While the U.S. government was a leading voice in the creation of the UDHR, its policy and practice over the past 60 years has shown a failure to live up to these ideals. To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR, the ACLU will be engaging in an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of U.S. obligations and shortcomings under the UDHR and human rights law. A recommitment by the U.S. to the principles and ideals of the UDHR is essential not only for improving U.S. standing in the world, but, more importantly, for its promise to ensure equality and justice for all at home.