Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the original version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The intention was to safeguard the international community against atrocities such as occurred during World War II. This is a condensed version of the original document.
United Nations
Grade Level

All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedomsThe United Nations is committed to upholding, promoting and protecting the human rights of every individual. This commitment stems from the United Nations Charter, which reaffirms the faith of the peoples of the world in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has stated in clear and simple terms the rights which belong equally to every person.

These rights belong to you.

They are your rights. Familiarize yourself with them. Help to promote and defend them for yourself as well as for your fellow human beings.

  1. When children are born, they are free and each should be treated in the same way. They have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner.
  2. Everyone can claim the following rights, despite
    - a different sex
    - a different skin colour
    - speaking a different language
    - thinking different things
    - believing in another religion
    - owning more or less
    - being born in another social group
    - coming from another country
    It also makes no difference whether the country you live in is independent or not.
  3. You have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety.
  4. Nobody has the right to treat you as his or her slave and you should not make anyone your slave.
  5. Nobody has the right to torture you.
  6. You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere, and like everyone else.
  7. The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all.
  8. You should be able to ask for legal help when the rights your country grants you are not respected.
  9. Nobody has the right to put you in prison, to keep you there, or to send you away from your country unjustly, or without good reason.
  10. If you go on trial this should be done in public. The people who try you should not let themselves be influenced by others.
  11. You should be considered innocent until it can be proved that you are guilty. If you are accused of a crime, you should always have the right to defend yourself. Nobody has the right to condemn you and punish you for something you have not done.
  12. You have the right to ask to be protected if someone tries to harm your good name, enter your house, open your letters, or bother you or your family without a good reason.
  13. You have the right to come and go as you wish within your country. You have the right to leave your country to go to another one; and you should be able to return to your country if you want.
  14. If someone hurts you, you have the right to go to another country and ask it to protect you. You lose this right if you have killed someone and if you, yourself, do not respect what is written here.
  15. You have the right to belong to a country and nobody can prevent you, without a good reason, from belonging to a country if you wish.
  16. As soon as a person is legally entitled, he or she has the right to marry and have a family. In doing this, neither the colour of your skin, the country you come from nor your religion should be impediments. Men and women have the same rights when they are married and also when they are separated.
    Nobody should force a person to marry.
    The government of your country should protect you and the members of your family.
  17. You have the right to own things and nobody has the right to take these from you without a good reason.
  18. You have the right to profess your religion freely, to change it, and to practise it either on your own or with other people.
  19. You have the right to think what you want, to say what you like, and nobody should forbid you from doing so. You should be able to share your ideas also—with people from any other country.
  20. You have the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in meetings in a peaceful way. It is wrong to force someone to belong to a group.
  21. You have the right to take part in your country’s political affairs either by belonging to the government yourself or by choosing politicians who have the same ideas as you. Governments should be voted for regularly and voting should be secret. You should get a vote and all votes should be equal. You also have the same right to join the public service as anyone else.
  22. The society in which you live should help you to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to you and to all the men and women in your country.
  23. You have the right to work, to be free to choose your work, to get a salary which allows you to support your family. If a man and a woman do the same work, they should get the same pay. All people who work have the right to join together to defend their interests.
  24. Each work day should not be too long, since everyone has the right to rest and should be able to take regular paid holidays.
  25. You have the right to have whatever you need so that you and your family: do not fall ill or go hungry; have clothes and a house; and are helped if you are out of work, if you are ill, if you are old, if your wife or husband is dead, or if you do not earn a living for any other reason you cannot help. Mothers and their children are entitled to special care. All children have the same rights to be protected, whether or not their mother was married when they were born.
  26. You have the right to go to school and everyone should go to school. Primary schooling should be free. You should be able to learn a profession or continue your studies as far as wish [sic]. At school, you should be able to develop all your talents and you should be taught to get on with others, whatever their race, religion or the country they come from. Your parents have the right to choose how and what you will be taught at school.
  27. You have the right to share in your community’s arts and sciences, and any good they do. Your works as an artist, writer, or a scientist should be protected, and you should be able to benefit from them.
  28. So that your rights will be respected, there must be an ‘order’ which can protect them. This ‘order’ should be local and worldwide.
  29. You have duties towards the community within which your personality can only fully develop. The law should guarantee human rights. It should allow everyone to respect others and to be respected.
  30. In all parts of the world, no society, no human being, should take it upon her or himself to act in such a way as to destroy the rights which you have just been reading about.

Planning a lesson or unit on human rights? Try grouping this text with Decision No. 633: Promoting Tolerance and Media Freedom on the Internet.

This text is in the public domain.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What are the given beliefs assumed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR)?
    All human beings are born equal with freedoms and rights and that all people have dignity and worth.
  2. Question
    In what way do the rights enumerated in clauses 1-2 and 28-30 differ from the other rights listed?
    Whereas the others list specific rights, related to particular areas of society and life, these five clauses declare that the rights in the UNDHR will be universally respected, protected and guaranteed to all human beings.
  3. Question
    Closely read each of the rights in clauses 3-27 and create hashtags to succinctly summarize the meaning of each one. For instance, clause 18 could be #freedomofreligion.
    Responses will vary.
  4. Question
    Who chartered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? When? What is significant about that time in world history, as relates to human rights in particular?
    The United Nations; 1948; This was at the end of World War II, when the world had witnessed the atrocities of war and the genocide of the Holocaust. There was heightened awareness and concern about the protection of people’s rights and freedoms.
  5. Question
    What role do clauses 1-2 and 28-30 of the UNDHR serve within the larger document?
    These five clauses declare that the rights in the UNDHR be universally respected, protected and guaranteed to all human beings and establish the duty of individuals, communities and governments to protect these rights.
  6. Question
    Closely read each of the rights listed in clauses 3-27. What rights do you see that are not currently guaranteed in your own community, state or nation? What rights do you possess but know are not enjoyed universally around the world? Are there any rights missing from this list that you think deserve to be added?
    Responses will vary.
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