A Celebration of Human Rights

In 1998, the National Library of Canada joins in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Throughout the year, National Library News will feature articles, short and long, on the Declaration and the important role of libraries in furthering human rights.

Of all the declarations produced by the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most important and far-reaching. As the Declaration states, it offers "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" -- an ideal towards which countries can strive.

Canada can be proud of the fact that a Canadian, Dr. John Peters Humphrey, played a central role in creating the document and guiding it through to its adoption. In 1946, Dr. Humphrey was asked to establish a Division of Human Rights in the United Nations Secretariat in New York. He headed the Division until his retirement in 1964, when he returned to McGill University in Montreal as a Professor of Law. He is the author of, among other works, Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure (1984) and No Distant Millenniu Read More

A Celebration of Human Rights

In 1998, the National Library of Canada joins in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Throughout the year, National Library News will feature articles, short and long, on the Declaration and the important role of libraries in furthering human rights.

Of all the declarations produced by the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most important and far-reaching. As the Declaration states, it offers "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" -- an ideal towards which countries can strive.

Canada can be proud of the fact that a Canadian, Dr. John Peters Humphrey, played a central role in creating the document and guiding it through to its adoption. In 1946, Dr. Humphrey was asked to establish a Division of Human Rights in the United Nations Secretariat in New York. He headed the Division until his retirement in 1964, when he returned to McGill University in Montreal as a Professor of Law. He is the author of, among other works, Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure (1984) and No Distant Millennium: The International Law of Human Rights (1989).

And the role of libraries in furthering human rights? A consideration of some of the Declaration's articles makes it clear that library services, or their lack, can make an enormous difference in the Declaration's effectiveness. For example:

• Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19): Libraries hold and provide access to information that enables people to learn about an issue, form an opinion, and discover how to express it.

• Everyone has the right to participate in the government of her/his country (Article 21):
How many politicians, administrators and officials have benefitted from library collections and services in their quest to enter the service of their country?

• Everyone has the right to work (Article 23):
Those wishing to learn about employment possibilities have a much better chance of succeeding in their objectives if they have access to an appropriate library.

• Everyone has the right to education (Article 26) and to participate in the community's cultural life:
To read classical works of literature, discover the truth about past events, find out about the latest developments in science, technology and other fields, usually at little or no cost -- go to a library.

 


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Learning Objectives

Learners will understand how libraries have furthered human rights.

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