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Human Rights and World Public Order: A Framework for Policy-Oriented Inquiry*

  • Myres S. McDougal, Harold D. Lasswel (a1) and Lung-chu Chen (a1)


From the Universal Declaration of Human Eights in 1948, through the adoption of the International Covenants on Human Rights in 1966, and to the Proclamation of Teheran in 1968, the human rights program under the auspices of the United Nations has represented a tremendous collective effort and symbolized the common aspirations of mankind for increasing the protection of all basic human values. This program, as greatly agitated and accelerated by the process of postwar decolonization and the rapid emergence and multiplication of newly independent states, has burgeoned far beyond the contemplation of the founding fathers of the United Nations.



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** Of the Board of Editors.

This outline has been prepared as a preliminary guide to our own future studies and is published in its present form both for inviting criticism and for offering stimulus to others.



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1 In his stimulating book, The Politics and Dynamics of Human Bights 98, 99 (1968), Mr. Moses Moskowitz issues a formidable challenge: “

(I)nternational human rights is still waiting for its theoretician to systematize the thoughts and speculations on the subject and to define desirable goals. Intelligent truisms do not necessarily add up to a theory. No one has yet arisen to draw together into a positive synthesis the facts and fancies which emerge daily from events of bewildering complexity and to carry on an authentic debate. International concern with human rights is still very much a theme begging for a writer. And the scholar has not yet appeared to redress the distortions through a calm and systematic application of facts, to ground abstractions in the specific, and to define the limits of discourse- In the absence of a definite body of doctrine, as well as of deeply rooted convictions, international human rights have been dealt with on the basis of the shifts and vagaries of daily affairs and of evocations of daily events. There is a great need for technical resources and ability to channel the facts to greater effect. Human rights as a matter of international concern is an untrodden area of systematic research. But still a greater need is for superlative virtuosity to deal with international human rights in their multiple human dimensions.“

2 A detailed description of constitutive process may be found in McDougal, Lasswell, and Reisman, “The World Constitutive Process of Authoritative Decision,” 19 J. Legal Ed. 253, 415 ff. (1967).

3 The requirements of a configurative approach are indicated in McDougal, Lasswell, and Beisman, , “Theories about International Law: Prologue to a Configurative Jurisprudence,” 8 Va. J. Int. Law 188 (1968). 1969]

4 The detailed study of past trends in decisions, factors affecting decisions, probable future developments, and possible alternatives in principle, structure, and procedure must of course be reserved for more extensive future presentation.

5 Compare the map of “civil liberties” presented by Professor MeCloskey in “Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties,” 3 Int. Encyclopedia of Social Sciences 307, 308 (1968). The framework we suggest is designed both to seek a needed comprehensiveness and to facilitate the systematic, detailed specification of particular claims. The specification we offer under each value heading in terms of the detailed phases (particular practices) of value process is intended to be illustrative only. Different emphases are sought under different value headings. Thus, in more comprehensive presentation, the sub-goals of prevention, deterrence, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and correction specified in relation to strategies for “well-being” could with equal relevance be specified for each of the other values.

6 The efficacy of international agreement formulated under the auspices of the United Nations is demonstrated by sixteen multilateral treaties covering all the basic values with varying scope. In chronological order these treaties are:

  • 1.

    1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948;

  • 2.

    2. Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 1949;

  • 3.

    3. Convention relating to the Status of Eefugees, 1951;

  • 4.

    4. Convention on the International Bight of Correction, 1952;

  • 5.

    5. Convention on the Political Bights of Women, 1952;

  • 6.

    6. Slavery Convention signed at Geneva on Sept. 25, 1926, and amended by the Protocol opened for Signature or Acceptance at the Headquarters of the United Nations on Dec. 7, 1953;

  • 7.

    7. Convention Belating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 1954;

  • 8.

    8. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, 1956;

  • 9.

    9. Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, 1957;

  • 10.

    10. Convention on the Seduction of Statelessness, 1961;

  • 11.

    11. Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, 1962;

  • 12.

    12. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Eacial Discrimination, 1965;

  • 13.

    13. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Eights, 1966;

  • 14.

    14. International Covenant on Civil and Political Eights, 1966;

  • 15.

    15. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Eights, 1966; and

  • 16.

    16. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1966.

7 For eloquent statement of the history and impact of the Universal Declaration, see E. Schwelb, Human Eights and the International Community (1964).

Other examples of the employment of declarations for creating community expectations include the Declaration of the Eights of the Child (1959); the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960); the Declaration on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Eesources (1962); the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Eacial Discrimination (1963); the Declaration on the Promotion Among Youth of the Ideas of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding Between Peoples (1965); the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1967); and the Declaration on Territorial Asylum (1967).

8 M. S. McDougal, H. D. Lasswell, and I. A. Vlasic, Law and Public Order in Space 146 (1963).

9 For elaboration see McDougal, Lasswell, and Eeisman, note 2 above

* This outline has been prepared as a preliminary guide to our own future studies and is published in its present form both for inviting criticism and for offering stimulus to others.

** Of the Board of Editors.


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