The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century Gordon Brown (ed.)
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The Global Citizenship Commission at the United Nations with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Courtesy UN Photos)

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world . . .
—The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

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The Global Citizenship Commission was convened, under the leadership of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the auspices of NYU’s Global Institute for Advanced Study, to re-examine the spirit and stirring words of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The result – this volume – offers a 21st-century commentary on the original document, furthering the work of human rights and illuminating the ideal of global citizenship. What does it mean for each of us to be members of a global community?
Since 1948, the Declaration has stood as a beacon and a standard for a better world. Yet the work of making its ideals real is far from over. Hideous and systemic human rights abuses continue to be perpetrated at an alarming rate around the world. Too many people, particularly those in power, are hostile to human rights or indifferent to their claims. Meanwhile, our global interdependence deepens.
Bringing together world leaders and thinkers in the fields of politics, ethics, and philosophy, the Commission set out to develop a common understanding of the meaning of global citizenship – one that arises from basic human rights and empowers every individual in the world. This landmark report affirms the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and seeks to renew the 1948 enterprise, and the very ideal of the human family, for our day and generation.

Members of the Global Citizenship Commission include: K. Anthony Appiah, Laurel Bellows, Nicolas Berggruen, Paul Boghossian, Gordon Brown (Chair), Craig Calhoun, Wang Chenguang, Mohamed ElBaradei, Fonna Forman, Andrew Forrest, Ronald M. George, Asma Jahangir, John Kufuor, Graça Machel, Catherine O’Regan, Ricken Patel, Emma Rothschild, Robert Rubin, Jonathan Sacks, Kailash Satyarthi, Klaus Schwab, Amartya Sen, John Sexton, Robert Shrum, Jeremy Waldron, Joseph Weiler, Rowan Williams, Diane C. Yu (Executive Director).

The Global Citizenship Commission's Report has been featured widely across international media including the Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the Daily Mail Online.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century
Gordon Brown (ed.) | April 2016
x + 136 | colour | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
Open Reports Series, vol. 2 | ISSN: 2399-6668 (Print); 2399-6676 (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783742189
ISBN Hardback: 9781783742196
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783742202
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783742219
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783742226
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0091
BIC subject codes: JPA (Political science and theory), JPV (Political control and freedoms)

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Introduction by Gordon Brown
Preface by Paul Boghossian
Executive Summary

1. The Long and Influential Life of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
   1.1 History of the UDHR
   1.2 Affirming and protecting the UDHR
   1.3 The changing context
   1.4 The enduring relevance of the UDHR
   1.5 Legal status
   1.6 Foundational principles
   1.7 Universality
   1.8 Interconnectivity of rights

2. The Evolving Understanding of Rights
   2.1 Rights of members of specific groups
      a. The rights of women
      b. The rights of children
      c. The rights of the disabled, including the profoundly disabled
      d. Rights related to sexual orientation
      e. The rights of prisoners
   2.2 Rights of groups as such
      a. The right to national self-determination, including regional autonomy and subsidiarity
      b. The rights of indigenous peoples
      c. Ethnic cleansing
      d. The rights of peoples prejudiced at the national or communal level by climate change
   2.3 Rights related to other issues involving vital interests
      a. Migration
      b. Statelessness
      c. Administrative justice
      d. Corruption
      e. Privacy from state or corporate electronic surveillance
      f. Access to the Internet and electronic communication on a global scale
      g. Extreme poverty and deep economic inequality
      h. Healthcare
      i. A safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment
   2.4 An open task

3. Limitations and Derogations
   3.1 Adequacy of Article 29 account of limitations
   3.2 Derogation of rights in national or international emergencies
   3.3 Regulation of the use of force

4. Social and Economic Rights
   4.1 The importance of social and economic rights
   4.2 Relation to availability of resources
   4.3 Responsibilities for social and economic rights
   4.4 Poverty reduction and other human rights

5. Responsibility for Human Rights
   5.1 The special role of states
   5.2 Other entities
      a. Sub-national governments
      b. International institutions
      c. Corporations
      d. Private persons
   5.3 Responsibilities of rights-bearers
   5.4 No closed model of responsibility

6. Implementation of Human Rights
   6.1 Introduction
   6.2 State of play on representative rights
      a. Anti-slavery (Article 4)
      b. Anti-torture (Article 5)
      c. Free expression (Article 19) and free association (Article 20)
      d. Education (Article 26)
      e. Summary
   6.3 Suggestions on implementation
      a. Recommendations for strengthening the UN system on human rights implementation
            i. Implement the recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms
            ii. Enhance the OHCHR’s field presence
            iii. Raise human rights concerns for consideration by the UN Security Council
            iv. Limit the UN Security Council veto in the case of mass atrocities
            v. Harness technology to enhance human rights accountability
      b. National and regional legal systems
      c. NGOs
      d. Human rights education
            i. The UDHR and human rights education for all
            ii. The UDHR and human rights education since
            iii. Transformative human rights education
            iv. Advancing transformative human rights education
   6.4 Sovereignty
      a. General (human rights as limits on sovereignty)
      b. Sanctions, denunciations, and other measures
      c. Responsibility to Protect

7. Human Rights and a Global Ethic

Appendix A: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Appendix B: Members of the Commission
Appendix C: Members of the Philosophers' Committee

Online Appendices
Appendix D: Human Rights Education
Appendix E: Human Rights Implementation

Kwame Anthony Appiah
is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. He was born in London, grew up in Ghana, and studied philosophy at Cambridge University. He has taught philosophy in Ghana, France, Britain, and the United States. Among his books are In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (1992)and Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006). Professor Appiah has been President of the PEN American Center and of the Modern Language Association and Chair of the Board of the American Philosophical Association and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Laurel Bellows, founding principal of the Bellows Law Group, P.C. is past president of the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and International Women’s Forum Chicago. Laurel is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the InterAmerican Bar Association. She is an internationally recognized business lawyer. Her law firm offers strategic business counseling and litigation to businesses of all sizes, counseling senior executives and corporations on executive employment, severance agreements, workplace disputes, anti-trafficking risk assessment, supply chain and recruiting policies, and cybersecurity. Laurel is licensed to practice in Illinois, Florida, and California. She is an arbitrator and certified mediator.

Nicolas Berggruen is Chairman of the Berggruen Institute. The Institute develops and implements systemic political governance projects and thinking. Through its Philosophy and Culture Center, it fosters fresh ideas and understanding between the East and the West. Committed to leaving a legacy of art and architecture, he sits on the boards of the Museum Berggruen, Berlin and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has worked with some of the world’s leading architects on projects from India to Turkey and the USA.

Paul Boghossian is Julius Silver Professor of Philosophy at New York University and Director of its Global Institute for Advanced Study. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012, he has written on a wide range of topics including knowledge, meaning, rules, moral relativism, aesthetics, and the concept of genocide. He is the author of Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism (2006)and Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers (2008); and editor, with Christopher Peacocke, of New Essays on the A Priori (2000). A volume collecting a series of his exchanges with Timothy Williamson on the topics of a priori and analytic truthis forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Gordon Brown served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007, and as a Member of Parliament in his home county of Fife, Scotland, from 1983 to 2015. He is the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and a passionate advocate for the rights of children. He believes every girl and boy deserves the opportunity of a future through schooling. Mr. Brown has also been appointed Chair of the new Global Commission on Financing Global Education and serves as New York University’s inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence.

Craig Calhoun is Director of the London School of Economics and calls it "the dream job for anyone who cares about social science, global issues, and bringing better knowledge to public debates.” In the USA, he was President of the Social Science Research Council, and taught at the University of North Carolina, Columbia, and NYU, where he was most recently University Professor of Social Sciences and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge. Calhoun’s many publications bring together theory and empirical research across several disciplines. Among his books on politics and social movements are Neither Gods Nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (1994)and The Roots of Radicalism (2012). He has also published extensively on nationalism and globalization; secularism, religion, and the public sphere; economic and technological change; critical social theory; and the history of social science.

Wang Chenguang holds a B.A. (1980), Master of Law (1983), and Ph.D. in Law (1999) from Peking University, as well as an LL.M. (1986) from Harvard Law School. He has taught as Teaching Assistant (1983), Lecturer (1985), and Associate Professor (1991) at Peking University; as University Senior Lecturer (1994) at City University of Hong Kong; and as Associate Professor (2000) and Professor (2000) at Tsinghua University. He has served as Dean (2002–2008) at Tsinghua University Law School, and he is currently Vice-Chair of the China Association of Legal Theory, Deputy-Chair of the China Association of Legal Education, Deputy-Chair of the China Association of Health Law, Executive Chief-Editor of the China Journal of Legal Science (English), and Legal Advisor to the China Food and Drug Administration. His fields of teaching and research are legal theory, comparative law, health law, legal clinic, legislative and judicial systems.

Mohamed ElBaradei was Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is currently Director General Emeritus. He was born in Egypt and holds degrees in Law from the University of Cairo and the New York University School of Law. He was an Egyptian diplomat before joining the IAEA in 1984. In 2005, he was jointly awarded with the IAEA the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received numerous other awards and Honoris Causae for his work as a public servant and advocate of tolerance, humanity, and freedom. He played a leading role in the Arab Spring of 2011.

Fonna Forman is a professor of Political Theory and Founding Director of the Center on Global Justice at the University of California, San Diego. She is best known for her revisionist scholarship on Adam Smith, recuperating the ethical, social, spatial, and public dimensions of his thought. Her current work focuses on human rights at the urban scale, climate justice in cities, and equitable urban development in the Global South. She presently serves as Vice-Chair of the University of California Climate Solutions Group. She is a principal in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice based in San Diego/Tijuana.

Andrew Forrest is a leading philanthropist and businessman who joined the Giving Pledge campaign, contributing wealth generated from founding two of Australia’s major resource companies and employers.Internationally, the five global initiatives of Andrew’s Walk Free Foundation are helping to bring an end to modern slavery. The Foundation facilitated the historical signing of a declaration by the major world faiths to reject slavery and publishes the Global Slavery Index: achievements without precedent. At home, Andrew works to end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians through GenerationOne’s education, training, and employment efforts. His businesses have allocated $2bn to indigenous contractors, and recently he chaired the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s national Indigenous Review, "Creating Parity.”

Ronald M. George is a 1961 graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a 1964 graduate of Stanford Law School. From 1965 to 1972, he served as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice, where he represented the State of California in six oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Governor Reagan, to the Superior Court by Governor Brown, Jr., to the Court of Appeal by Governor Deukmejian, to the California Supreme Court by Governor Wilson as an Associate Justice, and, in 1996, as the 27th Chief Justice of California (confirmed in 1998 by the voters for a 12-year term.) As Chief Justice he chaired the Judicial Council of California and the Commission on Judicial Appointments. He was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and served as President of the Conference of Chief Justices, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts, and as a member of the steering committee of the Sandra Day O’Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary.

Asma Jahangir Twice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan in 2011. Asma is also a Director of the AGHS Legal Aid Cell, which provides free legal assistance to the needy and was instrumental in the formation of the Punjab Women Lawyers Association in 1980 and the Women Action Forum in 1985.In 1998, Asma was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution as part of the Commission on Human Rights, and in 2004 she was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for the Council of Human Rights.

John Agyekum Kufuor is the Former President of Ghana (2001–2009). He was called to the Bar, Lincoln’s Inn, London (1959–1961); BA Honours (PPE) and MA Economics, Oxford (1964). In December 2013, he was appointed UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change. In 2012, he founded the John A Kufuor Foundation for Leadership, Governance, and Development. In 2011, he was named joint-winner of the World Food Prize with former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. As Ghanaian president, he was Chairperson of the African Union (2007–2008) and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (2003–2005).Other appointments held include Co-Chairman of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (2013); Chairman of the Governing Council, Interpeace (2010–2015); Global Envoy for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Alliance (2011–2015); Chairman of the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership (2011–2015); Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1969–1972); and Member of Parliament (1969–1972 and 1979–1981).

Graça Machel is a renowned international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and has been a social and political activist over many decades. She is a former freedom fighter and was the first Education Minister of Mozambique. Her contributions to the Africa Progress Panel, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group and the High-Level Panel on Post 2015 Development Agenda, have been widely appreciated. She is a member of The Elders, Girls Not Brides, Board Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, African Ambassador for A Promised Renewed, President of SOAS, University of London, Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Board Chair of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, President of the Foundation for Community Development, and founder of the Zizile Institute for Child Development.As Founder of the newly established Graça Machel Trust, she has focused more recently on advocating for women’s economic and financial empowerment, education for all, an end to child marriage, food security and nutrition, and promoting democracy and good governance.

Catherine O’Regan served as a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 1994–2009 and has been serving as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia since 2010. From 2008–2012, she served as the inaugural chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council, a body established to ensure independence, professionalism, and accountability in the internal system of justice in the UN. She is Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford and also serves on the boards of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and equality.

Ricken Patel is the founding President and Executive Director of, a global civic movement for social change which has rapidly grown since 2007 into the largest online activist community in the world, with over 40 million members in all 193 countries represented at the United Nations. Ricken was voted "Ultimate Gamechanger in Politics” by the Huffington Post and named a Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum. He was also among Foreign Policy’s 100 Top Global Thinkers in 2012. He has lived and worked in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, and Sudan, working on conflict resolution for various organizations including the International Crisis Group and the International Center for Transitional Justice. Ricken holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Balliol College, Oxford University.

Emma Rothschild is Director of the Joint Center for History and Economics, and Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History at Harvard University. She is a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. She was Chairman of the United Nations Research Fund for Social Development from 1999–2005 and a member of the United Nations Foundation Board from 1998–2015. She has written extensively on economic history and the history of economic thought. Her publications include The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History (2011) and Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment (2001).

Robert E. Rubin served as the 70th Secretary of the U.S. Treasury from 1995 to 1999. He joined the Clinton Administration in 1993 as the first director of the National Economic Council.Mr. Rubin began his career in finance at Goldman Sachs, rising to Vice-Chairman and Co-Chief Operating Officer (1987–1990) and Co-Senior Partner and Co-Chairman (1990–1992). He was a member of the board at Citigroup and a senior advisor to the company (1999–2009). In 2010, he joined Centerview Partners as a senior counselor.Mr. Rubin is Co-Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations; is on the Board of the Mount Sinai Health System; and is Chairman of the Board of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

A global religious leader, philosopher, bestselling author, and moral voice for our time, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was recently named the winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize. Rabbi Sacks is currently the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He is Emeritus Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London. Previously, Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between September 1991 and September 2013, only the sixth incumbent since the role was formalized in 1845.

Kailash Satyarthi has been a tireless advocate of children’s rights for over three decades. He and the grassroots movement founded by him, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), have liberated more than 84,000 children from exploitation and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation. Mr Satyarthi has been the architect of the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children, the Global March Against Child Labour, whose mobilization of unions, civil society and most importantly, children, led to the adoption of ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour in 1999. He is also the founding president of the Global Campaign for Education, an exemplar civil society movement working to end the global education crisis, and GoodWeave International which raises consumer awareness in the carpet industry. In 2014, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Klaus Schwab is the founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Schwab studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, at the University of Fribourg, and at Harvard University. His degrees include doctorates in Mechanical Engineering and Economics (summa cum laude). From 1972–2003, he was Professor of Business Policy, University of Geneva. In 1998, Schwab co-founded, with his wife Hilde, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, supporting social innovation around the world; in 2004, he founded the Forum of Young Global Leaders; and in 2011, he founded the Global Shapers Community. He has received numerous honorary doctorates and honorary professorships, as well as the highest international and national honors for initiatives undertaken in the spirit of entrepreneurship in the global public interest and for peace and reconciliation.

Amartya Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. Until 2004 he was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has served as President of the American Economic Association, the Indian Economic Association, the International Economic Association, and the Econometric Society. His awards include Bharat Ratna (India); Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur (France); the National Humanities Medal (USA); Honorary Companion of Honour (UK); Ordem do Merito Cientifico (Brazil); the Aztec Eagle (Mexico), and the Nobel Prize in Economics. Sen’s books, on economics, philosophy, decision theory, and social inequalities have been translated into more than thirty languages.

John Sexton served as President of New York University from 2002 through 2015. He is NYU’s Benjamin Butler Professor of Law and Dean Emeritusof the Law School. Milestones of his tenure include the growth of NYU’s global network, encompassing campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai; a merger with Polytechnic University, now the NYU Tandon School of Engineering; and the largest increase in the Arts and Science Faculty in the University’s history. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, President Emeritus Sexton also serves on the board of the Institute of International Education and is past Chair of the American Council on Education.

Robert M. Shrum holds the Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics and is Professor of the Practice of Political Science at the University of Southern California. For decades, he was a political strategist and consultant, serving as senior advisor to Kerry 2004 and Gore 2000 campaigns. He was also senior advisor to the campaign of Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and to the British Labour Party. Mr. Shrum has written for New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Newsweek, among other publications. His book, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (2007), was a national bestseller.

Jeremy Waldronn is University Professor and Professor of Law at New York University. Professor Waldron was educated in New Zealand and at Oxford, and his career has included appointments at Edinburgh, Berkeley, Columbia, and Oxford. He is well-known for his work on constitutionalism, human dignity, historic injustice, national security issues, and the rule of law. His books include Law and Disagreement (1999) and Torture, Terror and Trade-offs: Philosophy for the White House (2010). His new book Political Theory is being published by Harvard University Press in March 2016. Professor Waldron was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998 and has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 2011.

Joseph Weiler is President of the European University Institute (EUI), and University Professor at NYU Law School. Previously he served as Manley Hudson Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and subsequently as Director of the Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law. He also served for many years as Member of the Committee of Jurists of the Institutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Prof. Weiler is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) and the International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON). He is also an Honorary Professor at University College London and the University of Copenhagen, and Co-Director of the Academy of International Trade Law in Macao, China. He holds a PhD in European Law from the EUI, Florence and honorary degrees from various European and American universities. He is the author of several books and articles in the field of European integration, international and comparative constitutional law, and human rights law.

Rowan Williams took up the mastership of Magdalene College, Cambridge on January 1, 2013. He took his degrees at Christ’s College, Cambridge and at Christ Church and Wadham College, Oxford. His career began as a lecturer at Mirfield (1975–1977), and he later returned to Cambridge as Tutor and Director of Studies at Westcott House. After ordination in Ely Cathedral, and serving as Honorary Assistant Priest at St George’s Chesterton, he was appointed to a University Lectureship in Divinity. In 1984, he was elected a Fellow and Dean of Clare College. Then, still only 36, it was back to Oxford as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity for six years, before becoming Bishop of Monmouth and, from 2000, Archbishop of Wales. In 2002, Dr. Williams was confirmed as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Diane C. Yu is serving as Counselor to Leadership and Executive Director of the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Community Programs at New York University Abu Dhabi, one of the three New York University campuses. From 2012-2015 she was NYU’s Deputy President, a member of the President’s cabinet, and presidential advisor regarding dealings with NYU Trustees, deans, faculty, administrators, and students; prior to that she served for 10 years as the Chief of Staff and Deputy to the NYU President. Before coming to NYU, she was Managing Counsel at a Fortune 250 company, General Counsel for the State Bar of California (for whom she won a case in the U.S. Supreme Court), White House Fellow, and California Superior Court Commissioner. She has a B.A. from Oberlin College and a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley.

Appendix D: Human Rights Education
Advancing Transformative Human Rights Education is an additional report written for the Global Citizenship Commission by a working group at the Center on Global Justice (University of California, San Diego).

Appendix E: Human Rights Implementation
These case studies on the implementation of key provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were prepared for the GCC by the Center on Global Justice and by Dr. Dimitrina Petrova, founding Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust.