My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Tuesday—Yesterday was the opening day of the sixth session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. I had been told beforehand that it was proposed to televise the session. This troubled me a little because I was afraid it might disturb some of the members of the commission and since I had not had time to ask them beforehand I refused to give my consent. However, the televising was done and I do not think anyone was concerned or put out about it. This innovation is certainly going to familiarize many more people with our activities in the U.N., though the telecasts may not be on a regular schedule.

We had quite a large audience so we were moved from our usual committee room to the Economic and Social Council room. I hope that when we reconvene on Wednesday we will have returned to our smaller room because I think there is more of a working atmosphere there.

As former chairman of the commission I called the meeting to order and stated that the first business on our agenda was the election of officers and that nominations were in order. Immediately the delegate from the USSR asked for recognition and started a speech with which most of the delegates who have served on other commissions or councils are already familiar.

The Soviet delegate's talk had nothing to do with the Human Rights Commission, but simply stated that the USSR did not consider that the delegate from the Nationalist Government of China had any right to be seated. Therefore, he introduced a resolution to that effect.

In essence, this was a point of order and, since the commission members are approved by the Economic and Social Council, the commission itself has no jurisdiction as to what individuals take part in our sessions. Any objection would have to be brought up in the Economic and Social Council.

Therefore, I ruled the USSR delegate out of order and, since he protested immediately, I put my ruling to a vote and was sustained by 12 to 2.

Then, of course, the Soviet delegate made his usual propaganda speech, directing it largely against the United States and working up to the dramatic point of leaving the commission as so many other Russian delegates have left other bodies of the U.N. He did not neglect to mention, of course, that any work done would be illegal and would be so considered by the USSR.

Russia has made it known from the beginning that they do not want a Covenant of Human Rights to be written. Such a covenant will be legally binding, and they consider that an infringement on the domestic rights of nations. We could not hope in any case that they would approve of the convenant and much as we regret their departure it seems to be inevitable for the present at least. Of course, the members of the commission will continue their work.

The attack on the United States had so little connection with the point at issue that I did stop the Russian delegate and remind him that we were not there to hear propaganda speeches but to continue the business of the Commission on Human Rights. I begged him to make his statement as brief and to the point as possible. He assured me he had only a little more to say and when he came to the end he departed.

I regret that the Soviet Union does not wish to give up even enough sovereignty to bind itself where human rights and freedoms are concerned. This seems to me an admission of great weakness on their part.

We elected the same officers as we have had before, adopted the agenda and adjourned until Wednesday morning to allow everyone time to study the documents. We still are short several members, who have not yet arrived.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL