APRIL 18, 1950
NEW YORK, Monday—I have just read in the United Nations World for April an interesting article called: "The Battle for Man's Right," by Max Beer.
He gives high praise to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and says that much has already been accomplished by the force of this document. But he adds that the commission is now at the crossroads, since it is drawing up a covenant and if this covenant is not as strong as the declaration he feels it might better not be written.
This is a feeling held by many people. The points that Mr. Beer particularly brings out are the fears that the right of petition will not be accorded to individuals and organizations as well as to states. He maintains that if it cannot be accorded to all people at once, then at least such international organizations as have consultative status should be given this right.
It is quite true that there are many drawbacks to any particular way in which you begin to open up the right of petition. I do not think anyone feels that the perfect way to do this has been found. The way suggested of giving it first only to states seems the best way to begin and gain some experience. But I am quite sure that no one thinks of it as the final achievement.
The second point Mr. Beer makes is the fact that the present draft of the covenant contains only civil and political rights and many of these rights have detailed exceptions which in some cases seem to dwarf the rights. This is another valid criticism, but I think an effort is being made to keep the exceptions down to a minimum.
Lastly, the question he brings up is the question of the economic and social rights, which are not included in this first draft. I have no idea whether any of them will be included before the first covenant is finished. At the present time no member of the commission can tell what will be covered before this session comes to an end.
Some of us know what our individual governments would like to include or exclude, but that does not mean that our positions will not change in the light of what other governments say on the various points at issue.
The question before us seems to be: "Are we wasting our time altogether in writing a covenant?"
If many eminent people think it would be better to rest on the declaration unless the first covenant can be as strong as the declaration, that is a question which should be decided by the commission in the near future.
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On Saturday Miss Mary W. Dewson drove up to Hyde Park with some friends and delivered her first batch of memoirs to the library. I am sure when these are complete they will be among the most valuable and entertaining documents that future historians will have an opportunity to study. She has a humor and a frankness that made her a joy to work with in the past and still make her a joy in all contacts with her friends.
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Quite a large group from a West Side New York organization called Rinnah came up under Mrs. Louis S. Weiss' guidance to visit the Wiltwyck School and to lunch with me afterwards.
The Rinnah group does a great deal to support their various charities and we are particularly glad they are now taking an interest in Wiltwyck. We hope their visit on Saturday has made this a more personal interest than would have been possible without contact with the children in the school. Several ladies spoke to me about the fact that the children seemed so happy and that there was no institutional feeling, which I think is a tribute to the school spirit that has always existed.