My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Friday—I held a press conference yesterday, since we had finished the first Covenant on Human Rights. The press at Lake Success will undoubtedly write stories reflecting the questions they asked me as the United States delegate. They do listen now and then to the actual work of the committees, and so they know the atmosphere that prevails there. For that reason I anticipate they will reflect the fact that, a number of the members of the Commission are unhappy over the work which has been done in the last eight weeks. Monsieur Laugier, head of the Social Division of the United Nations and Dr. John Humphrey, director of the Human Rights Division, will be included among this particular group.

Some members of the Commission think that if the first Covenant does not cover as many rights and freedoms as the Declaration, then it will hurt the Declaration to have a first Covenant. They would prefer to let it die, or, string it along in the Human Rights Commission in order to keep it from the General Assembly, and finally, to the countries for ratification.

The process of ratification is a long one and, in any case, will take two or three years no matter how one tries to push it, and since the Covenant will not come into being until it has been ratified by a certain number of states, it is easy to see that one cannot expect too much too quickly.

There are other members in the Commission, who, for one reason or another, have no desire ever to see a Covenant written. Anything that binds them legally would be very awkward. There is still another group who want a Covenant ultimately, but only when it reaches the perfection they desire. Until that time they think that the subject can be kept alive, and remain a source of interest to all sorts of people, even if nothing particular happens during the next year or two. This is the most difficult group for me to understand since, realistically, I know so well how easy it is for people to forget all about a subject which is not constantly in the news and brought to their attention.

It would have been possible to delay the presentation of the Declaration a year or two or more without much notice or concern, because we had done nothing up to that time. But, once you begin everyone is going to watch how you move forward.

There is much in the Covenant that will cause comments and disagreements. For instance, the Article on Freedom of the Press will probably displease the press, but, there is nothing in it which curtails any newspaper man's activities, so long as he is really reporting the news. We were not able to get any consideration on the Federal-State clause, which the Commission postponed in order to allow the Economic and Social Council to work it out their own way. It is true that this clause always takes a long time to argue but it is essential in a Constitutional treaty, so, whether you like it or not, it must receive your attention. And if we hope to ratify the treaty it must be a part of the treaty.

The two major gripes against the document now ready for presentation to the Economic and Social Council are first, that the implementation is unsatisfactory, because only a state can complain against a state, and secondly, it has left out the newer economic and social rights. Both of these differences we hope to remedy in time.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL