My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

GENEVA, Thursday—To my relief earphones and simultaneous translation are available here for our meetings of the Human Rights Commission. This was not the case in 1947.

As the former chairman of the commission I opened our first meeting and we immediately had a motion from the Russian delegate to unseat the Chinese Nationalist delegate. This was, of course, a PRO FORMA resolution which the Soviet Union presents at every meeting though they know quite well that the question of which government represents China is up for decision in the General Assembly. Russia is perfectly aware of the fact that subsidary bodies, such as the Human Rights Commission, have no right to take any action. The resolution was rejected as we then proceeded to the election of officers.

I explained that I felt the time had come when I should relinquish the chairmanship. I made my position known some time ago, but I wanted to thank my colleagues who had worked with me in the past. I also wanted to explain to all of them my feeling that as representative of the United States, one of the great powers, I did not feel I should continue to hold the chairmanship of this important commission.

It certainly was time, it seemed to me, to follow the usual procedure of rotation. I was chairman of the Nuclear Commission that advised on how the Commission on Human Rights should be set up in 1946, and I have served consecutively as chairman of Human Rights since then. This did not seem to be a fair distribution of responsibility.

I wanted also the opportunity to nominate my colleague, Dr. Charles Malik of Lebanon. His services as chairman of the Economic and Social Council and of Committee Three of the General Assembly, as well as his service in the Human Rights Commission where he has been rapporteur, certainly qualify him for the chairman's role.

He was unanimously elected. Then many of those who have worked with me since our organization said very kind things both as to my past services and to the motives that moved me now to refuse to continue as chairman.

Dr. Malik took the chair and we then elected Dr. Rene Cassin of France as first vice-chairman of the commission, Madame Meta of India as second vice-chairman and Mr. Witmark of Australia as rapporteur. We also adopted the agenda.

The suggestion that in proceeding with the Convenant we should take up first the economic and social rights was made by the delegate from the Soviet Union. It was immediately accepted. Our suggestion that we discuss implementation second was then accepted.

The general speeches made during the afternoon outlined fairly clearly what the thinking of the members of the commission will be on these points and it looks to me as though progress will be made quickly.

Russia would like to detail all the economic and social rights. The United Kingdom would like to leave them out altogether. The United States would like to see a middle-of-the-road interpretation adopted.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL