UDHR Timeline

  • John Locke and Natural Rights

    English philosopher John Locke sets forth the notion of natural rights and defines them as the rights to "life, liberty and property."
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    Universal Declaration of Human Rights Timeline

  • Bill of Rights adopted in England

    The Bill of Rights is adopted in England. It establishes the rights of the representatives of the people (the "House of Commons") to limit the king's actions and even remove him from power if he should act against their interests. The Bill sets guarantees against unjust taxation and cruel and unusual punishment and for the right to religious toleration.
  • Declaration of Independence

    The US Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson and others, is adopted by Congress. It presents the rationale for American independence from Britain on the basis that "all men are created equal" and endowed with rights that cannot be taken from them, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen

    Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is adopted during the early stage of the French Revolution. This document proclaims the end of the monarchy and the rights of all citizens to liberty, property, security, and the resistance to oppression.
  • Bill of Rights Extended

    Containing the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, the US Bill of Rights extends citizens' rights to include freedom of speech, of the press, and to a fair trial, among others.
  • World War I

    World War I begins after the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand is murdered in June.
  • Treaty of Versailles

    The Treaty of Versailles, drawn up to end World War I aggressions, sets the terms for world peace on the basis of democratic diplomacy, national sovereignty, and self-determination.
  • League of Nations

    The League of Nations-a peacekeeping international organization-is formed. Ineffective owing to lack of international support, it fails to prevent World War II (1939-1945).
  • Salt March

    Led by Gandhi, the Salt March to Dandi-a campaign of nonviolent protest against the British salt tax in colonial India-begins in March. The Salt March draws widespread attention to the independence movement in India, to the injustice of colonialism, and to nonviolence as a powerful political tool.
  • World War II

    World War II begins following Germany's invasion of Poland.
  • "Four Freedoms" Speech

    US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) gives his famous "Four Freedoms" speech in which he claims that postwar peace must be rooted in the recognition of "the Freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, freedom from want, and the freedom from fear."
  • Atlantic Charter

    Signed by Great Britain and the United States, the Atlantic Charter creates a blueprint for the postwar peace and the basis of the mutual recognition of the rights of all nations.
  • Declaration of the United Nations

    The Declaration of the United Nations is signed by the Allied Powers who pledged to form a peacekeeping organization by that name, on the basis of the Atlantic Charter.
  • Tehran Conference

    The Tehran Conference (Nov 28-Dec 1), the first of three wartime conferences between Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, is held. The most significant development for human rights from this gathering was the agreement by the three powers to form an organization of "united nations" after the war.
  • Dumbarton Oaks Conference

    At the Dumbarton Oaks Conference (Aug 21-Oct 7), the charter of the United Nations is drafted and negotiated. Its membership and structure are also debated and set.
  • United Nations Conference on International Organization

    The United Nations Conference on International Organization (Apr 25-Jun 26) is held in San Francisco and adopts the United Nations Charter, as ratified by the original 51 signing nations. The UN Charter states that one of its main purposes is the promotion of "respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."
  • Prosecution of accused war criminals

    At the Military Tribunals at Nuremberg (and later, in Tokyo), the Allied Powers prosecute accused war criminals for crimes against humanity. (1945-1949)
  • World War II ends

    World War II ends. The Nazi concentration camps are liberated. The United States drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Commission on Human Rights

    The Commission on Human Rights is established by the United Nations. Eleanor Roosevelt is selected by the General Assembly to be its chairperson. The committee would later draft a declaration of human rights.
  • Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    On December 10 the UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proposed by the Commission on Human Rights.
  • Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide

    On December 9 the UN General Assembly adopts the Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide.
  • Amnesty International

    In response to a decline in international support for the UDHR, Amnesty International, an international organization devoted to the monitoring and protection of human rights, is established.
  • Covenants enter into force

    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Mar 23) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Jan 3) enter into force after sufficient UN member states sign it.