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Mark Goodale
UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration:
History, Historiography, Ideology
From the first months of 1947 up to October 1948, the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a remarkable, and largely
misunderstood, effort to directly shape the content of what became the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a statement adopted by the United Nations
General Assembly on December 10,1948. Although this effort failed in its objectives,
the work of UNESCO during this short time (about a year and a half ) has been
invested with a range of meanings and interpretations that go well beyond the
historical record. The reasons for the misreading and appropriation of the work of
UNESCO during this period can be understood on both historiographical and ideo-
logical grounds. Nevertheless, this essay will focus on the specific historical timeline
within which the UNESCO human rights project was conceived and implemented.
Given the incomplete ways in which the role of UNESCO and the key participants
in the process have been characterized, often with significant implications for the
wider history of human rights after the war, it is important to establish an interpretive
record of this key period in UNESCO’s history. Thus, considerable attention will be
given here to a description of the evolution of institutional developments, bureaucratic
and personal relationships, and historical idiosyncrasies, with an eye toward how these
deepen our appreciation for the role of UNESCO as a foundational institution of the
postwar settlement.
However, beyond the historical analysis, this essay will
acknowledge the broader stakes involved through a discussion of how UNESCO’s
efforts to shape what became the UDHR reflect what will be characterized as the
“unsettled firmament” of the international system in the early postwar years, and it
will portray a UNESCO that “might have been” had its bold moves in 1947 not been
turned away and even denounced by what turned out to be the stronger institutional
and political forces working on the American side within the embryonic UN system.
At the First General Conference of UNESCO, held at UNESCO House in Paris
from November 19 to December 10,1946, UNESCO’s different divisions and
subcommissions were given mandates (and budgets to support these mandates) for
the following year.
These mandates took the form of specific projects, which were
agreed upon by the different sections. Debates over these mandates were spirited and
often revolved around disagreements about how the overall budgets would be allo-
cated. These debates about the future activities of UNESCO were taking place at the
moment of UNESCO’s legal and bureaucratic birth as an institution, since the
UNESCO constitution had just come into force (November 4) and the first director-
general would not be formally elected until the end of the conference (December 6).
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The SubCommission on Social Sciences, Philosophy, and Humanistic Studies was
first divided into two new subcommissions through a motion by the soon-to-be first
director-general, Julian Huxley. The philosophy subsection of the new Sub-
Commission on Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, headed by Jacques Havet, was
given three specific projects for the year 1947. Two of these projects do not concern
us here. But the third would come to take on much broader importance. It is described
in the proceedings from the 1946 Conference:
D. Rights of Man
The Secretariat should organize, in collaboration with the United Nations
Commission on the Rights of Man, an International Conference in order to clarify
the principles on which might be founded a modern declaration of the Rights of
The UN Commission on Human Rights had been created through a mandate of the
UN Economic and Social Council and the Commission’s task in creating an “interna-
tional bill of rights,” as U.S. President Harry Truman described it, was seen as central
to the legitimacy of the UN system that was forged after the Second World War.
However, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) did not meet for the first time
until January and February of 1947, after the 1946 UNESCO First General
Conference, and thus its mandate—beyond the general charge to produce an interna-
tional bill of rights—was not specified in detail at the time UNESCO instructed itself
to play a major role in the field of human rights. This meant that the broader interna-
tional community did not know at the time whether the CHR would simply manage
a comprehensive and collaborative process with many participants (both within and
outside the UN system) by way of reaching a form of global consensus, or, instead,
would come—as it eventually did—to largely monopolize and even jealously guard
the process that eventually resulted in the adoption of the UDHR.
It was perfectly understandable, therefore, that the founders of UNESCO—
inspired, as they were, by Julian Huxley’s magisterial UNESCO: Its Purposes and Its
Philosophy (1946)—would view UNESCO’s role and responsibility in relation to
human rights as broad, even directive. If Huxley could argue in his blueprint for
UNESCO that it was the duty of the institution, and specifically its philosophy
section, to “stimulate the quest, so urgent in this time of over-rapid transition, for a
world philosophy, a unified and unifying background of thought for the modern
world,” then it is not surprising that he would come to believe that UNESCO should
have the primary role among international institutions in any global project that
involved the articulation of universal norms and principles of human dignity.
Thus in mid-January 1947, immediately after UNESCO’s headquarters were estab-
lished at the Hotel Majestic in Paris and the secretariat was up and running, Jacques
Havet and Julian Huxley began planning for an international conference of philoso-
phers that would (1)definitively analyze the underlying principles, values, and
contradictions in a prospective international bill of rights and (2) complete this
analysis in time so that it would be incorporated into the actual declaration that had
been contemplated by the UN Economic and Social Council when it created the
CHR. Two points of emphasis must be made. First, Havet and Huxley viewed the
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role of UNESCO at this stage as at least coequal to that of the CHR, chaired by
Eleanor Roosevelt, which was meeting during this same period in the United States
(in Lake Success, New York).
Indeed, in later documents it is clear that Huxley
viewed the work of the CHR dismissively, occupied as it was by the largely (in his
opinion) political disputes between nation-states and their respective diplomats rather
than the grander philosophical questions that he saw as falling uniquely within
UNESCO’s purview. And second, Huxley firmly believed and expected, driven more
by his own sense of UNESCO’s destiny rather than any formal agreements, that the
outcome of the process that he and Havet were hurriedly launching would be grate-
fully accepted by the CHR, since it should have been obvious to Roosevelt and others
that only UNESCO had the capabilities and mandate to provide the underlying philo-
sophical grounding for what became the UDHR. Huxley would prove to be
dramatically, even tragically, mistaken on both counts.
“The Matter Is Urgent”
Havet got right to the task of organizing the all-important international conference of
philosophers. The two most pressing questions were “Where should the conference
be held?” and “Who should be invited?” As to the first, it was not obvious that the
event should be held in Paris. As we have seen, the new UNESCO headquarters
building suffered from structural deficiencies and would be an enduring source of
complaint for UNESCO staff until a new building was inaugurated at the Place de
Fontenoy in November 1958.
Moreover, since the meeting was originally intended to
bring together a small group of largely academic philosophers, the idea of holding the
event as a pleasant retreat in a tourist destination was not out of the question. On this
basis, Havet reached out to the mayor of the seaside town of Nice, who offered to
host the “conference of philosophers” at the Centre universitaire me
´en, an
international meeting center run by the Aix-Marseille Universite
In this same
memo, Havet recommends that the Nice offer be accepted in part because it would
make it more likely that the philosopher Gaston Berger, who had recently taken up a
post as full professor at the relatively nearby l’Universite
´d’Aix-en-Provence, would be
able to participate. Finally, and critically for understanding this history, for the first
time Havet raised the problem of timing. He mentioned to Huxley that the Easter
and Pentecost holiday periods were fast approaching and that it would be difficult to
hold the conference in Nice before Easter Sunday (which was on April 6in 1947).
The following Monday, on March 3, Huxley responded. He rejected the idea of
holding the conference of philosophers in Nice because it “should be held in Paris in
the closest possible relation with the members of the Secretariat concerned, and it
would be very difficult to exercise any supervision, or even keep an eye on what they
were doing, if they met at the other end of the country.”
However, Havet’s concerns
about timing made a clear impact on Huxley, and it is here that we see the beginnings
of a major shift in both the concept of UNESCO’s participation in the human rights
process and the eventual outcome. As Huxley concludes the memo:
I hope to hear from you in the very near future as regards the names of those
people you think we should get for the Conference on the Rights of Man.
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Personally I feel we should limit it to about twelve people, if possible all of them
from Western Europe, as the matter is urgent.
In other words, to be clear, the original plan for the UNESCO conference that would
produce the philosophical content to be adopted directly into the forthcoming UN
“international bill of rights” was to be based on a small group of Western European
academic philosophers; this was the group that was intended to give the world the
“unified and unifying background of thought” that Huxley had argued for in his 1946
treatise. I underscore this fact at this point because it demonstrates that the radically
altered form that the UNESCO process would soon take was completely ad hoc and
based not on a matter of principle or a well-developed logic of inquiry but rather on
the exigencies of time. As we will see, Huxley and Havet were keeping a close eye on
developments at Lake Success and they knew that they must be first out of the gate if
UNESCO was to play a fundamental role in shaping the content of what became the
The very next day, March 4, with the site of the conference now set for Paris,
Havet responded to Huxley in a key memo.
At this time, he acknowledged that “it
would be difficult to fix a date for the conference before the end of the month of
May” and he suggested a date somewhere between May 26 and May 30. In the memo,
Huxley tellingly underlined in pen these suggested dates. Far from making the
conference a public event, Havet recommended that the “work sessions” be kept
private and limited to the assembled philosophers and members of his staff. Even
more important, Havet said that for reasons of financial economy, the UNESCO
delegation in Paris should be consulted first for specialists within its ranks who might
be willing to participate. After that, potential participants should be surveyed from
among those “living nearby.” As would be expected, this meant for Havet that French
philosophers (in Paris or elsewhere) would likely make up the bulk of the twelve or so
participants that Huxley specified.
Again, with events developing rapidly, we can see how the structure of the planned
conference of philosophers had narrowed even further once the problem of timing
had become a critical factor. By early March, Havet and Huxley had moved from the
idea of a select meeting of the very best (albeit Western European) thinkers to the
entirely pragmatic solution of either scouring their own hallways at UNESCO for
“specialists” with some interest and capabilities in philosophy, or turning to those in
the immediate region. Havet then said that if this very local search did not turn up
enough participants, the search should quickly (and perhaps simultaneously) be
widened. He then went on to suggest a “provisional” list of names for the Paris
meeting, and Huxley, again thinking in terms of practical details rather than the
quality of the participants and their potential contributions, counted off the names
from the top in pen in the margins. It is a curious list that reveals much about both
the dominant role that the heretofore unheralded Havet played in the UNESCO
process and the extent to which a “global survey” on the idea of human rights was
never, and could never be, part of the original idea for UNESCO’s “collaboration
with the United Nations Commission on the Rights of Man.”
So who was Jacques Havet, a figure who has been largely absent from the history
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of UNESCO’s role in the UDHR drafting process? Although he was only twenty-
eight years old in 1947, and thus a much younger partner to the world-renowned and
sixty-year-old Julian Huxley, the two of them came from parallel and similar elite
worlds, with the difference being that the English elite at the time was still very much
bound up with ancestry and family legacy. By contrast, the French intellectual and
political elite by mid-twentieth century owed something to the late-eighteenth century
meritocratic system represented (at least in theory) by the grandes e
´coles, the conduits
of power in France to which candidates gain entry through ranking on national exami-
nations. Havet was in many ways an exemplar of this meritocratic system.
Born in the small commune of Airaines in northern France, he gained entrance to
the famous breeding ground for French philosophers, the E
´cole normale supe
(ENS), and studied there on the eve of the German occupation of France.
transition from a small-town boy into a normalien both marked his capacity for bril-
liance in the world of ideas and brought him within the cloistered world of normalien
professional networks, as we will soon see. But another critical event in his pre-
UNESCO life must certainly have shaped Havet’s desire to play a direct—if behind
the scenes—role in the creation of an “international bill of rights.” During the war,
his father was killed at the Buchenwald concentration camp as a political deportee.
We know that Havet had graduated from the ENS in 1939 as the prestigious
“cacique,” that is, the number one student in his class, and that he was by 194243 a
graduate student in philosophy at the Sorbonne working on a book on Immanuel
Kant for his degree under the direction of the newly appointed professor Henri
Gouhier (who became well-known later for having supervised Pierre Bourdieu’s
undergraduate thesis).
However, according to Ste
´phane Israe
¨l, Havet decided to
dedicate himself to the cause of liberation and put his work on Kant aside, planning
to publish it after the war “with the support of Sartre.”
According to UNESCO
records, Havet was “in charge of a mission in the cabinet of the Prefect of Liberation
for Maine-et Loire” in 1944 until the end of the war. In 1946, the year he became the
head of UNESCO’s Philosophy and Humanistic Studies subsection (after serving in
the Secretariat of the UNESCO Preparatory Commission), his book, Kant et le
proble‘me du temps, was published in Paris by the prestigious publishing house Galli-
Havet was thus a legitimately up-and-coming French philosopher at the time he
and Huxley were planning the UNESCO conference. However, despite the fact that
Huxley described Havet at the time to a correspondent as the “brilliant young head
of UNESCO’s philosophy programme,” Havet must have known—with some
bitterness, perhaps, given both his personal history and his bureaucratic role—that he
could not be directly included among the participants.
In the event, the list that he presented to Huxley in the memo of March 4was
weighted heavily toward the leading French thinkers, many of them fellow normaliens
from the previous generations. The possible French participants on Havet’s list
included Georges Gurvitch, E
´tienne Gilson, Gaston Berger, Rene
´Le Senne, Jean
Hyppolite, and “either Sartre or Merleau-Ponty.” Two people listed were from
Belgium; one from the Netherlands; from the UK, Havet wrote, “Bertrand Russell
and perhaps someone else you know”; and one was from Norway, bringing the total
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34 Humanity Spring 2017
to eleven or twelve. Regarding the Americans, Havet wrote that “although it might be
impossible to invite them,” certain American thinkers were capable of making a
“constructive contribution.” At this point, Havet added two Americans to the list:
Richard McKeon, who would come to play an oversized role throughout the
UNESCO process, and the Harvard University idealist philosopher William Ernest
Hocking, bringing the total to fourteen, as indicated by Huxley in his notations on
the memo.
Havet concluded with a short section on the goals of the conference, which would
also figure prominently throughout the UNESCO process as it unfolded over the next
year and half, in the historiography of the process itself, and in the broader ideological
(mis-)interpretations of the UNESCO process and its implications for understanding
the validity and cross-cultural legitimacy of human rights up to the present. Here
Havet wrote that the objective in convening the meeting was to “obtain an agreement”
on “positive conclusions” that could be transmitted “as fast as possible” to the Drafting
Committee of the CHR. This prefigured approach to the question of human rights
appeared time and time again in the process and this orientation will ultimately
undermine the way the resulting UNESCO analysis has been received by later genera-
In other words, despite the desire—by Huxley, most prominently—to use the
philosophers conference to critically examine points of possible consensus, as well as
points of possible contradiction, in the idea of a universal declaration of human rights,
Havet (again, possibly because of his recent personal experience of tragedy) decided
to structure the event so that participants would start with the conclusion (a universal
consensus exists on human rights) and work their way back to the premises. Much
like the shaping effect of the Humphrey (or “Secretariat”) Draft on the eventual
UDHR itself, Havet’s emphasis on achieving a particular outcome would form the
basis of later instructions to participants, descriptions of the process, and the eventual
analysis that UNESCO would produce and send to the CHR in the United States.
Between Havet’s March 4memo to Huxley, and March 27—roughly three work
weeks—the UNESCO process was rocked by a major alteration, one that would
forever change the way the history of the process was understood. Moreover, without
overdramatizing the consequences of this shift, it is possible to make a strong
argument that it played some role in the way UNESCO as an institution
developed—and, even more important, did not develop—in the critical first years of
its existence: a time when the institutional logics of the broader postwar international
system were still in flux. The consulted archives are silent between Huxley and Havet
during these three weeks, which is a curious gap given (as we have seen) that they
were engaged in an almost daily intra-office correspondence about the “urgent” need
to convene the conference of philosophers as soon as possible. But we can be sure of
two important developments: (1) at Huxley’s direction, the idea for a late-May private
conference of philosophers at UNESCO House was abandoned; and (2) Havet was
tasked with producing the set of written materials that would form the basis for what
replaced the scrapped meeting.
On March 27,1947, a two-part document appears in the archival record, written
originally in French and accompanied by a subsequent English version on April 1. The
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author of these two documents was certainly the twenty-eight-year-old Jacques Havet
himself, since a draft version of the March 27 materials, with Huxley’s minor correc-
tions in pen, was sent from Havet to Huxley. These materials, referred to as
“UNESCO/Phil/1/1947” in both the archives and in subsequent correspondence,
The Commission on Human Rights of the U.N. is to prepare this summer a
Declaration on the Rights of Man for the entire world. There is no need to
underline the importance of this event, an importance both philosophical and
practical, with both immediate and lasting effects. UNESCO has been informed
by the Chairman of the Commission that its views on the principles underlying
any such Declaration would be welcomed.
It then continues:
The General Conference of UNESCO had already envisaged a Conference of
Philosophers to undertake a general discussion of the subject. However, in view of
the immediacy of the task, it has proven necessary to alter this procedure and ask
for contributions in written form, from Governments and from individuals. The
Director-General is accordingly communicating with Member Governments,
requesting them to lay before their National Commissions, Co-operating Bodies,
or other appropriate groups, the problem of formulating an analysis of the
problem of human rights and its underlying principles, so as to permit the formu-
lation of a Declaration of Human Rights for the modern world in its present
Havet then wrote that UNESCO would convene a “Drafting Committee” that would
use the responses in order to create a “single document” that would be sent to the
CHR to permit it to be able to “fram[e] . . . a Declaration of the Rights of Man.”
Havet requested that contributions be sent directly to him via airmail and that they
be written “preferably, though not necessarily, . . . in English or French, and should
be between 2,000 and 4,000 words in length.”
What follows this memorandum/invitation letter is a remarkable fourteen-page
´moire,” which, as Havet explained, “set[s] forth the general framework of
ideas in which we hope contributors will treat the problem.” Although the first part
of the document reviews the history of human rights declarations with an emphasis
on the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the
Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Havet the philosopher cannot avoid briefly compli-
cating the story by discussing the impact that the theory of evolution and Marxism
have had on the history of human rights. After this excursion into critical reflection,
the document then dwells at length on the importance of finding a consensus on
human rights given the broader stakes involved. It ends with a long list of suggested
rights and freedoms and asks the recipients to decide whether these should, or should
not, be included in a final list prepared by UNESCO.
It is clear that this general framework of ideas reflected Havet’s own perspective
on the question of human rights and, even more important, his desire to use this
document to shape the altered UNESCO process, UNESCO’s eventual report to the
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CHR, and, ultimately, the content of what became the UDHR itself. As we will see,
Havet’s general framework of ideas did structure many of the contributions that were
received. Even more, it did form the conceptual basis for the report that emerged from
the UNESCO Drafting Committee. Yet, for reasons beyond Havet’s control, his
contribution to human rights played no role in the actual content of the UDHR that
was adopted on December 10,1948 (even if, for reasons that cannot be analyzed here,
the language of his general framework of ideas and the form and content of the
UDHR are similar in many respects).
It is important to underscore what a radical shift in the UNESCO process these
materials represent. Up through mid-March 1947, Havet and Huxley believed that the
best way for UNESCO to influence the drafting of the UDHR was to convene a small
meeting, in private, of Western European (largely French) philosophers in order to
elucidate the universal principles of human rights that could command a global
consensus. Presumably, these philosophers would have been able to use deductive
logic in order to articulate, devoid of cultural or empirical influences, the most
reasonable a priori bases for a bill of rights “for the entire world.” The assumptions
underlying such a perspective are obviously open to question but in this context go
beyond the scope of this essay.
However, as we have seen, because of exigencies of
time and space, Huxley and Havet took the decision to abandon the conference
of philosophers and replace it with something significantly more ambitious and,
as history would demonstrate, fraught with political, cultural, and ideological
What was this radically new process, exactly? Beginning in earnest on March 27,
both Huxley and Havet undertook what can only be described as a blizzard writing
campaign, in which both men sent “UNESCO/Phil/1/1947” out to national govern-
ments, individuals, professional associations, trade unions, newspapers, heads of
universities, political parties, and many others, headed by a short cover letter
explaining the context behind the memorandum and aide-me
´moire. One must
appreciate how enormous this undertaking must have been as a simple act of
document production in a time of typewriters and carbon-copies.
Havet took charge of sending the invitation letters and materials in French to his
network of French intellectuals, those in the wider Francophone world (such as French
Belgium), and to those who he assumed were more comfortable corresponding in
French than in English (including many in the Soviet bloc countries). His cover letter
almost never varied and simply invited the recipient to provide a contribution.
Huxley, on the other hand, personalized each cover letter to the interests of the
recipient, and these personal additions open a window into the rarefied world that
Huxley inhabited, his view of how knowledge of universal value should be produced
and by whom, and just how culturally, regionally, and politically restrictive the
Western European elite worldview was at this point in the mid-twentieth century.
To give just one example, on April 3, Huxley sent the human rights materials to
Bertrand Russell, a close friend. Russell, one the world’s most famous thinkers at the
time, had just published his A History of Western Philosophy in 1945, which became a
surprise world best-seller and would lead to him being awarded the Nobel Prize for
Literature three years later in 1950. Huxley begins his note “My dear Bertie” and goes
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on to say, “I hope very much you will help us over this project which I am sure you
will agree is of great intrinsic interest and of great importance at the present juncture.”
He ends with, “I feel any symposium on this subject would be sadly incomplete
without a contribution from you. I hope you all flourish. Best wishes from both of us
[that is, from Huxley and his wife Juliette].”
Despite this strong urging, Russell
never responded to his good friend Huxley (at least in writing) and Russell did not
send his views on human rights to UNESCO.
Although the microhistory of this stage of the UNESCO process is a fascinating
and critical one (who received the materials?, who responded?, who refused and why?),
its full unpacking and analysis are being undertaken elsewhere.
Nevertheless, by way
of establishing an accurate historical record, several important points can be made.
First, the list of recipients of UNESCO/Phil/1/1947, as varied as it was, was the
product of two people—Huxley and Havet. That is, it clearly did not emerge from a
systematic process by which a set of principles for undertaking a global survey was
developed (perhaps by a committee, assembled for the purpose), a consensus
document crafted to articulate this set of principles, and, finally, an effort made to
survey the contemporary world’s perspectives on human rights taking into consider-
ation differences in language, class, gender, culture, religion, region, political system,
and sexual orientation.
In fact, the process of sending out the materials was largely based on Huxley’s and
Havet’s own professional and personal networks, acknowledging, as we have seen, that
in Huxley’s case this meant seemingly every world-historical thinker, artist, or political
figure in the British (mostly English), and, to a lesser extent, Western European, and,
to an even lesser extent, American world at the time. Many of these famous figures,
whose names would be immediately recognizable, did, in fact, receive UNESCO/Phil/
1/1947, and some of them even replied.
What we know now about the actual process
by which this survey was conducted over a rushed several months in spring 1947
definitively undermines the dominant historical account that describes it in various
ways as a global study that managed to demonstrate empirically the universality of the
claims that would later appear in the UDHR. This orthodox account of the UNESCO
process must now be rejected.
Second, as we will see below, the ad hoc process of sending out UNESCO/Phil/1/
1947—often with a request, especially if it was made to a government official, to
forward it widely within the country in a form of snowball sampling—was the
beginning of the end of UNESCO’s ability to influence the content of the UDHR.
Because of the strong negative political reaction from UN officials in the United
States, high-ranking members of the U.S. State Department, and even members of
the CHR working at Lake Success, the report based on the UNESCO survey would
be later rejected, thereby foreclosing the possibility that UNESCO would play a
crucial role in the UDHR drafting process.
Finally, the archival record demonstrates that a totally nonsystematic process was
used once responses to UNESCO/Phil/1/1947 started to trickle in by April and May
of 1947. When the responses were studied in June 1947, no selection process was used,
no logic of analysis developed. Basically, UNESCO used a first come, first used model,
and these first responses formed the pool for all subsequent uses, including the 1949
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38 Humanity Spring 2017
UNESCO publication that has been the source of so much misunderstanding.
short, the radically altered UNESCO process was ad hoc, idiosyncratic, nonrepresen-
tative in the extreme, and, like the process it replaced, shaped above all by time and
political pressures.
“We Went Too Far”
By May 6, in a memo to Huxley, Havet described the state of things. Despite the fact
that over a hundred invitations were sent out in March and early April, UNESCO
had received only fourteen responses by early May. In addition, nine people had
written to promise contributions, and twelve had written to refuse the invitation.
At the same time, Havet and Huxley had begun a parallel process, which was to
invite a small number of participants to serve, as we have seen, on a UNESCO
Drafting Committee that would meet in June 1947 to compile whatever responses had
been received by that point, analyze them, prepare a summary report, and forward
this report to the CHR in time for it to incorporate its finding into the UDHR. The
eventual committee, which met between June 26 and July 2,1947, at UNESCO
House in Paris, was composed of the following: Harold Laski, Richard McKeon, E. H.
Carr, Luc Somerhausen, Pierre Auger, E
´tienne Gilson, and Georges Friedmann. A
Chinese consultant working at UNESCO headquarters at the time, Chung-Shu Lo,
was added to the panel at the last minute but did not play an active role in the
deliberations and disappears from records of subsequent committee meetings and
minutes of deliberations (although he did produce a contribution to the survey,
which appears later in UNESCO’s 1949 volume Human Rights: Comments and
But on May 8, the first signs of trouble for Huxley and Havet appeared in the
form of a letter from Arthur Compton, U.S. representative to UNESCO, written at
the behest of the U.S. State Department. Compton was one of the most influential
people in the United States at the time, in many ways surpassing Huxley in his scien-
tific reputation and world stature. Compton had won the Nobel Prize in Physics as
far back as 1927, played a leadership role in the Manhattan Project that developed the
atomic bombs used in the war, and was the chancellor of a major American university.
As we have seen, Huxley and Havet had used a scattershot and uncoordinated
approach to sending out the invitations to contribute on the question of human rights.
These had been sent out to national governments as well as to individuals and private
associations. But by April 1947, the CHR had already begun its work through the
UN, which was being carried out largely at the level of member states. Thus, word
started to reach the CHR that UNESCO had already launched a robust process that
seemed to conflict with, or even duplicate, the one that was taking place at Lake
Success. Even worse, the letters that Havet and Huxley were sending along with their
solicitations were being read by some to mean that UNESCO had been given a
mandate by the UN CHR to direct the UDHR drafting process.
Compton, despite using restrained diplomatic language, nevertheless took Huxley
to task in a way that leaves no doubt that the American side saw itself as both in
charge of the nominally UN-based UDHR drafting process and, even more reveal-
ingly, as holding sway over the direction of UNESCO itself (the United States was
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the largest financial supporter of UNESCO in 1947 by orders of magnitude).
Compton told Huxley that the “Department of State feels it is proper for UNESCO
to solicit the expression of opinion on human rights from philosophers,” but that it
was very much not proper for these solicitations to go to governments (Huxley had
sent letters to many heads of state by this time, primarily in Europe). Compton
went on:
Furthermore it is felt that any inquiries on the philosophical issues which might
be made by UNESCO to member Governments would hardly be likely to produce
helpful results at this time and might be interrupted as duplicating work to be
undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights . . . In view of the fact that
your communication to member Governments on this subject may not be entirely
clear with regard to what is desired specifically of the member Governments, we
[suggest] the possibility of a supplementary circular letter referring to the original
communication making clear UNESCO’s position on this matter in order to avoid
confusion on the part of member States.
Compton then requested that Huxley “be good enough to let [him] know of any
action [he] may take in connection with this matter.”
Perhaps sealing the fate of the UNESCO process and the role it might have played
in relation to the UDHR drafting process, Huxley replied to Compton the very next
He informed Compton that “no useful purpose would be served by further
communication,” that “no enquiries from governments on the subject [had been
received], and [that] useful papers are beginning to come in from individual contrib-
utors.” Huxley also tried to outflank Compton from the UN side by invoking the
approval of none other than John P. Humphrey. As Huxley wrote, “[Humphrey’s]
conclusion was that, having launched our own enquiry, we should go ahead as
proposed, the risk of a possible duplication with the Human Rights Commission of
the Economic and Social Council being in fact not serious.”
Of course, as we have seen, and as we now know, Humphrey was in an ideal
position to tell Huxley that the risk of duplication was not serious, since by May 1947
Humphrey had already finished the first, and most important draft, of the UDHR
himself. Nevertheless, Huxley’s refusal at this point to formally pull back UNESCO’s
ambitions in the process set in motion the resistance from the United States side that
would end up shutting the door on UNESCO, leaving only a series of small meetings
in Paris and the misinterpreted UNESCO’s Human Rights volume as a result.
Sensing that the momentum of the broader process was beginning to turn
ominously against UNESCO, Huxley decided to make one final political effort to
save it. On May 12, he left aside the channels of bureaucratic hierarchy and wrote
directly to Eleanor Roosevelt herself, copying all the relevant UNESCO divisions in
Paris and UNESCO’s office in New York City.
The letter was mostly a vague
summary of the UNESCO solicitation process, but in it he acknowledged that
UNESCO’s Drafting Committee would not be able to finish its work before the early
June meeting of the CHR.
Despite this, he hoped that the CHR might still consider
the work of UNESCO at some later time, and he ended with, “I trust that the results
of our enquiry into the Philosophical basis of a new statement of the rights of man
Goodale: UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration 39
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40 Humanity Spring 2017
will be of assistance in the discussion of the Commission on Human Rights. The
comparison of so much material from such diverse sources cannot but be enlight-
This is the last correspondence in the archive between Huxley and Roosevelt and
there is no indication that she pursued the matter of UNESCO’s participation further
(although others certainly did). But the signs of displeasure with UNESCO’s efforts
to intervene in the UDHR drafting process widened. When diplomatic concern was
expressed from Huxley’s own United Kingdom, it served as the coup de gra
shutting the door for good on Huxley’s (and, thus, Havet’s) designs. In a June 19
letter marked “personal,” Claude Berkeley, Huxley’s trusted executive assistant,
responded to concerns about UNESCO and Huxley expressed by a high-ranking
member of the British Ministry of Education (who also happened to be a friend of
Berkeley’s). Berkeley wrote, “I think we did shoot rather fast on this one, and there
was certainly a feeling in Lake Success that we were trying to steal the limelight from
the Human Rights Commission.” Although, as he went on, John P. Humphrey (for
reasons discussed above), gave his tacit approval to the UNESCO inquiry, “for your
ear I must add that we went too far when we stated in our circular letter to govern-
ments that we had been invited ‘by the Human Rights Commission’ to contribute
The rest of the narrative history, given the purposes of this essay, can be described
relatively briefly. Between June 26 and July 2, the UNESCO Drafting Committee
met in Paris. By that time, UNESCO had received forty-four responses to its solicita-
tions. The committee also reviewed a statement on the rights of man sent by H. G.
Wells and a separate study of the rights of man in the USSR prepared by an outside
expert contracted by UNESCO for the purpose. McKeon was elected rapporteur of
the meeting; E. H. Carr was elected chairman. Rene
´Cassin, French delegate to the
CHR, who would win the 1968 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to both promote the
general cause of human rights after 1948 and promote himself as the “father of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” stopped by the meetings to give his
“encouragement in a task which . . . will be most useful to the Commission on the
Rights of Man . . . when it meets at Geneva [the following December].”
Less than one week after the end of the meeting, McKeon produced a document
titled “The Grounds of an International Declaration of Human Rights” (likely
working in communication with Havet, since its language overlaps with Havet’s aide-
´moire of March 27). Like Havet’s document, McKeon’s is also reproduced in
UNESCO’s Human Rights and has been much discussed in the literature.
What can
be said is that McKeon’s report was sent out to the other members of the committee
for comment. As with so many of the stages of the process, the native French speakers
on the committee either did not respond or provided the most cursory of feedback
(despite Havet’s best efforts to give a French-language summary of the document for
them). Even Laski and Carr did not have much to say about McKeon’s report,
although Carr did say that “the rapporteur’s document is too wordy for my personal
taste, but I knew that this was inevitable. And there are not many remarks that I have
to make.”
Carr would later, in a September 1947 letter to Huxley, dissociate himself
from the UNESCO process and even the idea of a declaration of human rights itself,
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explaining “you can compromise in politics, but not—unless you are either stupid or
intellectually dishonest—in philosophy.”
On August 19,1947, the CHR in Lake Success acknowledged receipt of numerous
copies of the UNESCO report (including Havet’s initial memo) sent on August 1;at
the same time, Huxley sent Humphrey fifty copies of the report. Even if UNESCO’s
efforts to shape the drafting of the UDHR would prove to be in vain, Huxley did his
best to make sure that the report was in the right hands. On September 24, a smaller
version of the UNESCO Drafting Committee met in Paris to begin the process of
producing a book from the solicitation process. Their work over one day consisted of
selecting a subset from the final group of responses to be published verbatim without
editorial comment, along with Havet’s memo and McKeon’s report to the CHR.
Huxley, in particular, felt that the introduction to the book should be written by
an outsider, someone not on the Drafting Committee itself. During the UNESCO
Second General Conference in Mexico City (November/December 1947), Huxley was
deeply moved by the presidential address of the French natural law philosopher
Jacques Maritain (who had also received one of the original UNESCO solicitations).
Maritain had spoken on the topic of human rights and had emphasized the impor-
tance of producing a universal declaration of human rights, and he would repeat
this idea in the introduction of UNESCO’s 1949 Human Rights: Comments and
Nevertheless, Maritain was not Huxley’s or Havet’s first choice to write the intro-
duction until much later; his name is not mentioned in any of the archives of the
UNESCO process with the exception of Havet’s list of French recipients of the
UNESCO/Phil/1/1947 solicitation. Maritain was also not on the list of potential parti-
cipants for the original “conference of philosophers” that was abandoned in early
March. In his report to UNESCO on behalf of the philosophy subsection for the
Second General Conference, Havet described the book project and issued a general
call for names of people who might be qualified to write an introduction. At the same
time, Huxley was soliciting opinions on the question. Until the Second General
Conference, two names topped his list: the Dutch phenomenologist Hendrik Josephus
Pos, “who is to be President of the Philosophic Congress next year,” and Charlie
Dunbar Broad, who was at the time the Knightbridge Professor of moral philosophy
at Cambridge.
During this time, Havet and Huxley did receive several curious suggestions for the
task of writing the introduction. For example, on December 1, Huxley received a letter
from a certain Y. C. James Yen, president of the “American-Chinese Committee of
the Mass Education Movement, Inc.” Yen recommended Richard J. Walsh, someone
who would be “very acceptable” in “the Asiatic countries.” After concluding his letter
of recommendation, Yen added in a postscript, “I’m sure you must have met Walsh
and his wife, Pearl S. Buck, the Nobel Prize Winner.”
In March 1948, well after the speech by Maritain in Mexico City, Huxley had still
not selected someone to write the introduction to the book. In his response to Yen,
Huxley wrote:
I have a number of possible editors in mind . . . Our latest thinking . . . is that we
may turn to a very famous figure indeed to take ultimate responsibility for the
Goodale: UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration 41
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42 Humanity Spring 2017
symposium, the editorial work being carried out by one or two good youngsters
under this person’s direction. If we succeed, you will, I think, agree that this would
be a very good way of carrying out this important task.
However, this “very famous figure” is not revealed in the archival record and the
question of the introduction does not reappear even as a third meeting was being
planned for July 69,1948. During this last meeting in Paris—attended by McKeon,
Carr, Somerhausen, and Laski (the native French speakers, with the exception of
Somerhausen, had all dropped out of the process by this time)—the group worked on
a manuscript that had been largely completed after the September 1947 meeting (with
Havet’s significant editorial hand). Even if the group discussed the question of the
introduction, this topic does not appear in the report of the meeting drawn up by
Havet (who acted as secretary for the committee). Although the consulted archival
record is silent on the point, Huxley must have reached out to Maritain soon after the
early July meeting, because the manuscript of what became UNESCO’s Human Rights
was completed by September 1948. Maritain’s introduction draws heavily from his
Mexico City speech and expresses a natural law orientation to the question of human
rights and the importance of conceiving of human rights in light of the world’s diverse
As for the rest, the UDHR was adopted just a few months later, in December, a
product of its own complicated and also widely misinterpreted history. In that same
month, Julian Huxley’s attenuated term in office came to an end during the Third
General Conference in Beirut. He was succeeded as director-general by the Mexican
politician Jaime Torres Bodet. And as for the “brilliant young head of UNESCO’s
philosophy programme,” Jacques Havet? The twenty-nine-year-old went on to have a
distinguished thirty-four-year career at UNESCO, serving as director of the
Department of Social Sciences in the 1970s and retiring in November 1980 as deputy
assistant director-general for the social sciences.
Conclusion: The UNESCO (and UDHR) That Might Have Been
This revised history of UNESCO’s role in the first two years of the postwar human
rights process reveals, among other things, the fact that the eventual status of
UNESCO as merely one among dozens of specialized agencies of the UN was very
much in play at the time. Indeed, working on the basis of Huxley’s grand vision for
UNESCO as the repository of universal knowledge of the world’s different cultures
and histories, Huxley and Havet initiated a process that was meant to form the
conceptual basis of what became the UDHR. Had this happened, it is not unthinkable
that UNESCO would have become established as a sort of superagency of the UN
with basic responsibilities that spanned the entire range of the UN’s activities in peace-
building, international law, culture, and universal education. Moreover, Huxley’s and
Havet’s work on human rights was also motivated by the belief that UNESCO had a
special role to play as the guardian of critical, apolitical international relations and
study within the broader UN system. Huxley, in particular, was determined to carve
out a place for UNESCO that would, in a sense, go beyond what he perceived to be
the largely political mandate of the UN itself. In the event, UNESCO did not evolve
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into a superagency with these kinds of foundational responsibilities. This recon-
struction of the UNESCO human rights process points to at least two possible
First, the dominant position of the United States in the unsettled firmament of
international institutions during this period cannot be overstated. The United States
emerged from the war in a unique position. The country’s economy was booming
because of the war effort and its national infrastructure, unique among the victorious
nations, had been spared the kind of devastation that the Western European powers
(and the Soviet Union) had experienced. The Marshall Plan, through which the
United States would grant billions of dollars in aid to Western Europe, was being
negotiated at the same time the UNESCO human rights process was unfolding (the
Plan officially began in April 1948).
At the same time, the Unites States was by far the largest financial supporter of
UNESCO. Records from the First and Second General Conferences indicate that the
United States’ financial contribution was double that of the next largest contributor
(the United Kingdom) and dwarfed the contributions of the other countries. The
United States was thus in a position to play an oversized role in the shape of the
postwar international landscape. On this landscape, the status of UNESCO was
viewed with suspicion by members of the United States international delegation even
before the creation of UNESCO itself, based on a number of factors, including the
leading position of the British and French in its emergence, its location in Paris, and
the unhappiness with the selection of Huxley as the first director-general. At all points
in the UNESCO human rights process, the hidden hand of the United States delega-
tions can be seen working against UNESCO and ultimately denying it any influence
in the drafting of the UDHR.
And second, the broad vision for UNESCO was never realized ironically in part
because of missteps by the person who articulated it—Julian Huxley. Huxley came
from a world of elite power in which personal contacts, cosmopolitan perspectives,
and shared understandings of hierarchy were the basis for action, some of which could
change the world for the good. But by depending on this mode of power in his
scattershot solicitations to contribute to an “international declaration of the rights of
he confronted other modes of power, other conventions of international rela-
tions, and other ideas about the role UNESCO should properly play—in this process
and more generally. In the end, UNESCO was circumscribed into a more limited
vision for its future, one that focused on education and the promotion of cultural
heritage. By raising the white flag in the face of overwhelming pressure from the
United States, and putting all the emphasis on the human rights book project, Huxley
himself did much to solidify the future of UNESCO by the time he left office in 1948.
But if this history reveals a UNESCO that might have been, what about the
UDHR itself? Compared with what we know now about the actual drafting history
that produced the UDHR, the UNESCO process, as ad hoc and limited as it was,
nevertheless represented a radically different epistemology, one that points to the
possibility of a “universal declaration of human rights” grounded in a different vision
of cross-cultural legitimacy. At least for several months in early 1947, Huxley’s corre-
spondence with contributors to the UNESCO process urged them to explore different
Goodale: UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration 43
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44 Humanity Spring 2017
opinions, involve different religious traditions, and emphasize the critical engagement
with the political circumstances surrounding the push to produce a “Declaration on
the Rights of Man for the entire world.”
As we have seen, although some of the contributors responded in kind, the pres-
sures of time and the limited scope of the solicitations meant that what resulted did
not, and could not, produce an alternative vision of human rights to rival what became
the UDHR. Nevertheless, the idea of grounding a transnational and transcultural
statement of human rights in the empirical complexities of cultural, historical, and
religious difference endures as a provocative, and even necessary, corrective to the
legacy of the UDHR. To a certain extent, the post–Cold War practice of human
rights, as it has been documented and analyzed by anthropologists and other quali-
tative social scientists, is accomplishing, after the fact, what the UNESCO process
could not. But the task of building a global consensus on human rights, based on the
delicate balance between a respect for cultural difference and the promotion of
panhuman moral and political values, remains both open and vital.
1. A further documentary reconstruction of UNESCO’s participation in the early history of
human rights that also examines at length the ideological dimensions of this history will appear as
Mark Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World: A Prehistory of Human Rights (Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford University Press, 2018).
2. This essay is based largely on archival research in the UNESCO Archives and Library in
Paris. It is my pleasure to acknowledge the expert support of staff members, including Petra van
den Born and Nooshin Dadmehr of UNESCO Library, Adele Torrance of UNESCO Archives,
and Jens Boel, UNESCO’s chief archivist.
3. The first headquarters of UNESCO were located from 1946 to 1958 in the hastily retrofitted
Hotel Majestic on the Avenue Kle
´ber, where “working conditions were not exactly ideal. The
largest bedrooms were allocated to secretaries, several of whom had to share them and store their
files in the wardrobes, while middle-grade professionals were put in disused bathrooms, where the
only place to keep their papers was the bathtub.” See “UNESCO House,” accessed September 16,
4. See A Chronology of UNESCO: 19451987 (Paris: United Nations Educational Scientific and
Cultural Organization, 1987), accessed September 16,2016,
5. UNESCO, Proceedings of the First General Conference, held at UNESCO House, Paris, from
20 November to 10 December 1946 (Paris: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Orga-
nization, 1947), 236, accessed September 16,2016,
114580e.pdf. Havet emphasized that the project was “particularly requested” by the Mexican dele-
gation to the UNESCO Preparatory Commission. The proceedings indicate that the French
delegation moved that the project be accepted and that the UK delegation seconded the motion.
See UNESCO, Proceedings of the First General Conference (1947), 177.
6. Truman quoted in Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins,
Drafting, Intent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 4.
7. See Julian Huxley, UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy (London: Preparatory
Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 1946), 41.
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8. Although the history of the CHR and its smaller Drafting Committee will not be taken up
here except as it is directly relevant to understanding the role of the UNESCO human rights
process, it must be said that we know in hindsight that, as Johannes Morsink has put it, in his
definitive, nearly hour-by-hour history of the UDHR drafting process, the “baby was [already]
born” by about February 28,1947, when John P. Humphrey presented a first draft of 48 articles to
Eleanor Roosevelt (drawing in part on reviews of existing declarations of rights). See Morsink, The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights,29. She had instructed Humphrey to create this first draft,
working by himself, during a tea party at her apartment in Washington, D.C., on February 14,1947.
See John Peters Humphrey, Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure (New York:
Transnational Publishers, 1984). Despite the vigorous debates and participation by a wide swath of
delegates and interest groups from many regions of the world over the subsequent year and half,
the fact remains that the content, form, and normative style of the eventual UDHR were
prefigured by one person, John P. Humphrey, before the Drafting Committee had even met for
the first time. See Mark Goodale, Surrendering to Utopia: An Anthropology of Human Rights
(Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2009); A. J. Hobbins, “Rene
´Cassin and the Daughter
of Time: The First Draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Fontanus 2(1989): 726;
Humphrey, Human Rights and the United Nations; and Morsink, The Universal Declaration of
Human Rights.
9. The condition of the UNESCO headquarters and staff living conditions had already
become a formal problem by the UNESCO Third General Conference, held in Beirut in
November and December of 1948. As the records of the proceedings show, a formal resolution was
adopted to improve working conditions at UNESCO to bring them in line with the UN and
other nascent so-called Specialized Agencies. See UNESCO, Records of the General Conference of
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: Third Session, Beirut 1948,
vol. 2,Resolutions (Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1949),
4546, accessed September 16,2016,
10. Memorandum from Jacques Havet to Julian Huxley, February 24,1947, UNESCO
Archives, AG 8Secretariat Records, Central Registry Collection, file Human Rights – Enquiry,
Public Opinion 342.7(100):301.153 A151. Unless otherwise indicated, all memoranda and letters
cited hereafter refer to the same archive. In this case, only the name and date of the document will
be used.
11. Memorandum from Julian Huxley to Jacques Havet, March 3,1947.
12. Ibid. (emphasis added).
13. Memorandum from Jacques Havet to Julian Huxley, March 4,1947.
14. See UNESCO, “Jacques Havet,” UNESCO Archives AtoM Catalogue, accessed
September 16,2016,
15. Ste
´phane Israe
¨l, Les e
´tudes et la guerre: Les normaliens dans la tourmente (19391945)(Paris:
´ditions rue d’Ulm, 2005).
16. Ibid., 24180, paragraph 16.
17. Huxley quoted in Paul J. Weindling, John W. Thompson: Psychiatrist in the Shadow of the
Holocaust (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2010), 12728.
18. Rather than, for example, the almost absurdly unrepresentative nature of later stages in
the process, which raises a series of other critical questions that are taken up elsewhere. See
Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World.
Goodale: UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration 45
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46 Humanity Spring 2017
19. UNESCO/Phil/1/1947, UNESCO Archives, AG 8Secretariat Records, Central Registry
Collection, file Human Rights—Enquiry, Public Opinion 342.7(100):301.153 A151.
20. Ibid. (emphasis added).
21. Ibid.
22. But see Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World.
23. Letter from Julian Huxley to Bertrand Russell, April 3,1947, UNESCO Archives, AG 8
Secretariat Records, Central Registry Collection, file Human Rights—Enquiry, Public Opinion
342.7(100): 301.153 A151.
24. Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World.
25. Although the majority refused for reasons that are also important, see ibid.
26. UNESCO, Human Rights: Comments and Interpretations (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1949).
27. Memorandum from Jacques Havet to Julian Huxley, May 6,1947.
28. Letter from Arthur Compton to Julian Huxley, May 8,1947.
29. Letter from Julian Huxley to Arthur Compton, May 9,1947.
30. Letter from Julian Huxley to Eleanor Roosevelt, May 12,1947.
31. Huxley’s and Havet’s use of “Drafting Committee” to describe the participants who would
meet in Paris to review responses to the UNESCO request was very likely a poor choice of
description in hindsight, since it must have occurred to Roosevelt—as it did to some recipients of
the UNESCO letter—that it replicated and caused confusion with the description of the CHR’s
own Drafting Committee.
32. Letter from Julian Huxley to Eleanor Roosevelt, May 12,1947.
33. Letter from Claude Berkeley to Richard Cowell, June 19,1947.
34. UNESCO/Phil/8/1947, UNESCO Archives, AG 8Secretariat Records, Central Registry
Collection, file Human Rights—Enquiry, Public Opinion 342.7(100):301.153 A151. On Cassin’s
evolving descriptions of his role in the drafting of the UDHR, see Hobbins, “Rene
´Cassin and the
Daughter of Time.”
35. Again, my discussion and analysis of McKeon’s report is being undertaken elsewhere.
Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World,.
36. Letter from E. H. Carr to Jacques Havet, July 18,1947.
37. Letter from E. H. Carr to Julian Huxley, September 29,1947.
38. Letter from Julian Huxley to E. H. Carr, October 16,1947.
39. Letter from Y.C. James Yen to Julian Huxley, December 1,1947.
40. Letter from Julian Huxley to Y.C. James Yen, March 12,1948.
41. Thus, although perhaps a lesser point, it can be said now that Maritain played a very
minor, after-the-fact role in the UNESCO human rights process. His introduction to Human
Rights (1949) is not really a proper critical introduction to the chapters in the book itself and he
played no part in the selection of the responses or their compilation. Since the ideas for his
introduction had already been largely drafted for his Mexico City speech, they could be easily
adapted for the book at a point at which Huxley’s time at UNESCO was rapidly drawing to a
close. I dwell on the question of Maritain’s participation because it too has been one that has been
generally misconstrued in the literature.
42. The title of this article should now be clear. The statement that eventually became the
UDHR was described in different ways in 1947 and 1948, even by people like Roosevelt and
Humphrey: “international bill of rights,” “declaration of the rights of man,” etc. Interestingly, the
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many participants in the UNESCO process never used “universal” and “human rights” to describe
the prospective document. My use of “UN Rights of Man Declaration” is meant to underscore
the extent to which there was much confusion and uncertainty even within the circles of people
charged—correctly, in the case of the CHR, incorrectly, in the case of UNESCO—with producing
the UDHR.
Goodale: UNESCO and the United Nations Rights of Man Declaration 47
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... Understanding the months and years before the adoption of the UDHR as a period of liminality has two advantages: first, it emphasizes the essential and often contradictory mix of ambiguity, confusion, and creative possibility within what I have called elsewhere (Goodale 2017) the "unsettled firmament" of the emerging international system; and second, it avoids the all-too-common tendency within the wider historiography of human rights to engage in post hoc historicizing by reading the events leading up to the adoption of the UDHR through the lens of much later developments. ...
... More important, during these early liminal postwar months and years, the vision for UNESCO in the new world order was bold, expansive, and ultimately controversial. Huxley had developed this vision at length in his 1946 ideological blueprint for the organization, in which he argued that UNESCO should guide the international community in developing a "universal philosophy" that would unite disparate cultural, political, economic, and religious traditions (Huxley 1946 The fine-grained details of the UNESCO human rights survey can only be summarized here (but see Goodale 2017Goodale , 2018aGoodale , 2018b declarations and a list of potential rights for respondents to consider. These documents were circulated to an impressive list of people and institutions, especially given the fact that Huxley was deeply connected with many political leaders, scientists, and artists in the largely British colonial world. ...
Full-text available
This chapter examines the status of socioeconomic rights (SER) by considering how SER were understood within wider debates over competing visions for the postwar order during a critical period of postconflict transition. What I will argue is that SER must be located on one side of an important normative divide: that which separates rights-based approaches to systemic social and economic problems from much more heterogenous non-rights based approaches. As we will see, SER share with civil and political rights one key commonality: they both make individual entitlements to minimum standards of treatment and provision the foundation for social, political, and legal life.
... In a letter dated December 30, 1945 to Dean Acheson from the State Department, MacLeish asked for immediate clarification of these matters: "I don't like to be made a fool of, and I don't like to make a fool of myself" (Winnick, 1983, p. 339). Goodale (2017) argues that the United States, the largest financial supporter of UNESCO, played a key role in restricting UNESCO's role in the post-World War II human rights debates: "The hidden hand of the United States delegations can be seen working against UNESCO" (p. 43). ...
After the Second World War, governments embraced multilateralism as a way to secure peace and collaboration among nation-states. New international organizations (IOs) were created for specific purposes, and they would become powerful agents of global governance and international politics, building up bureaucracies of specialized knowledge. The new global governance regime that emerged in the post-war period was characterized by bureaucracies forged by dialectical relationships among IOs, governments, and an array of communities consisting of experts who derived their authority from new knowledge and scientific instruments generated in the shape of statistics, indicators and comparative studies. The role of the United States that emerged as the major hegemonic world power after World War II, was instrumental in the formation of this new bureaucracy of global governance. This chapter focuses on two organizations that played a critical role in these developments: The Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The OEEC was the precursor of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that today is arguably the most influential policy shaper in the global education arena. The guiding question of the chapter is: What was the American influence on the bureaucratic modes of governance developed by the OEEC/OECD and UNESCO? Other connecting questions we are interested in are: What were the tensions within and between these organizations in building their institutional cultures and modes of governance and finding a role for themselves? How did the OECD – an organization created with the purpose of promoting economic development – assume its hegemonic position in the landscape of global governance of education, while UNESCO –which was founded as the specialized agency of the United Nations with a clear mandate for education – experienced a decline in its influence? To address these questions, we will identify the similarities and differences between UNESCO and the OEEC in terms of 1) the establishment of an institutional culture working for the promotion of a scientific worldview; 2) the relationship of the United States with both organizations; and 3) the educational activities and modes of governance of both organizations during the 1950s and early 1960s. The chapter draws on state-of-the-art research; historical publications; primary source materials harvested from the U.S. National Archives, the Rockefeller Archive Center and the UNESCO and OECD archives in Paris.
In the forty years since the U. N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no definitive history of the draftingprocess has been written. The events of the two years leading up to the adoption are dealt with in cursory and often conflicting fashion in mostgeneral studies of the Declaration. The McGill University Law Library houses the handwritten manuscript of the original draft of the Declaration, which is published here for the first time. The facts surrounding its production, evolution and early use are chronicled, based on primary U. N. documents as well as the memoirs of some of the principals in the process, including Eleanor Roosevelt, first Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights; Rene' Cassin, Nobel Laureate and French Representative on the Commission; and John Humphrey, a Canadian lawyer who was Director of the Human Rights Division of the U.N. Secretariat.
But see Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World
  • Ibid
21. Ibid. 22. But see Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World. 23. Letter from Julian Huxley to Bertrand Russell, April 3, 1947, UNESCO Archives, AG 8
Public Opinion 342.7 (100): 301.153 A 151 Although the majority refused for reasons that are also important, see ibid. 26
Secretariat Records, Central Registry Collection, file Human Rights—Enquiry, Public Opinion 342.7 (100): 301.153 A 151. 24. Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World. 25. Although the majority refused for reasons that are also important, see ibid. 26. UNESCO, Human Rights: Comments and Interpretations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949). 27. Memorandum from Jacques Havet to Julian Huxley, May 6, 1947. 28. Letter from Arthur Compton to Julian Huxley, May 8, 1947. 29. Letter from Julian Huxley to Arthur Compton, May 9, 1947. 30. Letter from Julian Huxley to Eleanor Roosevelt, May 12, 1947.
Letter from E. H. Carr to Jacques Havet
  • Unesco Goodale
  • Surveys
  • World
Goodale, UNESCO Surveys the World,. 36. Letter from E. H. Carr to Jacques Havet, July 18, 1947. 37. Letter from E. H. Carr to Julian Huxley, September 29, 1947. 38. Letter from Julian Huxley to E. H. Carr, October 16, 1947. 39. Letter from Y.C. James Yen to Julian Huxley, December 1, 1947. 40. Letter from Julian Huxley to Y.C. James Yen, March 12, 1948. 41. Thus, although perhaps a lesser point, it can be said now that Maritain played a very
It is my pleasure to acknowledge the expert support of staff members, including Petra van den Born and Nooshin Dadmehr of UNESCO Library, Adele Torrance of UNESCO Archives, and Jens Boel, UNESCO's chief archivist
  • Paris
Paris. It is my pleasure to acknowledge the expert support of staff members, including Petra van den Born and Nooshin Dadmehr of UNESCO Library, Adele Torrance of UNESCO Archives, and Jens Boel, UNESCO's chief archivist.
UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy
  • See Julian Huxley
See Julian Huxley, UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy (London: Preparatory