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16 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 27 (2003)
The Forgotten Crucible: The Latin American Influence on the Universal Human Rights Idea

handle is hein.journals/hhrj16 and id is 33 raw text is: The Forgotten Crucible:
The Latin American Influence on the
Universal Human Rights Idea
Mary Ann Glendon*
With the passage of time and the deaths of all the main participants, the
origins of the post-World War II international human rights project have
been obscured by forgetfulness and myth. The polestar of that movement,
the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is widely re-
garded as nothing more than a compendium of classical Western political
and civil liberties. Its provisions relating to the family and to social and eco-
nomic justice are routinely ignored, even by major human rights organiza-
tions. Yet those provisions, based in large part on Latin American models,
played a key role in helping the UDHR to gain wide acceptance among di-
verse cultures. Indeed, Latin American diplomats, documents, and traditions
had such a profound influence upon both the decision to include human
rights protection among the purposes of the UN, and the content of the
Universal Declaration, that it is fair to refer to Latin America as the forgot-
ten crucible of the universal human rights idea.
In April 1945, when delegates from fifty countries gathered in San Fran-
cisco to put the finishing touches on a proposed charter for the United Na-
tions, representatives of Latin American and Caribbean nations arrived with
a plan to work for the inclusion of an international bill of rights. That idea
was far from the minds of the Allied leaders who called the conference. Their
draft proposal for the new organization had been negotiated in a much more
exclusive meeting a few months earlier at Dumbarton Oaks. It was only af-
ter Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin had settled everything that was most
important to them that they announced a meeting where the rest of the Al-
lies could have a say. The Big Three leaders do not seem to have contem-
* Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. The author gratefully acknowledges the re-
search assistance of Sarah Glendon, and comments and suggestions from: John Hobbins, Associate Direc-
tor of Libraries, McGill University; Professor Paolo Carozza, Notre Dame Law School; colleagues at Har-
vard Law School, where this Article was presented at a faculty workshop; and colleagues at the Athe-
naeum Regina Aposrolorum in Rome, who commented on an earlier version presented as a public lec-

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