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      The Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the United Nations Studies Program of Columbia University’s School of Public and International Affairs are pleased to publish this summary of the proceedings of the conference for UN delegates held on October 9-11th, 1998, entitled "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 50: Progress and Challenges". The conference brought together 27 delegates to the United Nations' 53rd General Assembly from all regions of the world. Together with an array of internationally renowned human rights experts, the conference was a forum to recognize the achievements of the last fifty years by the international human rights movement, and an opportunity to address the remaining challenges that both governments and the non-governmental community must face in the coming fifty years.

      The conference itself was a clear reminder that the Universal Declaration is as relevant today as it was a half century ago. The UDHR was drafted to guide those who endeavoured to rebuild a peaceful world order after the Second World War. Today it continues to provide a standard of reference for issues of globalization of the international economy, expanding human rights of women, responses to contemporary forms of abuse, protection of human rights defenders and the other issues of major concern to the international community. This conference reaffirmed that the Universal Declaration is a beacon to humanity, which will continue to serve as a guiding light in empowering people and improving their lives.

      We wish to express our gratitude to all the participants for their dedication and rich contributions to the discussion. We are particularly grateful to the Ford Foundation for its generous financial support, as well as the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights and the United Nations Association of the USA for their co-sponsorship.

      Our thanks also to Miriam Friedman and Rainer Braun of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Andrea Papan of the UN Studies Program for their tireless efforts to make the conference run smoothly.

      Finally, we wish to thank Suzanne Spears for writing this report. She acted as conference rapporteur and prepared this summary following the conference. In the interests of readability and respecting the rule of non-attribution, this summary contains her interpretations of the proceedings rather than a summary record of statements made. Participants neither reviewed nor approved the report. Therefore, it should not be assumed that every participant subscribes to all the observations, recommendations and conclusions it contains. It nevertheless reflects the spirit of our deliberations and we hope that it will contribute to the continued engagement of the international community in realizing the aspirations of the Universal Declaration during its next fifty years.

      New York, February 1999

      Stephen P. Marks Manfred Bardeleben
      Director, United Nations Studies Program
      Columbia University
      Director, New York Office
      Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

      © Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 2001

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