Article 25, section one, reads:
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
In assuring these rights to all peoples, we have failed. However, the effort to reach this objective has, since the adoption of the UDHR, become a permanent feature of the better part of human society. Similarly, the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations made the welfare of any individual a matter of international law. In 1957, less than a decade after the adoption of the UDHR, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commissioned a report on the role of that organization in guaranteeing the social welfare on individuals. The report, authored by Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, titled FAO’s Role in Rural Welfare (1959), pointed out that the UN Specialized Agencies, such as FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are strictly mandated to guarantee the welfare of any individual. Any country that was a signatory to the Charter or UDHR, or that is a member of the UN or its specialized agencies, is bound by international law to act to protect the human rights and social welfare of all human beings. Of course, achieving this is a difficult prospect and the conditions interfering with this goal are complex and dynamic, but the fact of the legal commitment remains.
The failure to guarantee food or personal security, however, must be considered in the context of human history and artificiality of the organization of the human species into a coherent state system. It was not until 1963 that anyone knew how many people there were in the world, never mind how many of them were hungry or disconsolate. The Charter and UDHR were conceived in the shadow of the first truly global conflagrations and the knowledge that all societies and peoples are interrelated; the second half of the twentieth century represented a departure from any earlier collective human consciousness — if such a thing existed — that divided humanity into races, tribes and unconnected empires. After 1948, we understood that a human was a human was a human, and that all of us shared the same needs, and deserved the same rights. Soon an unprecedented population explosion, the effects of 500 years of colonization and its dissolution combined with the impact of human activity on the planet had combined to challenge and undermine the goals enshrined in the Charter and UDHR. But the Charter and the ideals enshrined in the UDHR persisted.
Contemporary events demonstrate that we still have a long way to go before humanity can claim a victory over hunger and poverty or before human security is a norm for all peoples. However, we are as a global people more aware of conflict and underdevelopment than we have ever been in the past, and we are aware that some of us are experiencing unprecedented levels of violence and intolerance. There is debate as to whether the world is less violent or less secure that it has been in the past, but there is little debate on whether all peoples have a right to peace and security. Or a right to food and shelter. The adoption of the UDHR in 1948 provided a framework for the measure of the human condition, and it meant a responsibility for all that signed that declaration to adhere to its principles. It has been 67 years since the UDHR came into being, and we have not succeeded in implementing it in full. However, when measured against human history, the UDHR is still in its infancy and the very fact that it continues to provide a minimum measure for the human condition is laudable and remarkable. But we must keep our shoulder to the wheel if we are to make human rights a reality for all humans.