Since its adoption in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has lost none of its relevance. Nevertheless, a lacuna in the Declaration documents a legacy that has become anachronistic in the twenty-first century: in tune with the zeitgeist of the nineteen-forties, an unquestioning and unreserved faith in economic growth, devoid of any awareness of the complex ecological implications of exploiting all natural resources without ever contemplating restraint, was considered the way forward. Likewise with the benefit of hindsight, more space for cultural rights could have enhanced the relevance of the Declaration. None of this can detract from the significance of the Declaration's historical achievement: to identify, in the context of the incipient Cold War, that both economic and social rights on the one hand, and civil and political rights on the other, are inseparable, and that this would need to guide the agenda of future international human rights law. In a situation when the values of mankind had been ruined by global warfare, genocide, and totalitarianism, the authors of the Declaration had the courage to spell out the values by which the world of tomorrow would have to live. Regarding the future of the planet and its inhabitants in the twenty-first century, Hessel was convinced that sensitivity to poetry—a paradigm for limitless creativity—was indispensible to any progress that might facilitate the survival of mankind.


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pp. 753-768
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