You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) using Archive-It. This page was captured on 23:30:38 Nov 26, 2018, and is part of the UNESCO collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page.
Loading media information hide

Human rights: Back to the Future

Earth people over sea and land. Cape Dorset, 2012, work by an Inuit artist.

Benedetto Croce, Aldous Huxley, Humayun Kabir, Harold J. Laski, Lo Chung-Shu, Salvador de Madariaga, Jacques Maritain, F.S.C. Northrop, Arnold Schoenberg, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – these are some of the contributors to this issue of the Courier.

To mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948, we decided to take a detour into the past to enable us to better orient ourselves in the future. This explains the title of this issue: “Back to the Future”. 

Travelling back to 1946, when the world was grappling with the aftermath of the Second World War, “what kind of moral statement could the international community make that would adequately express its collective outrage and hope, however utopian, for a better future?”  Mark Goodale discusses this massive international effort in his introductory article for our Wide Angle section, which he also guest-edited. 

The series of articles in this section uncovers a hitherto little-known part of the history of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – the inquiry into the origins and philosophic bases of human rights. This initiative was decided upon during the first UNESCO General Conference (November-December 1946) and launched the following year by the Organization’s first Director-General, Julian Huxley. It was coordinated by the young French philosopher, Jacques Havet.

For this project, UNESCO brought together leading intellectual figures of the post-war world, thus making an essential contribution to the reflection on human rights at the time. It remains amazingly relevant today.

Equally relevant today are the drawings of Our Guest, the Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce, who derives his inspiration from this historic period “when the idea of progress was genuinely linked to a whole new perspective”. His series, The Book of Needs – which takes pages of the Courier between 1948 and 1954 and transforms them into works of art – is featured as a supplement in this issue.

The cover of the Courier, February 1951 and its artistic interpretation by Fernando Bryce in 2015.


The question of human rights is particularly acute today when it concerns migrants. This theme is discussed in our Ideas section. Another equally poignant subject is addressed in the article, “Mosul, the city with two springs”, which opens the Current Affairs section and is part of the initiative to Revive the Spirit of Mosul, launched by UNESCO in February 2018.

In the Zoom section, the Courier raises another thorny issue – gender-based violence. Every year, almost 250 million children are subjected to various forms of gender-based violence. These testimonies from some young Haitian women should serve to alert  public opinion about the extent of this scourge that affects all the world’s countries.


Finally, to bring to a close the year of its seventieth anniversary celebrations, the Courier pays tribute to the man who founded and edited the magazine for the first thirty years of its existence – the American journalist, Sandy Koffler (1916-2002).

Jasmina Šopova, Editorial Director

Discover other issues of the Courier devoted to human rights here.