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Human Rights: Back to the Future (The UNESCO Courier no. 4, October-December 2018)
Place of publication | Year of publication | Collation: 
Paris | 2018 | 70 p.
ISSN 2220-2285
Corporate author: 

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.

Resource Type: 
Journal articles
Civic / Citizenship / Democracy
Human rights / Human dignity
International understanding / Globalisation / International education / Interdependency
Peace / Culture of peace
Preventing violent extremism
Social justice / Equity
Level of education: 
Primary education
Secondary education
Non-formal education


Global citizenship education; Human rights; Human rights education; Refugee education; Freedom