Imagining a World Without the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
21 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2014
Date Written: March 8, 2014
We build towards a prediction of the content of the world’s constitutions, conditional upon the absence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The paper, at this juncture, is one-part research design, and one-part evidence. The theory guiding the background causal mechanism is highly intuitive, so we omit it here except in summary form. We identify two empirical implications that should follow if the UDHR has, indeed, been an influential reference point for those drafting constitutions subsequent to 1948. The first – that its content has projected onto subsequent national constitutions – was the subject of a recent article by two of us (plus one). We focus our attention here on a second implication: that the UDHR’s similarity to post-UDHR constitutions represents some deviation from the trajectory of constitutional design. This question requires untangling the effect of the UDHR from that of its milieu, which could plausibly be the source of ideas for both the UDHR and subsequent constitutions. Our approach is to unearth the process that produced the UDHR, which was fortunately a highly documented affair. Our investigation targets accidental elements of the process in order to trace its signature in subsequent texts.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation