Although many Americans have forgotten or are unaware of the 69th anniversary today of the signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has special meaning to me; my father, Guy Pérez-Cisneros y Bonnel, and Ernesto Díhigo were the delegates from the Republic of Cuba, which for a small country, played an importunate role in launching and crafting the declaration.
My late father believed that the declaration is the fruit of the great efforts of our civilization and human progress, a unique moment in which humanity came of age in its civic education; that it is also a source of inspiration for the formation of today’s citizens, and not cause for divisions among them.
Under the leadership of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Cuba had the distinction of being the country that proposed the finished declaration be put up for its final UN vote on Dec. 10, 1948. Hard to believe now but Cuba was once a leader when it came to human rights.
And it is important to note that nine initiatives proposed in 1945’s Cuba became part of the final declaration, and that Cuba was the country that entrusted the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in San Francisco to prepare the declaration as early as 1946.
The third preamble of the declaration is a copy of one of the articles of the famed 1940 Cuban Constitution, and Cuba had the initiative to include in the declaration the right to honor one’s human rights and reputation, as well as protect citizens against arbitrary government interference in their private lives.
Cuba presented the first amendment to the draft declaration which was accepted, adding the right of citizens of any member country to follow the vocation they choose.
Cuba presented a second amendment which was also accepted — the right of every worker to receive an equitable and satisfactory payment for their work.
So on this day, I remember my father and the rights of all humans across the world.
Pablo Pérez-Cisneros Barreto,