Dr. Charles Malik: The human rights legacy of Lebanon’s philosopher-diplomat

Dr. Charles Malik.
Taken from NOW website

Following the horrors of the Second World War, which brought immeasurable death and destruction to millions of people worldwide, and just ahead of the Cold War and the consequent deceleration of many constructive developments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) managed to emerge successfully from the complex and politically perilous processes of the United Nations on December 10, 1948 to become the organization’s, and the world’s, human-rights flagship. Since 1950, the anniversary of the UDHR’s adoption and proclamation has been commemorated worldwide as World Human Rights Day.

Among the Declaration’s framers was Lebanon’s first ambassador to the US and the UN, Dr. Charles Malik.
Born in Bitirram in the Koura district of North Lebanon in 1906, Malik was approached by the first administration of newly independent Lebanon in the mid-1940’s as it sought to enhance its international standing in terms of overseas representation. His initial response was to decline the offer. However, he later reversed his decision and was entrusted to head the Lebanese delegation to Washington and the UN, where he signed the UN Charter on behalf of Lebanon. Prior to that, the Harvard-educated philosophy professor was lecturing at the American University of Beirut and was happily settled in what he believed to be his life’s occupation: teaching and speculation in search of the truth.

At the UN’s Commission on Human Rights, Malik was offered an exceptional opportunity to contribute, first as a philosophy professor and later as a diplomat, to the drafting of the UDHR, his most significant and enduring achievement.

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