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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a nonbinding statement of human rights principles passed by the United Nations’ General Assembly on December 10, 1948. It is the first major international statement of human rights. When examined from the perspective of war, three conflicts loom large in its history: World War II; the Cold War; and the so-called war on terrorism. World War II was the most impactful: not only is the declaration a logical outgrowth of the U.S. government’s justifications for entering that war, but its horrors, including the Holocaust, created the imperative to reconstitute moral principles and international law as a part of reestablishing international order. The Cold War not only complicated the declaration’s drafting process and delayed the original plan for ...

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