For some human rights campaigners, the UDHR was a damp squib from its very conception. Many activists and lawyers felt bitterly disappointed that after the protracted struggle to have human rights included in the Charter, the fi rst human rights measure the UN produced was – as they saw it – a mere Declaration rather than a legally enforceable treaty. Lauterpacht, for example, ‘argued vehemently’ that both Cassin and the UNCHR ‘had betrayed the principle of human rights’ by ‘choosing an unenforceable declaration instead of a convention’. 69

The Commission met for nearly two years and there was considerable debate amongst the delegates on this issue from the start. The UK, Australia and India took the view that the drafting committee should immediately proceed to produce a binding Convention, albeit there was disagreement between them on how it should be enforced. The UK proposed that implementation should lie with the UN itself, whereas Australia favoured an international court. By the second session the UK delegate, Charles Duke, summoned ‘history’ as evidence that ‘Declarations imposing no juridical obligation had remained inoperative for centuries.’ 70 It is interesting to refl ect how characteristic this was for Britain, despite initial misgivings about the human rights provisions in the UN Charter, to support ‘only those things which are enforceable in the near future’. 71 It is also reasonable to infer that this push for a legally enforceable charter is a measure of how seriously the UK took the project to establish international human rights standards in this early period, a theme I return to in Section II.