The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a historic document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on 10 December 1948 as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. Of the then 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favour, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote.

The Declaration consists of 30 articles affirming an individual’s rights which, although not legally binding in themselves, have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, economic transfers, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The Declaration was the first step in the process of formulating the International Bill of Human Rights, which was completed in 1966, and came into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them.

Some legal scholars have argued that because countries have constantly invoked the Declaration for more than 50 years, it has become binding as a part of customary international law.

However, in the United States, the Supreme Court in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004), concluded that the Declaration “does not of its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law.”Courts of other countries have also concluded that the Declaration is not in and of itself part of domestic law.

A more detailed expose of the articles in Claiming Human Rights

The UK ratified and became a State Party to the UN Convention in 2009. As a binding international legal instrument, this requires the UK to adhere to the obligations contained within the UN Convention, and to implement the requirements of the Convention in good faith.

Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states “every treaty in force is
binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith”. This is the
internationally recognised principle of pacta sunt servanda (treaties shall be complied with), a principle of international law that underlies the system of treaty-based relations between sovereign States.

The Universal Declaration is not a treaty, so it does not directly create legal obligations for countries.

“However, it is an expression of the fundamental values which are shared by all members of the international community. And it has had a profound influence on the development of international human rights law. Some argue that because countries have consistently invoked the Declaration for more than sixty years, it has become binding as a part of customary international law.” Australian Human Rights Commission.

“The 1948 United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights and all subsequent Human Rights Treaties can now enable the 50 million people living with Dementia and the 100 million who must not be Left Behind in 2030 to have access to their rights in international law on the same basis as those with other disabilities.” World Health Organisation Adopts Global Action Plan on Dementia


Amnesty International UK : A summary of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

World Health Organisation

Dementia Alliance International , Also

Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance

Alzheimer’s Disease International

The UK is also a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights

Alzheimer’s Society : View on equality, discrimination, and human rights

Alliance Scotland : Being Human: A human rights based approach to health and social care in Scotland

Australian Journal of Dementia care : Human Rights, Disability and Dementia

Dementia Action Alliance : Dementia Statements

Peter Mittler : Dementia and Human Rights

Age UK : Human Rights

Scottish Care : Human Rights and Dementia

Dementia Alliance International : The human rights of people living with dementia: from Rhetoric to Reality