- The UN Charter only weakly encourages respect for human rights. Instead, the UDHR was the first international treaty to affirm respect for human rights.
- The UDHR was thoroughly debated at many levels. It asserted freedom and equality and a number of basic rights.
- The UDHR was not legally binding, but it led to the creation of other binding treaties.
This passage is a description of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This passage may seem like a neutral description, but actually the author has a strong opinion. See lines 51-56: the author says that the UDHR deserves recognition for leading us forward.
The author has taken a strong stand: human rights deserve international recognition and should be legally binding. That opinion is so widely held among the university educated population that it’s easy not to notice that this is in fact an opinion, rather than an objective fact.
The LSAC plays to its audience. The LSAC knows you went to university, and knows you probably agree with the idea of human rights on a gut, emotional level. This means you’re less likely to be able to evaluate any discussion of human rights on an objective level.
But make no mistake. This passage is an argument, and the author’s opinion is strong. For instance, the author agrees with the delegations from small countries (lines 11-15) that the original charter wasn’t strong enough.
The author also describes the UDHR as a “progressive” document (line 45), usually a compliment. And they contrast this with the UDHR’s “regrettable” non-binding status (line 47).
You should always look for subtle clues to the author’s beliefs. These will help you answer questions and interpret what the passage tells you. I always try to imagine what the author might say on other topics not explicitly mentioned as well.
Here, we can say the author believes the following:
- There should be a legally binding document that obliges countries to provide human rights.
- The UN Charter was both non-binding and weakly worded.
- The UDHR was reasonably strongly worded, but non-binding.
- The UDHR was a positive step forward that led to other binding documents.
It’s also important to notice all the different documents and people under discussion. For instance:
- The UN Charter, passed 1945. Weak language, non-binding.
- Delegates from small countries and nongovernmental organizations who proposed strengthening the Charter. (they failed to achieve this).
- The UHDR, passed in 1948. A non-binding treaty with strong language in favor of human rights.
- Later international treaties that were binding. (Lines 50-52).
In university, it’s perfectly acceptable to drift through a text and “get the gist”. That won’t cut it on reading comprehension. You need to be able to understand precisely what the passage says. Fortunately, if you practice getting this precise understanding, you’ll both go faster on the questions and get more of them right.
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