Today In Fact, 26 June

The day of charters. Jan Smuts originally wrote the opening lines of the Preamble of the United Nations Charter; “The High Contracting Parties, determined to prevent a recurrence of the fratricidal strife which twice in our generation has brought untold sorrow and loss upon mankind. . .” which would have been similar to the opening lines of the Covenant of the League of Nations. After considerable argument at the San Francisco Conference, Virginia Gildersleeve was successful in changing and shortening the Preamble, however, with much of Smuts’ original text reattached at the end:

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and • to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom….

The Charter of the United Nations is its foundational charter and was signed on this day in 1945 by 50 countries including South Africa.

Ten years later, on this day in 1955 the Freedom Charter was signed at Kliptown in Soweto by the Congress of the People. It brought together 2,844 delegates from all over the country. A wide grouping of South Africans who, in essence echoed the UN Charter and called for freedom, citizenship and human rights for all races in South Africa. The Freedom Charter seeks a social democratic dispensation for the country and proclaims that

‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and that “all shall be equal before the law”. It pledged to continue the struggle until a new democratic order was put into place.

Have the ideals of these two charters been achieved?

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (