The Carr Center promotes a more strategic and outcomes-oriented global human rights practice. We research and promote effective advocacy strategies to secure strategic human rights outcomes around the world.
Latin American governments, social movements, and regional organizations have made a far greater contribution to the idea and practice of international human rights than has previously been recognized. Most discussions of the global human rights regime stress its origins in the countries of the Global North. This article explores the role of Latin America states as early protagonists of the international protection of human rights, focusing in particular on the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Histories of human rights in the world emphasize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, as the founding moment of international human rights. Few know that Latin American states passed a similar American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man a full eight months before passage of the UDHR. The American Declaration thus was the first broad enumeration of rights adopted by an intergovernmental organization. This article explores the American Declaration as an example of often overlooked Latin American human rights protagonism that has continued to this day, and that calls into question the idea that human rights originated in only the Global North.