Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

The United Nation’s “Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” was a document released December 14, 1960. The document essentially declares that all people residing in all countries deserve specific rights:

1: Exploiting and dominating humans is against their given rights and in order for world-peace, there should not be any human exploitation.

2: Every person has their right to think freely in terms of politics, economics, social and cultural.

3: Education, politics, social and economics should prepare people.

4: All armed actions and harmful repressions will stop immediately.

5: Countries with repressive leaders will be liberated in order to obtain peace.

6:Disrupting any attempts of peace is unacceptable.

7: All states in UN will uphold this declaration and most of the UN’s documents.

The UN Genocide Charter and Auschwitz

The two readings we had assigned this evening, The UN Charter on Genocide and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz both discuss genocide, but approach the topic in very different ways. One can safely assume that those who wrote up the charter did not experience the atrocities of a concentration camp, and are outsiders looking in. Levi, on the other hand, speaks with the voice of a survivor. He knows what it means to survive Auschwitz, and thus, mass genocide.

The charter uses very sweeping terms when describing what genocide is. They do not go into the minute details, but stay general such as in Article II: “(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part…”. This may be because they wish to capture all possible forms of genocide, but at the same time, this method gives a lot of leeway for certain activities to pass.

Levi, however, gives very specific examples as to how they were discriminated against. To be at Auschwitz was to be at the very bottom, everything was taken away from you, “…nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand.” (27) Even if a person survived the concentration camp, they still were made to become something less than human, like cattle, and this process will undoubtedly affect the rest of their life. Levi even mentions how certain portions of the experience still linger in his dreams.

When genocide is committed, it not only destroys a group of individuals, but an entire culture, and both sources indicate this. Even if an individual survives, their culture may have died, making the existence of the survivor very lonely, and their account of events, less believable.

U.N. on Colonial Independence

Tree Points

1. It is important to note that all people in the world, regardless of race, gender, religion, or language deserve stability and peace.

2. It is necessary to end colonialism in the world.

3. The subjection of people by another, foreign group of is directly against fundamental human rights.

2 questions:

1. What was the reaction of the countries that had colonial properties to this document?

2. What was the country or incident that made the United Nations create this document?

1 Thought:

The entire declaration is very thorough and covers each part of colonialism.  While broad it also seems to target a very particular section of colonialism.  While most colonialism was violent, all of it was not.  This declaration is an umbrella look at colonialism and what it means for both sides involved.  This makes it much more difficult to enforce.  It could not have been easy for the U.N. in the 1960s to monitor all of its members.  It would be that much harder to manage the colonial properties.  It is so broad and general that it becomes harder to manage.

Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

Three points

1) The United Nations starts out by reaffirming the dignity and worth of the human person, the yearning for freedom in dependent peoples, the equal rights of men and women, and the need for better standards of life.

2) According to the UN, an end must be put to colonialism and all practices associated with it. Exploitation in colonies is a violation of human rights.

3) People and nations have the right to self-determination. A nation may be independent regardless of its social, economic, or cultural conditions.

Two questions:

What prompted this declaration?

Does this document take away from the original purpose of colonialism- to outsource labor, expand territory, and increase the diversity of consumer choices?

One point:

I thought the tone of this declaration was particularly interesting. The UN adopts an air of righteousness, when many of the countries in the UN had been employing methods of colonialism for centuries. It seems as if the countries that make up the UN suddenly realized that what they had been doing for generations was wrong. Furthermore, it’s interesting that the UN acknowledged the equal rights of men and women, when they certainly did not exist. Also, freedom is mentioned several times throughout the course of the document without any definition or guidelines as to how freedom may be defined. However, the document was written in 1960, and preceded many instrumental social and cultural movements that occurred towards the latter half of the 60s.

Genocide: Definitely Not Allowed

Interesting Points:

– The definition of Genocide is all encompassing. Even if there are just nine or ten people in a religious cult the conspiracy to wipe them out would be defined as Genocide. I guess I find it interesting that this term doesn’t just apply to large numbers of people – it has to do with any sized group.

– If it is possible, the offenders will be tried in a state judicial system, instead of an international war crimes tribunal. I was under the impression that all trials as serious as these would be on an international level.

– The ratification process extends for quite a long period of time. It is not over in one day with countries voting “yay” or “nay”. The process begins on 9 December 1948 and goes up until 31 December 1949 – over one year long.


– I understand that people had never seen controlled killings like the Holocaust before, but don’t you think the countries of the world should’ve had legislation in place before any of this happened in the first place?

– Why would any country NOT ratify this legislation. Some African countries may have wanted to stay away from it so they could continue their use of “crowd control” (Rwanda), but denying the bill is just begging to be scorned by the international community.


– The convention would cease to exist if the number of countries went below sixteen. I have no idea why they would include this stipulation as I would want to keep the legislation in effect even if there was only one country holding onto it.


Paper Proposal

Since Thomas More first coined the phrase “utopia” in his eponymous book, idealists, realists, and cynics alike have been fascinated with the possibility creating an ideal society. We have exhaustively explored the concept in fictional and critical contexts, with utopias at the focus of numerous works of literature, film, and scholarship. Various subcultural groups, such as the shakers and transcendentalists in the 19th century, attempted to create insular utopian communities. The evident human fascination with utopia raises numerous questions: can a utopian society be actualized? Is it possible for humans, with their diverse interests and often selfish needs, to coexist in an ideal setting, developing a socio-political structure that is desirable to all?

Past attempts at creating utopian communities tells us that the likely answer to this question is ‘no’, but that doesn’t mean that some societies come closer to a utopian state than others. In my paper, I will examine factors that contribute to quality of life within a society and attempt to determine the effect of political structure (ie, monarchy versus democracy) on the happiness of citizens. In any given nation, the government will be ultimate agent for controlling factors such as crime rates, employment, respect for human rights, and access to health care and education, all of which will impact the quality of life for citizens within that state. By examining aspects such as these across the globe, research groups have for more than two decades attempted to quantify the average happiness of citizens within different nations to determine which places on earth are the best or worst to live. The end result of this research is a series of annual lists that rank the countries on earth in order of the average happiness of their citizens. These “Best and Worst Nations to Live In” lists are released annually and often given perfunctory coverage in magazines or news programs. Discussion of these rankings within the media is superficial at best, with no attempts to understand the methodology for rankings or the implications that they carry. It is understandable to be skeptical of the idea of quantifying a concept as intangible as happiness, but I believe that these rankings carry implications that are not examined in the media – for example, they contain unexamined truths about the effect of government on quality of life. In order to examine the effect of political structure on happiness of citizens, I will use these rankings as a starting point for my research and compare the nations that rank highest as the most desirable to live in and compare them with the nations that rank the lowest. I will attempt to answer the following questions: which political systems lead to the happiest citizens? Why is this so? I will then compare my findings to the utopian societies described by More and Plato to see whether their ideas have been realized – or could be realized – in the modern world.

My standard for this paper will be the 2011 index compiled by the United Nations (UN). United Nations is an international organization that operates with funding from 34 member countries. Among other initiatives, the UN has compiled a wealth of statistical information to compile its rankings, and as a non-for profit organization without any governmental affiliation, the UN can be trusted to give unbiased and objective statistics and other information. Using these indexes as a starting point, I will delve deeper into investigating the factors that contribute to or detract from quality of life, such as protection of rights, employment rates, and access to healthcare, and more. For this information, I will draw from research conducted by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the Organizatoin for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC), Partners In Health, and Journalists without Borders. All data generated by these organizations is published on their websites and available for the public to download and use as research. When comparing nations, I will use a methodology similar to that used by sociologist Max Weber when conducting his comparative historical analyses to determine the causes of the industrial revolution. Professor Stephen Kalberg details Weber’s methodology in his recent book Max Weber’s Historical analysis, which I have checked out from the library. I will also draw from the ideas of philosopher John Rawles, in particular his “veil of ignorance” thought experiment, and the societies described by Plato in The Republic and Thomas More in Utopia. Criticism of Rawles, Plato, and More can be found in numerous books in the dickinson library or through the library’s databases.


Primary Sources

Plato. The Republic. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000.

More, Thomas. Utopia. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.

United Nations Development Reports. United Nations. Last modified November 2, 2011,

This website is the hub for all of the statistics compiled by UN researchers each year. This page contains the most recent ranking for human development and happiness (completed in 2011) as well as individual country profiles with access to statistics and ratings concerning factors such as health, poverty, inequality and education. This resource will be highly valuable to me in comparing specific aspects that affect quality of life within different countries.

Human Rights Watch World Report. Human Rights Watch. Accessed September 30, 2012.

Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders. Accessed September 30, 2012.,1043.html

Secondary Sources

Kalberg, Stephen. Max Weber’s Comparative Historical Analysis Today. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012.

This recent book by sociologist Stephen Kalberg deconstructs the methodology used by Max Weber when he conducted his comparative historical analysis in the 19th century. Kalberg applies Marx’s methodology to his own comparative analysis, tracing forces such as the singularity in american culture and the foundations of modern citizenship. Kalberg’s book will allow me to use Weber’s methodology to determine the relationship between political structure and individual happiness. It will offer a comprehensive guide when researching and writing my paper.

Firth, David and Marshall, Gordon. “Social Mobility and Personal Satisfaction: Evidence from Ten Countries.” The British Journal of Sociology 50, no. 1 (1999): 28-48.

de Vries, Willem F. M.. “Meaningful Measures: Indicators on Progress, Progress on Indicators.” International Statistical Review 69, no. 2 (2001): 313-331.