“To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” : Jan Smuts and the ideological foundations of the United Nations

26 Sep 2017

The story of the founding of the United Nations reflects its complicated ideological foundations. Jan Smuts, who wrote the words “human rights” into the Charter, was also the premier of white-ruled South Africa. Smuts embodies the dualism that runs through international law itself: the pursuit of the common good is invariably tied to its own interest. It was only through the interventions of the emerging global community, and in particular the developing world—and consequently the repudiation of Smuts and the apartheid policies of his successors —that human rights attained a more universal nature. Human rights have deeper, but also darker, roots than many current accounts would have it.