Primary Sources

Helsinki Accords: Declaration on Human Rights


The Helsinki Declaration of August 1, 1975 was a turning point in Cold War relations inside European borders. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries celebrated the acknowledgment of their national boundaries; a desired goal since the end of World War II. West European democracies celebrated the Warsaw Pact countries' willingness to adopt ten major points of international diplomacy. One of the most pivotal of these points was the seventh clause of the treaty, an agreement to uphold human rights. Each East European country promised to protect minority rights, allow religious worship, and grant political and economic freedom for all of their citizens. Each country published the Helsinki Declaration at home, which created a promise of wide reforms if the countries honored this agreement. As citizens throughout Eastern Europe petitioned for their new human rights, a widespread dissident movement against the Communist Parties of Eastern Europe emerged, including the arrival of the Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia.


The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, August 1, 1975, 14 I.L.M. 1292.

Primary Source—Excerpt

The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

They will promote and encourage the effective exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and freedoms all of which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person and are essential for his free and full development.

Within this framework the participating States will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.

The participating States on whose territory national minorities exist will respect the right of persons belonging to such minorities to equality before the law, will afford them the full opportunity for the actual enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and will, in this manner, protect their legitimate interests in this sphere.

The participating States recognize the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is an essential factor for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operation among themselves as among all States....

How to Cite this Source

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, "Helsinki Accords: Declaration on Human Rights," Making the History of 1989, Item #245, (accessed January 25 2022, 12:49 pm).

Associated Files