This esplanade, facing the Trocadéro square, between the two wings of the Palais de Chaillot, has been dedicated to Human Rights since 1985.
French President François Mitterrand decided to pay tribute to the signature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which occured on December 10th, 1948 in the Palais de Chaillot. This is where the headquarters of the United Nations were located at the time. The French President chose to name “Esplanade of Freedoms and Human Rights” this part of the esplanade, overshadowed by the Palais de Chaillot. While a plaque commemorates the signature inside the Chaillot Theatre, Mitterrand asked for a slab to be put on the esplanade, at the entrance, on which the first article of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was engraved: “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights”. It was a way to draw attention to the influence of the first Declaration on the 1948 UDHR, as it was the bicentenary of the French Revolution. The latter was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt from the US and René Cassin from France, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968.
In that same year 1948, a young American bomber pilot during the Second World War, Garry Davis, declared to the US Embassy in Paris that he was giving up his American citizenship. He then pitched his tent in the Trocadéro gardens. In November, supported by Albert Camus, he interrupted a session of the UN General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot to demand the creation of a world government and of a world citizen status, in order to put an end to war. There are today more than a million members in his register of world citizens, and all of them hold a world citizen passport. The Esplanade has become a popular spot for people to gather up and defend Human Rights and peace in Paris. For instance, this is where Handicap International created its first 5-meter high shoe pyramid to demand the ban of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. This non-violent action was organised again all around the world and was so successful that it enabled the adoption of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel mines.
Many other protests and demonstrations for international solidarity took place these past years on the Esplanade.
“We, the people, want the peace which only a world government can give.”
– Garry Davis