A WORLD WIDE WEB.... Who would ever think that a stodgy, fundamentally conflicted organization like the United Nations would actually bring the world together through music? Believe it or not, it's happening.

The catalyst is the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which simply states that all human beings have the right to whatever food, shelter, education, and medical care they need and the right to complete freedom of expression with access to whatever tools they need to make such expression a reality.

Needless to say, the mainstream media can't touch such a revolutionary manifesto with a ten foot pole, so it was no surprise when MTV declined to broadcast a December 10 celebration of the Declaration of Human Rights' 50th anniversary in Paris that featured Bruce Springsteen, Alanis Morrissette, Tracy Chapman, Radiohead, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Shania Twain, and Peter Gabriel.

In October, an international conference on music censorship was held in Copenhagen, Denmark that directly based its stand for free expression on the UN's Human Rights Declaration. The conference brought together musicians and activists from around the world to document the "physical and mental abuse, imprisonment, and even assassination" that has been dealt out to musicians in recent years. The conference resolved to start an international organization to support jailed and banned musicians (for more information, email ore@dr.dk).

Back in the USA, Philadelphia's Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) spent this past spring and summer on a Freedom Bus, visiting every corner of the country to press their demand that America honor the economic provisions of the Human Rights Declaration. As a result of their relentless agitation for economic human rights, the KWRU, whose ranks include skilled rappers and a dynamic choir, hooked up with musicians such as Steve Earle, the Bottle Rockets, and Rancid. On December 4, at United Nations headquarters in New York no less, the KWRU was one of two dozen poor peoples organizations that met to form a national Economic Human Rights Campaign organization. KWRU representatives will be special guests at the Folk Alliance national convention in Albuquerque in February, with Steve Earle joining in as a member of their delegation.

The United States is the only country in the world that has refused to sign the Declaration of Human Rights. For a reminder of the cost of having a government that spurns the entire concept of human rights, check out Things Fall Apart, the upcoming MCA album by Philadelphia rappers The Roots. The album will appear with five different covers, each a stark black and white photograph (a burned out church, a starving child, a police riot) that wordlessly explains why the UN Declaration of Human Rights was necessary in the first place and why we should no longer tolerate living under a government that won't even pretend to enforce it.