Human Rights

The term human rights is defined as the “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.  The term connotes a universal” minimal standard of justice, tolerance & human dignity recognized and guaranteed by every sovereign government.”  Human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, equality before the law; economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to be treated with respect and dignity, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

Human rights movements and human rights legislations are as old as humanity.  However, modern interpretations of human rights can be traced back to relatively recent European history.  The Twelve Articles of the Black Forest (1525) as part of the peasant uprising in Germany is considered to be the first record of human rights in Europe.

The British Bill of Rights of 1689 was an outcry against governmental oppression.  The American and French revolutions of 1776 and 1789 led to the creation of United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen respectively, both of which established certain human rights.

Uprisings against slavery and the various labor movements in Western Europe and North America in the 19th century brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and forbidding child labor. The 19th century also witnessed many national liberation movements to wade off colonialism.  This has also facilitated the development of civil and political rights, which are quintessentially basic human rights.  In addition, movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world during the 19th century which led to the formulation of civil rights.  The establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Geneva Convention in 1864 laid the foundations of International humanitarian law, which was further developed following the two World Wars.

Which laid the foundation for the United Nations.  The purpose of the United Nations is to “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.  The rights espoused in the UN charter would be codified in the International Bill of Human Rights, composing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Some of the most significant human rights treaties include Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  The United Nations Human Rights Council is created at the 2005 World Summit to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  The Human Rights Council is created as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and has a mandate to investigate violations of human rights   The Human Rights Council may also request that the Security Council take action when human rights violations occur.


Inside Human Rights