Everything you need to know about human rights
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Everything You Need to Know about Human Rights

Humanitarians continuously work towards the protection and promotion of human rights. Even if their primary mission is different, human rights always figure in the humanitarian approach. For example, humanitarians save lives because they believe in the individual’s right to life. Let’s take a closer look at the different aspects of human rights, their characteristics, history, and more.

What are Human Rights?

In essence, human rights constitute the natural rights that each person has upon birth. Most political systems today use this as the basis for their constitutions and legal systems. This also means that there is no distinction between age, race, origin, gender, etc. These rights are inherent to the condition of being a human.

There are a number of documents that support this definition. The main one is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established in 1948. Since then, the document has added various covenants and agreements. Additionally, governments propose their national definitions of human rights through local legislation.

Learn more about the definition of human rights in our article on What Human Rights Are.

What is the History of Human Rights?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a relatively modern document dating back only 70 years. But the concept of inherent human rights can be traced back to ancient times. The first written proof of human rights originates in ancient Babylon and the Cyrus Cylinder.

Through centuries, people have maintained the idea of universal human rights. However, it was not until modernity that we begin to apply this to all individuals. Previously, many groups, such as people of color, women, children, or slaves, were excluded. Today, human rights frameworks aim for universal inclusion.

Learn more about the topic in our article on the History of Human Rights.

How are Human Rights Categorized?

The modern framework of human rights categorizes these into three different areas. These are based on the tenants of the French Revolution which is considered one of the origins of democracy and human rights as we know them today.

The three areas are civil-political rights, socio-economic rights, and collective-developmental rights. The first category refers to civic freedoms and protections from the government. The second category speaks to each person’s right to basic social and economic needs such as food and shelter. The final type of rights talks about collective rights and freedoms such as self-determination and the right to culture or the environment.

Learn More about the Three Areas of Human Rights.

How Can We Protect Human Rights?

Despite the logical and well-established framework of human rights, they are frequently violated. This is particularly true in certain government regimes and conflict zones. Additionally, economic inequality further contributes to the violation of human rights.

To foster their protection, the United Nations and world governments establish legal documents and mechanisms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the principle document and is supported by a number of international covenants and agreements.

Read more about the International Protection and Promotion of Human rights.

Who Promotes Human Rights?

To support the mechanisms and frameworks already in place, hundreds of organizations work tirelessly to promote human rights. The people behind these organizations do incredible work on a daily basis.

Their reach ranges from grassroots civil societies to large international NGOs that tackle systemic global issues about human rights. What they have in common is the conviction that each’s rights must be respected and protected.

Meet 20 people who care about human rights and learn about 20 international human rights organizations.

On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This proclamation was one of the critical achievements in the early days of the United Nations. Each year human rights day is celebrated on 10 December.

Established in 1978, Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, non-governmental human rights organization well known for its fact-finding, impartial reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups. Each year they report human rights conditions in some 90 countries, hopefully changing human rights policy and practice in a positive way. Each year they organize the Human Rights Weekend.

What Role do Human Rights Play in SDGs?

On the global level, the United Nations is the principal agency that protects and promotes human rights. Human rights make up an essential part of the Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015.

Many of these touch upon the subject of human rights in one way or another. Mainly, Goal #15 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Meanwhile, Goal #16 promotes just, peaceful, and inclusive societies.

Learn more about sustainable development goals and what’s in them for human rights.

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