The History of Human Rights
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The History of Human Rights

Every person is born with fundamental rights. Today, these are constituted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, country governments outline human rights in their constitutions and protect them through elaborate court systems. However, the idea of having inherent rights as a human dates back over centuries. Here is a short history of human rights as we know them today.

The Origins of Human Rights

In modern history, the idea of human rights dates back to 539 BC. Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and freed the kingdom’s slaves. He then declared that each person has a specific set of rights. He ordered for these to be recorded on what is known today as the “Cyrus Cylinder.” This document served as the precursor for the first four rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The idea of universal human rights continued to evolve particularly in ancient Greece and through the Roman Empire. In 1215, King John of England implemented the Magna Carta, known as the main foundation for modern democracy. The Magna Carta gave new rights to people and ensured that kings had to follow certain laws.

Precursor Documents

Over the following centuries, governments of various countries elaborated cornerstone documents promoting democracy and human rights. In 1776, the United States signed the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

France soon followed suit establishing The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789. The declaration stated that all citizens are equal under the law. As countries democratized, each established a constitution to promote and protect the rights of citizens. Finally, in 1948, the United Nations presented The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A Short History of Human Rights from Allversity

Want to learn more about the history of human rights? Watch this neat video from Allversity that gives an excellent summary of how human rights have evolved through history.

United Nations

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Despite the efforts to establish human rights, before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many documents excluded a large proportion of the population. Primarily, there were women, people of color, children, and others who were not legally entitled to fundamental human rights.

The United Nations created a guiding document for global practice – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the time, it represented a new system to protect the rights of every person. The document was adopted on December 10th, 1948. Mainly, this declaration marks the beginning of the history of human rights in modern history.

Today, the declaration continues to be the cornerstone document for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. It outlines 30 basic human rights that every person has upon birth. These include the right to equality, freedom from discrimination, education, and freedom from slavery among others. The document is available in 500 languages.

Human Rights as We Know Them

Today, we continue to practice and protect human rights under the guidance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Also, since 1948, the United Nations has produced a number of additional treaties and covenants to further the implementation of their declaration.

For example, there is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to ensure racial equality. Women are also specially protected through the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Considered a vulnerable group, the United Nations also promotes a particular focus on the rights of children through the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite all these efforts, there continue to be human rights abuses. These stem both from brutal governmental regimes and conflict. As such, multiple organizations work to promote human rights around the world. Today, international law outlines protections for human rights.

Human rights should not be the privilege of the few. That’s why at Raptim, we stand firmly behind the conviction that every person is born with fundamental rights. Everybody at Raptim is happy and honored to work with incredible people and organizations who promote this notion.

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. Here you can take a closer look at the different aspects of human rights, their characteristics, history, and more.

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