Human Rights


the world is made up of many different countries cultures and people’s yet despite all these differences they all have one important thing in common all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights this is what it says in the very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10th 1948 the notion of human rights has become one of the most important in the history of humankind but what exactly are human rights who is responsible for protecting them and do they really apply to all people we describe human rights as those rights which apply to every single person simply because he or she is a human being they are innate human rights apply to every person in every part of the world without exception they are therefore universal they also apply equally to everyone regardless of race religion gender sexual orientation skin color age or other features that may distinguish one person from another human rights are part of international law the UN Charter of 1946 already contained important passages on the meaning and protection of human rights the first proper international agreement was the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 in 1966 the UN adopted two more international covenants one on Civil and Political Rights and the other on economic social and cultural rights these declarations are collectively known as the International bill of Human Rights and are the most important legal basis for human rights in addition there is a series of UN conventions for example the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees the Convention on the Rights of the Child the Convention Against Torture or the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities but what are the specific human rights anchor these conventions human rights are often divided into three generations or dimensions the first dimension the classic political and civil liberty rights these include the right to life and physical integrity a ban on slavery and forced labor protection from torture freedom of thought conscience and religion a comprehensive ban on discrimination and the right to vote the second dimension the economic social and cultural human rights these include the right to work into a decent wage the right to form trade unions equality between men and women the protection of families pregnant women mothers and children the right to a decent standard of living including the right to adequate food the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health the right to education and the right to participate in cultural life the third dimension deals with the rights of groups it includes the right to self-determination the right to development the right to a clean environment and the right to peace the principle of the indivisibility of human rights is important that means none of the rights listed in the political economic social and cultural Human Rights may have precedence over the others human rights can only be consummated when all facets work together the exercise civil and political rights depends on the safeguarding of economic social and cultural rights and vice versa and who exactly has the job of implementing and upholding human rights countries carry the main responsibilities they are obliged to refrain from any action that would violate human rights must protect them from violation and create the necessary conditions for people to fully exercise their human rights the UN central body is the Human Rights Council a body of 47 countries based in Geneva it reviews the situation on Human Rights on a regular basis in all of the UN member states it can also send independent experts to individual countries the problem there are many countries on the council which do not themselves uphold human rights the UN Security Council concerns itself particularly with the protection of human rights during Wars and armed conflicts for example it works to end the recruitment of child soldiers the High Commissioner for Human Rights is responsible for coordinating the human rights work of the entire UN body she has local offices in all parts of the world and can send Human Rights experts to UN peace missions the International Criminal Court in The Hague with its establishment in 1998 the world has an authority capable of investigating and passing sentence on particularly grave breaches of human rights genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity it’s powers are still limited now it lacks the support of important countries like the USA and China but a crucial step has been taken war criminals can no longer commit their transgressions with impunity along with the Global Institutes of the UN there are various regional Human Rights agreements and bodies the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg the African Charter on Human and people’s rights under the American Convention on Human Rights civil society has an especially important role to play nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch monitor the observance of Human Rights in places all over the world they draw attention to abuses and exert pressure on governments through public campaigns they also play an important role in the ongoing development of the legal basis for human rights the creation of independent National Institutes for Human Rights which have an indispensable role as watchdogs is also important are there any controversial aspects about human rights yes there are two main points of contention issue number one the universal nature of human rights the argument the notion of human rights originates in the West and cannot simply be transferred to other cultures it is true the development and spread of the notion of human rights carry the marks of cultural developments and traditions but it is also true that no human being wants to be tortured or discriminated against because of her religion or skin color every human being wants to be able to speak his opinion without fear of persecution every human being wants a life of dignity with a roof over her head without having to suffer hunger or thirst all these ideas are included in the notion of the universality of human rights it is important to note that it is frequently countries or groups which are themselves responsible for human rights violations that call this universality into question issue number two Western countries are accused of using human rights as a pretext for military intervention in other countries and of committing human rights abuses themselves it is clear no country is the sole defender of human rights human rights are violated in Western countries too especially following the attacks of 9/11 measures were introduced that compromised human rights the justification the war on terrorism we see that human rights are very particular rights they apply equally to every individual respect for and protection of human rights must be at the heart of government activity since human beings are both the reason for and the object of every policy people do not exist for the state with the state for people the struggle to secure and defend human rights must be continually renewed for we can only secure permanent peace and stability if we respect human rights

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