Human rights are fundamental principles that protect people from injustice, and allow them to enjoy a level of dignity all individuals deserve. They are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, meaning that each right contributes to the fulfilment of another. Human rights protect everyone – prisoners, heads of state, children, women, blacks, whites, Asians, Europeans, migrants, refugees, stateless persons, those accused of crimes or fighting in a war and charity workers.
They include the right to basic medicine, food and water, shelter and security. Everyone needs these in order to live, and when they are denied them it is a violation of their basic human rights. Including these in the list of human rights allows activists to work towards ensuring that every person has access to them. They also recognise that everyone has a right to freedom of religion and spiritual belief, or the choice not to hold one, as well as protecting them from discrimination and abuse in this area. Human rights also acknowledge the importance of a person’s sexuality and love life, so that they can be free to choose what this looks like for them, and to be protected from discrimination in this area.
There is no country with a clean record on human rights, even established democracies have their problems. The main reason is that they often lack a system that provides people with the basics of a good life. This includes a healthcare system that can cope with diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, which disproportionately affect low-income countries and populations. It also includes a social protection floor to protect people from poverty and hunger.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international treaty that guarantees the basic rights of all people everywhere. It was drafted by representatives of a wide range of countries, reflecting different cultural, political and religious beliefs and backgrounds. It was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
It has been interpreted in many ways by courts around the world, making it an important legal document. The UDHR and other human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocols, form the international bill of human rights.
Human rights laws don’t just protect individuals, they also have the power to create dynamic networks of people from all walks of life who share common goals and can make real change happen. This includes local community groups, politicians, lawyers and activists, but can also extend to environmentalists, tech experts, health professionals, economists and journalists.
In the long run, human rights will only be sustainable if they are owned and practised by all communities. This will be achieved through a process of building partnerships at the local level, where people can work together to shape creative new strategies for addressing human rights issues.