Human rights are a set of principles that recognize the inalienable dignity of every human person. They are fundamental in the development of a society and are an integral part of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
These rights are essential for the realization of a person’s human dignity, which is defined as the full realisation of one’s potential to realize his or her own intellectual, physical, social and cultural needs. They include, but are not limited to:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document that sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be protected in all States and peoples. It was drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from around the world, and was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. It is a global road map for freedom and equality.
There are three main ways in which humans have developed the concept of human rights: a) as a set of norms whose existence is grounded in some kind of independent moral reality; b) as goal-like rights that serve as an important and useful political practice; or c) as legally enacted rights.
A third way in which human rights can exist independently of legal enactment is as a shared norm of actual human moralities that contain imperative norms of interpersonal behavior backed by reasons and values. If almost all human groups have moralities containing norms prohibiting murder, these norms could partially constitute the human right to life.
Similarly, if almost all human groups have moralities that protect the right of the poor to access water and food, these moralities could partially constitute the human right to health.
In many situations, these norms are enacted by laws at both the national and international levels. These laws are often referred to as “human rights” laws and may include the prohibition of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
If a nation violates these rights, it is known as a human rights violation and can be brought to international justice in the form of a lawsuit or war crimes tribunal.
These violations of civil and political rights are often rooted in conflict, as the state tries to maintain control and push down rebellious societal forces. In such cases, leaders must champion the enactment of human rights law and promote international legal norms in order to restore trust in public authorities and rebuild a healthy social climate.
Disadvantage and marginalization are also a cause of the violation of these rights, as they place certain populations in a cycle of poverty and oppression. These conditions are aggravated by factors such as inequitable distribution of resources, lack of access to basic services and poor environmental quality.