This Sunday is Human Rights Day, an annual observance on December 10 to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here are five facts you should know about international human rights.
1. Prior to the 1940s there were a number of documents, such as the the British Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights, that advanced the recognition of human rights. But few documents were recognized internationally as applying to all people at all times in all nations. During World War II the push for universal recognition of inalienable human rights was aided by the Atlantic Charter and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech before the United States Congress in 1941. These ideals were also transmitted in a pamphlet called, “The United Nations fight for the Four Freedoms: The Rights of All Men — Everywhere.”
2. The atrocities of the Nazis caused the international community to recognize a need for human rights to be established as an international legal status. More than 1,300 American non-governmental organizations joined together in placing newspaper ads calling for human rights to be an integral part of any future international organization, and called for the United Nations Charter to include a clear and substantive commitment to human rights. On April 25, 1945, representatives from forty-six nations gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations. They responded to the demand by mentioning human rights five times in the UN Charter. The charter also established a commission “for the promotion of human rights.” This newly created “Commission on Human Rights" spent three years drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
3. The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, served as the chairperson of the UDHR drafting committee. As the UN notes, “Their work involved thousands of hours of intensive study, heated debate, and delicate negotiation that centered on innumerable recommendations from many sources, public and private. The men and women of the Commission on Human Rights strove to forge a declaration that might successfully encompass the hopes, beliefs and aspirations of people throughout the world.” After the committee completed its work, the document was submitted to the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which held a total of 81 meetings and considered 168 formal resolution on the declaration. Forty-eight nations voted for the Declaration, eight countries abstained (the Soviet bloc countries, South Africa and Saudi Arabia) and two countries were absent.
4. According to the UN, the UDHR has inspired more than 80 international human rights treaties and declarations, numerous regional human rights conventions, domestic human rights bills, and constitutional provisions, which together constitute a comprehensive legally binding system for the promotion and protection of human rights.
5. Based on the text of the UDHR, all humans have the following rights:
To security of person.
To be free from slavery.
To be free from involuntary servitude.
To be free from torture.
To be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
To recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
To equal protection of the law.
To an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
To not be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.
To a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
To be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which one has had all the guarantees necessary for one’s defense.
To be free from arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
To be free from attacks upon one’s honor and reputation.
To the protection of the law against such interference or attacks upon’s one’s privacy, honor, or reputation.
To freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
To leave any country, including one’s own.
To return to one’s country.
To seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
To a nationality.
To change one’s nationality.
To found a family.
To free and full consent in choosing one’s spouse.
To own property alone as well as in association with others.
To be free from being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property.
To freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
To change one’s religion or belief.
To manifest, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, one’s religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
To freedom of opinion and expression.
To seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.
To freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
To be free of compulsion to belong to an association.
To take part in the government of one’s country.
To equal access of public services in one’s country.
To a secure society.
To free choice of employment.
To just and favorable conditions of work.
To protection against unemployment.
To equal pay for equal work.
To just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and one’s family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
To form and to join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.
To rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
To a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.
To security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond one’s control.
To free elementary education.
To equal access of higher education based on merit.
To choose the kind of education that shall be given to one’s children.
To participate in the cultural life of the community.
To enjoy the arts.
To share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
To the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author.
To a social and international order in which human rights and freedoms can be fully realized.