Many people throughout the world are still deprived of the most basic human rights.
They don’t have food, shelter, education, medical care, cultural, religious or gender equality.
Millions of people suffer violence, terror and intimidation and many of them – and indeed, many of us – have long since given up any hope of this changing.
On top of this lack of basic security and necessities – the whole area of human rights has also become a highly contentious arena. Some people claim that the notion of human rights, as we understand them, is a Western construct that shouldn’t be imposed on non-Western cultures. Others claim that criminals – and their lawyers – use the concept of human rights to escape punishment for wrong-doing.
And there is a certain amount of truth in both claims.
However, do these issues really negate the whole concept of universal human rights or are they just problems on the road to clarity?
It’s been almost sixty-three years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, and while this is a long time in an individual human life, in terms of human society it’s a relatively short time. Perhaps, then, the reason we are having so many problems – one way or another – with human rights – is that it’s an idea that’s really quite new to us? However, now that we’ve lived with the idea for sixty-three years, maybe we’re ready to really begin to make progress in this vital area of human existence?
The Drafting Committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Top row, from left: Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon), Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR), Dr. Peng-chun Chang (China). Middle row, from left: René Cassin (France), Eleanor Roosevelt (US), Charles Dukes (United Kingdom). Bottom row, from left: William Hodgson (Australia), Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile), John P. Humphrey (Canada).