Do you care about the basic, human rights of all people? Are you a budding human rights activist or advocate? No matter your level of experience or interest, there are key areas of human rights with which everyone should be familiar.
As Part 1 of this “information series,” I’ve put together the five things I think everyone should know about human rights. Each week, I will build on these concepts and include links to additional information.
Part 1 – The First Five Essentials of Human Rights
1. Everyone has human rights. Including children.
Human rights refers to basic rights and freedoms, like dignity and justice, which are inherent to all people regardless of race, sex, religion, class, or any other status. Children have human rights, too, as recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
2. On December 10th, 1948, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted, formally declaring human rights for all people.
The UDHR was the world’s first, formal statement recognizing that all people have fundamental freedoms and rights. Known for being the most widely translated document in the world, the UDHR was created to combat the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. The UDHR was framed by the Human Rights Commission, of which Eleanor Roosevelt was chair.
3. The Geneva Conventions – All is not fair in love and war.
The Geneva Conventions are a series of conventions that effectively define international humanitarian law. The conventions provide rules for dealing with armed conflict; in particular, the treatment and protection of captured combatants, the sick and wounded, and displaced civilians. Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross, was instrumental in US ratification of the Geneva Conventions.
4. The United States has not ratified a human rights treaty since 2002.
While this may surprise you, it is, in fact, true. What’s more, the US is not party to some of the world’s most important human rights treaties. For example, the US is the only country on the planet, besides Somalia, that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in the world. Additionally, the US joins Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga as the only counties that failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which serves as the women’s bill of rights.
5. Every one of us can help protect the human rights of others.
In order to protect the human rights of others, you have to know what your rights are. Once you know, share this information with others. If you see someone being bullied in school, speak up for them. If someone you know falls prey to malicious or damaging rumors, confront the rumors and stand up for the victim! In your spare time, volunteer at a church, homeless shelter, food bank, or local school. Finally, add a badge to your website or blog to share your beliefs with the world. These things may seem small to you, but to the people you help, it means everything.
Still interested in learning more about human rights, or want to simply test your knowledge? Visit the UN’s Know Your Rights website, which was created in commemoration of the UDHR’s 60th anniversary. You can take the human rights quiz, peruse the Human Rights Index and more.
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