The idea of the rights of the individual and the need to limit the power and abuse of power of the ruler and the rulers is not entirely new. It has grown over several hundred years, but has especially gained momentum in the sails after 1945 – not least the last two to three decades. Concepts such as equality (for the law), equality, freedom, human dignity and (satisfactory) welfare are often linked to human rights.
- What is meant by human rights?
- What types of human rights exist?
- What does it mean that human rights apply to everyone?
- Who ensures that human rights are respected, and how?
According to usvsukenglish, the unique thing about human rights is that they apply to all of us – solely by virtue of our being human. It is not necessary to earn them. Simply put, human rights are rules for how the state should treat individuals and groups. The starting point for international human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948.
2: The history of human rights
The historical background for the UN resolution on the Universal Declaration was the atrocities against Jews and other groups, before and during World War II. After World War II, there was agreement in the world community to adopt a set of rights that would apply to “all members of the human race” and form the basis of “freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Responsibility for drafting the Universal Declaration was given to the UN Commission on Human Rights, set up by the Economic and Social Council in 1946. The commission included a total of 18 government representatives – from Australia, Belgium, Chile, Egypt, the Philippines, France, India, Iran, Yugoslavia, China, Belarus, Lebanon, Panama, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, the United States and Uruguay.
3: All continents represented – applies to all
All continents were represented and had the opportunity to influence the work on the declaration. Eleanor Roosevelt (widow of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1933–1945) was elected the first head of the Commission on Human Rights. Other important positions went to China, Lebanon, France, Chile and Canada. The new thing about the Universal Declaration was that for the first time in history, at a global level, it was affirmed that human rights apply to everyone, no matter where in the world they live. Human rights are thus said to be universal.
4: Types of human rights
Human rights are based on the principles of equal rights and non-discrimination .
There are many ways to divide human rights. The most common is to distinguish between civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights:
- The civil rights protect life, integrity, freedom, rule of law, private and family life, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, philosophical, assembly, association and freedom of movement
- The political rights protect the right to take part in the government of his country (the right to vote and the right to stand for election)
- The economic rights protect the right to work, to form and join trade unions, to strike and to an adequate standard of living
- The social rights protect the individual’s right to support in the event of unemployment, illness, disability and other conditions beyond the individual’s control.
- The cultural rights protect the right to education, to take part in cultural life, enjoy science and copyright
5: Important human rights documents
In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are a number of different types of international documents dealing with human rights: pacts, conventions, protocols, declarations, basic principles and more. International agreements such as pacts, conventions and protocols are legally binding on the states that have ratified them, ie states that have declared by a special procedure that they will abide by them. In practice, this would mean that the national assembly in a country has finally approved an agreement.
In a state of emergency or war , it may be permissible to disregard any of the rights (“derogation”).
The two central human rights conventions
- Convention on Civil and Political Rights and
- Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
were adopted in 1966, but did not enter into force until 1976, after 35 states had ratified them.
The UN has also adopted several special conventions on, among other things, the protection of refugees, the prohibition of torture, the abolition of genocide, the abolition of racial discrimination and the rights of vulnerable groups such as children, women, foreign workers and the disabled.
Important for Norway and other European states is also the European Convention on Human Rights , which was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950. The Council of Europe has since adopted several important conventions, among other things to protect against torture and to secure the rights of minorities. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (KSSE, now transformed into the OSCE) adopted the Helsinki Declaration in 1975 , which, together with follow-up documents, has helped to promote democracy and human rights in Europe. In addition, the EU has adopted a number of agreements that are important for Norway.