The UDHR is a milestone document. For the first time, the world had a globally agreed document that marked out all humans as being free and equal, regardless of sex, colour, creed, religion or other characteristics. The UDHR is, as its title suggests, universal — meaning it applies to all people, in all countries around the world. Although it is not legally binding, the protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration has been incorporated into many national constitutions and domestic legal frameworks. The Declaration has also provided the foundation from which a wealth of other legally binding human rights treaties have been developed, and has become a clear benchmark for the universal human rights standards that must be promoted and protected in all countries.
The UDHR continues to serve as a foundation for national and international laws and standards. For organizations like Amnesty who are committed to protecting and fighting for human rights, it acts as a guiding inspiration for our mission and vision. Every December, Amnesty supporters across the globe will write millions of letters and take action for those whose basic human rights are being attacked.
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They are people like you, continuing a long tradition of writing letters to right some of the worlds's biggest wrongs. Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. Defending Dignity: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights — Get an introduction to the UDHR and discover ways you can take action to defend dignity and claim your rights, and the rights of others through this new course from Amnesty International launching in the new year!
All human rights are equally important, and all governments must treat human rights in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. All states have a duty, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights for everyone without discrimination. So no matter what distinctions people have, there is one basic principle that underlies all the rights outlined in the UDHR: that every human being has the same inalienable rights. This means human rights are the same for every man, woman and child across the world, no matter what their circumstances.
There can be no distinction of any kind: including race, colour, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, of fortune, of birth or any other situation. Universal means everyone, everywhere. The UDHR also shows us that human rights are interdependent and indivisible.
All of the 30 articles in the Declaration are equally important. Nobody can decide that some are more important than others. You can follow RightsInfo on Twitter and Facebook.
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What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? In this post from RightsInfo, Karina Weller examines the role of the ground-breaking document that set the world on the path to an international criminal law. So, what does it say? Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms… The UDHR is not a legally binding treaty. It encompasses both civil and political rights as well as social, economic and cultural rights:.
The Declaration also contains a strong reference to community and citizenship duties as essential to free and full development and to respecting the rights and freedoms of others. Similarly, the rights in the declaration cannot be invoked by people or states in violating human rights. The two Covenants were drafted in order to expand on the rights outlined in the UDHR, and to give them legal force within a treaty. Each of them, as their names indicate, provides for a different category of rights although they also share concerns, for example in relation to non-discrimination.
Further to the International Bill of Rights, the UN has adopted a further seven treaties addressing particular rights or beneficiaries.
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There has been mobilisation for the idea of particular rights or beneficiaries — for example child rights for children — as despite the application of all human rights to children and young people, children are not seen to enjoy equal access to those general rights and they are in need of specific additional protections. The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children have human rights too, and that people under the age of 18 need special protection in order to ensure that their full development, their survival, and their best interests are respected.
The International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination prohibits and condemns racial discrimination and requires states parties to take steps to bring it to an end by all appropriate means, whether this is carried out by public authorities or others. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW, focuses on the discrimination which is often systemically and routinely suffered by women through "distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women […] in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field".
Article 1 States undertake to condemn such discrimination and take immediate steps to ensure equality. This treaty requires states parties to take effective measures to prevent torture within their jurisdiction and forbids them from returning people to their home country if there is reason to believe they would be tortured there. The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and members of their Families refers to a person who "is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national" Article 2.
As well as delineating the general human rights which such people should benefit from, the treaty clarifies that whether documented and in a regular and legal situation or not, discrimination should not be suffered in relation to the enjoyment of rights such as liberty and security, protection against violence or deprivation of liberty. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marks a groundbreaking shift not only in its definition of people with disabilities but also in their recognition as equal subjects with full and equal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The treaty clarifies the application of rights to such people and obliges states parties to make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in order to allow them to exercise their rights effectively, for example in order to ensure their access to services and cultural life. The Convention on Enforced Disappearances addresses a phenomenon which has been a global problem. The treaty prohibits the "arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty" Article 2 , whether by state agents or others acting with the states' acquiescence, and accepts no exceptional circumstances whatsoever for this refusal to acknowledge deprivation of liberty and the concealment of the fate and whereabouts of victims.
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Its objective is to end this cynical ploy and attempt to inflict serious human rights violations and get away with it. As well as recognising the fundamental rights of individuals, some human rights instruments recognise the rights of specific groups. These special protections are in place because of previous cases of discrimination against groups and because of the disadvantaged and vulnerable position that some groups occupy in society. The special protection does not provide new human rights as such but rather seeks to ensure that the human rights of the UDHR are effectively accessible to everyone.
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It is therefore incorrect to pretend that people from minorities have more rights than people from majorities; if there are special rights for minorities, it is simply to guarantee them equality of opportunities in accessing civil, political, social, economic or cultural rights. Examples of groups that have received special protection are:. States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities. Minorities have not been definitively defined by international human rights instruments, but they are commonly described in such instruments as those with national or ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics that differ from the majority population and which they wish to maintain.
These are protected:. A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention's four core principles are: non-discrimination; a commitment to upholding the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. At the African level, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides basic children's rights, taking into account the unique factors of the continent's situation.
It came into force in This Convention is the first instrument to establish the various forms of sexual abuse of children as criminal offences, including such abuse committed in the home or family. The only regional system with a specific instrument on refugee protection has been Africa with the adoption, in , of the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugees, but in Europe the ECHR also offers some protection.
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The adoption of this Declaration marked 20 years after the adoption of another Declaration on the equality of Women and Men. The aim of the Declaration is to bridge the gap between the equality of genders in fact, as well as in law.
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It calls on Member States to eliminate structural causes of power imbalances between women and men, ensuring economic independence and empowerment of women, the elimination of established stereotypes, the eradication of violations of the dignity and human rights of women through effective action to prevent and combat gender-based violence, and the integration of a gender equality perspective in governance.
Groups such as people with disabilities are also given special protection because of their vulnerable position, which can make them more prone to abuse. Other groups too, for example indigenous peoples, have also received specific protection at the international level through the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, although not yet as a legally binding instrument. Question: Are there other groups in your society that are in need of special protection? As we can see above, international and regional instruments generally uphold the same minimum standards but they may differ in their focus or in raising regionally focused concerns.
For example, the concern with internally displaced persons was spearheaded in the African region before the issue really emerged as a matter for UN concern; similarly, the mechanism of visiting places of detention in an effort to prevent torture was first established at the European level before an Optional Protocol allowed for the same mechanism under the UN Convention Against Torture. These examples show how regional and international norms and mechanisms can enhance the promotion and protection of human rights. The practical advantage of having regional human rights norms and systems for the protection of human rights is that they are more likely to have been crafted in the basis of closer geographic, historical, political, cultural and social affinities.
They are also more accessible to policy makers, politicians and victims. Four of the five world regions have established human rights systems for the protection of human rights. The objective of regional instruments is to articulate human rights standards and mechanisms at the regional level without downgrading the universality of human rights.
As regional systems have developed, whether due to an economic impetus or for more historical or political reasons, they have also felt the urge to articulate a regional human rights commitment, often reinforcing the mechanisms and guarantees of the UN system. Indeed there have been many examples where regional standards exceed internationally agreed standards, one example being the African system's pioneering recognition of the need for protection, not only for refugees but also for internally displaced persons.
On the Asian continent, no real system has been developed to date and the only regional human rights instrument is a non-binding peoples' charter initiated by civil society — the Asian Declaration on Human Rights. Europe has a well-established system within the Council of Europe for the protection of human rights of which the cornerstone is the European Convention of Human Rights with its European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg.