Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR).
A document designed and articulated to provide a common understanding of what being human actually stands for, the UDHR was first released in Paris on the 10th December 1948 following the violence and brutality of 2 World Wars which happened in very quick succession at the start of the 20th Century where families were torn apart and millions of lives were lost.
In an effort to promote sustained global peace, the UDHR was commissioned by representatives of all different cultural and legal backgrounds from all over the world, and the declaration was announced by the United Nations General Assembly as a document that affirmed a common standard of how people from all nations should expect to be treated, regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity, religion or cultural background.
The UDHR was, and remains, a seminal point in the history of Human Rights and is a series of 30 Articles which forms the basis of Human Rights laws globally. Want to know more about the UDHR? Read on…..
What Does the UDHR cover?
Each one of the 30 Articles represents one of the fundamental human rights we are all entitled to.
They cover everything, from the right to life, the right to be free from all forms of slavery, the right to freedom of torture and inhuman acts, the right to rest and leisure, the right to peaceful protest and the right to education. The full list can be viewed here.
Interestingly there is a simplified version created for younger people to follow which condenses the 30 Articles down in to 15 easy to follow standards and these are as follows:
We Are All Born Free & Equal. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.
Don’t Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.
The Right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
No Slavery. Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.
No Torture. Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.
You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go. I am a person just like you!
We’re All Equal Before the Law. The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.
Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law. We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.
No Unfair Detainment. Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.
The Right to Trial. If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.
We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.
The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.
Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.
The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.
Right to a Nationality. We all have the right to belong to a country. (Youth For Human Rights, 2018)
How Do We Educate on Human Rights?
Sadly, it is not within the national curriculum to teach our children and young people specifically about human rights.
Furthermore, it is not until Key stage 3, (usually around the age of 11 and upwards), when anything remotely resembling human rights is introduced on to the curriculum; this is known as ‘Citizenship’, and it’s aims are to ‘provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding’ in order for young people to be able to play a full and active role in society as they become adults.
Citizenship, (which is essentially different to human rights), has only recently been introduced on to the national curriculum and is all well and good, but relies heavily on the knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm of teachers already overstretched by the demands of government bodies, meeting required league table standards and who may not have a full understanding themselves, having never been taught the core fundamentals of human rights, or why they exist, in the first place.
Interestingly, in Sweden, where education is focussed on having a more equal society and human rights is a way of life, child wellbeing is far better than that in the UK, and health and social wellbeing is far better overall. * Of course compared to children say in the Yemen, where they are being denied the very right to life thanks to the continued civil war and a conflict caused by an uprising against the dictatorial government, children in the UK are very privileged, and we are brought up to expect human rights to be upheld from a very young age. This does not however pertain to the understanding of human rights, and unfortunately, many see human rights as a very individualist theme, rather than as a way to improve society as a whole.
What Now for Human Rights?
As the UDHR reaches the milestone of it’s 70th anniversary, so to does it seem, we reach a critical point in that of human rights.
War rages on in Syria and the Yemen, government forces continue to drive the Rohingya’s out of Myanmar, and in America, President Donald Trump seeks to put blanket travel bans on Muslims wishing to enter the US.
Here in the U.K as Brexit looms, we see the possibility of workers rights being rescinded, former cabinet members issuing anti-feminist rhetoric, and the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest coming under increased pressure.
All of which begs the question how relevant is the UDHR in the 21st century?
It would seem sadly, not very, as leaders and those in power interpret the meaning of some of the articles within the declaration very loosely or even not at all! So maybe it’s time for the United Nations to remember why this very special declaration was introduced in the first place and impose a heavy penalty on those who abuse human rights. In addition, we must all learn more about this fascinating declaration and why it was introduced in the first place, and fight tooth and nail to ensure it is not forgotten; or that human rights are neither taken for granted or used as an individualist tool for personal gain above that of society as a whole.
Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K., 2010. The Spirit Level. Why Equality is Better for Everyone. 2 ed. London: Penguin.
Youth For Human Rights, 2018. What Are Human Rights?. [Online] Available at: https://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/articles-1-15.html [Accessed 25 November 2018].