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Essay on Human Rights: Samples in 500 and 1500

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  • Updated on  
  • Dec 9, 2023

Essay on Human Rights

Essay writing is an integral part of the school curriculum and various academic and competitive exams like IELTS , TOEFL , SAT , UPSC , etc. It is designed to test your command of the English language and how well you can gather your thoughts and present them in a structure with a flow. To master your ability to write an essay, you must read as much as possible and practise on any given topic. This blog brings you a detailed guide on how to write an essay on Human Rights , with useful essay samples on Human rights.

This Blog Includes:

The basic human rights, 200 words essay on human rights, 500 words essay on human rights, 500+ words essay on human rights in india, 1500 words essay on human rights, importance of human rights, essay on human rights pdf.

Also Read: List of Human Rights Courses

Also Read: MSc Human Rights

Also Read: 1-Minute Speech on Human Rights for Students

What are Human Rights

Human rights mark everyone as free and equal, irrespective of age, gender, caste, creed, religion and nationality. The United Nations adopted human rights in light of the atrocities people faced during the Second World War. On the 10th of December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its adoption led to the recognition of human rights as the foundation for freedom, justice and peace for every individual. Although it’s not legally binding, most nations have incorporated these human rights into their constitutions and domestic legal frameworks. Human rights safeguard us from discrimination and guarantee that our most basic needs are protected.

Did you know that the 10th of December is celebrated as Human Rights Day ?

Before we move on to the essays on human rights, let’s check out the basics of what they are.

Human Rights

Also Read: What are Human Rights?

Also Read: 7 Impactful Human Rights Movies Everyone Must Watch!

Here is a 200-word short sample essay on basic Human Rights.

Human rights are a set of rights given to every human being regardless of their gender, caste, creed, religion, nation, location or economic status. These are said to be moral principles that illustrate certain standards of human behaviour. Protected by law , these rights are applicable everywhere and at any time. Basic human rights include the right to life, right to a fair trial, right to remedy by a competent tribunal, right to liberty and personal security, right to own property, right to education, right of peaceful assembly and association, right to marriage and family, right to nationality and freedom to change it, freedom of speech, freedom from discrimination, freedom from slavery, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of movement, right of opinion and information, right to adequate living standard and freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence.

Also Read: Law Courses

Check out this 500-word long essay on Human Rights.

Every person has dignity and value. One of the ways that we recognise the fundamental worth of every person is by acknowledging and respecting their human rights. Human rights are a set of principles concerned with equality and fairness. They recognise our freedom to make choices about our lives and develop our potential as human beings. They are about living a life free from fear, harassment or discrimination.

Human rights can broadly be defined as the basic rights that people worldwide have agreed are essential. These include the right to life, the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to health, education and an adequate standard of living. These human rights are the same for all people everywhere – men and women, young and old, rich and poor, regardless of our background, where we live, what we think or believe. This basic property is what makes human rights’ universal’.

Human rights connect us all through a shared set of rights and responsibilities. People’s ability to enjoy their human rights depends on other people respecting those rights. This means that human rights involve responsibility and duties towards other people and the community. Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they exercise their rights with consideration for the rights of others. For example, when someone uses their right to freedom of speech, they should do so without interfering with someone else’s right to privacy.

Governments have a particular responsibility to ensure that people can enjoy their rights. They must establish and maintain laws and services that enable people to enjoy a life in which their rights are respected and protected. For example, the right to education says that everyone is entitled to a good education. Therefore, governments must provide good quality education facilities and services to their people. If the government fails to respect or protect their basic human rights, people can take it into account.

Values of tolerance, equality and respect can help reduce friction within society. Putting human rights ideas into practice can help us create the kind of society we want to live in. There has been tremendous growth in how we think about and apply human rights ideas in recent decades. This growth has had many positive results – knowledge about human rights can empower individuals and offer solutions for specific problems.

Human rights are an important part of how people interact with others at all levels of society – in the family, the community, school, workplace, politics and international relations. Therefore, people everywhere must strive to understand what human rights are. When people better understand human rights, it is easier for them to promote justice and the well-being of society. 

Also Read: Important Articles in Indian Constitution

Here is a human rights essay focused on India.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It has been rightly proclaimed in the American Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Created with certain unalienable rights….” Similarly, the Indian Constitution has ensured and enshrined Fundamental rights for all citizens irrespective of caste, creed, religion, colour, sex or nationality. These basic rights, commonly known as human rights, are recognised the world over as basic rights with which every individual is born.

In recognition of human rights, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made on the 10th of December, 1948. This declaration is the basic instrument of human rights. Even though this declaration has no legal bindings and authority, it forms the basis of all laws on human rights. The necessity of formulating laws to protect human rights is now being felt all over the world. According to social thinkers, the issue of human rights became very important after World War II concluded. It is important for social stability both at the national and international levels. Wherever there is a breach of human rights, there is conflict at one level or the other.

Given the increasing importance of the subject, it becomes necessary that educational institutions recognise the subject of human rights as an independent discipline. The course contents and curriculum of the discipline of human rights may vary according to the nature and circumstances of a particular institution. Still, generally, it should include the rights of a child, rights of minorities, rights of the needy and the disabled, right to live, convention on women, trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation etc.

Since the formation of the United Nations , the promotion and protection of human rights have been its main focus. The United Nations has created a wide range of mechanisms for monitoring human rights violations. The conventional mechanisms include treaties and organisations, U.N. special reporters, representatives and experts and working groups. Asian countries like China argue in favour of collective rights. According to Chinese thinkers, European countries lay stress upon individual rights and values while Asian countries esteem collective rights and obligations to the family and society as a whole.

With the freedom movement the world over after World War II, the end of colonisation also ended the policy of apartheid and thereby the most aggressive violation of human rights. With the spread of education, women are asserting their rights. Women’s movements play an important role in spreading the message of human rights. They are fighting for their rights and supporting the struggle for human rights of other weaker and deprived sections like bonded labour, child labour, landless labour, unemployed persons, Dalits and elderly people.

Unfortunately, violation of human rights continues in most parts of the world. Ethnic cleansing and genocide can still be seen in several parts of the world. Large sections of the world population are deprived of the necessities of life i.e. food, shelter and security of life. Right to minimum basic needs viz. Work, health care, education and shelter are denied to them. These deprivations amount to the negation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Also Read: Human Rights Courses

Check out this detailed 1500-word essay on human rights.

The human right to live and exist, the right to equality, including equality before the law, non-discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, the right to practice any profession or occupation, the right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and trafficking in human beings, the right to freedom of conscience, practice and propagation of religion and the right to legal remedies for enforcement of the above are basic human rights. These rights and freedoms are the very foundations of democracy.

Obviously, in a democracy, the people enjoy the maximum number of freedoms and rights. Besides these are political rights, which include the right to contest an election and vote freely for a candidate of one’s choice. Human rights are a benchmark of a developed and civilised society. But rights cannot exist in a vacuum. They have their corresponding duties. Rights and duties are the two aspects of the same coin.

Liberty never means license. Rights presuppose the rule of law, where everyone in the society follows a code of conduct and behaviour for the good of all. It is the sense of duty and tolerance that gives meaning to rights. Rights have their basis in the ‘live and let live’ principle. For example, my right to speech and expression involves my duty to allow others to enjoy the same freedom of speech and expression. Rights and duties are inextricably interlinked and interdependent. A perfect balance is to be maintained between the two. Whenever there is an imbalance, there is chaos.

A sense of tolerance, propriety and adjustment is a must to enjoy rights and freedom. Human life sans basic freedom and rights is meaningless. Freedom is the most precious possession without which life would become intolerable, a mere abject and slavish existence. In this context, Milton’s famous and oft-quoted lines from his Paradise Lost come to mind: “To reign is worth ambition though in hell/Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

However, liberty cannot survive without its corresponding obligations and duties. An individual is a part of society in which he enjoys certain rights and freedom only because of the fulfilment of certain duties and obligations towards others. Thus, freedom is based on mutual respect’s rights. A fine balance must be maintained between the two, or there will be anarchy and bloodshed. Therefore, human rights can best be preserved and protected in a society steeped in morality, discipline and social order.

Violation of human rights is most common in totalitarian and despotic states. In the theocratic states, there is much persecution, and violation in the name of religion and the minorities suffer the most. Even in democracies, there is widespread violation and infringement of human rights and freedom. The women, children and the weaker sections of society are victims of these transgressions and violence.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights’ main concern is to protect and promote human rights and freedom in the world’s nations. In its various sessions held from time to time in Geneva, it adopts various measures to encourage worldwide observations of these basic human rights and freedom. It calls on its member states to furnish information regarding measures that comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whenever there is a complaint of a violation of these rights. In addition, it reviews human rights situations in various countries and initiates remedial measures when required.

The U.N. Commission was much concerned and dismayed at the apartheid being practised in South Africa till recently. The Secretary-General then declared, “The United Nations cannot tolerate apartheid. It is a legalised system of racial discrimination, violating the most basic human rights in South Africa. It contradicts the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. That is why over the last forty years, my predecessors and I have urged the Government of South Africa to dismantle it.”

Now, although apartheid is no longer practised in that country, other forms of apartheid are being blatantly practised worldwide. For example, sex apartheid is most rampant. Women are subject to abuse and exploitation. They are not treated equally and get less pay than their male counterparts for the same jobs. In employment, promotions, possession of property etc., they are most discriminated against. Similarly, the rights of children are not observed properly. They are forced to work hard in very dangerous situations, sexually assaulted and exploited, sold and bonded for labour.

The Commission found that religious persecution, torture, summary executions without judicial trials, intolerance, slavery-like practices, kidnapping, political disappearance, etc., are being practised even in the so-called advanced countries and societies. The continued acts of extreme violence, terrorism and extremism in various parts of the world like Pakistan, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Somalia, Algeria, Lebanon, Chile, China, and Myanmar, etc., by the governments, terrorists, religious fundamentalists, and mafia outfits, etc., is a matter of grave concern for the entire human race.

Violation of freedom and rights by terrorist groups backed by states is one of the most difficult problems society faces. For example, Pakistan has been openly collaborating with various terrorist groups, indulging in extreme violence in India and other countries. In this regard the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva adopted a significant resolution, which was co-sponsored by India, focusing on gross violation of human rights perpetrated by state-backed terrorist groups.

The resolution expressed its solidarity with the victims of terrorism and proposed that a U.N. Fund for victims of terrorism be established soon. The Indian delegation recalled that according to the Vienna Declaration, terrorism is nothing but the destruction of human rights. It shows total disregard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. The delegation further argued that terrorism cannot be treated as a mere crime because it is systematic and widespread in its killing of civilians.

Violation of human rights, whether by states, terrorists, separatist groups, armed fundamentalists or extremists, is condemnable. Regardless of the motivation, such acts should be condemned categorically in all forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever they are committed, as acts of aggression aimed at destroying human rights, fundamental freedom and democracy. The Indian delegation also underlined concerns about the growing connection between terrorist groups and the consequent commission of serious crimes. These include rape, torture, arson, looting, murder, kidnappings, blasts, and extortion, etc.

Violation of human rights and freedom gives rise to alienation, dissatisfaction, frustration and acts of terrorism. Governments run by ambitious and self-seeking people often use repressive measures and find violence and terror an effective means of control. However, state terrorism, violence, and human freedom transgressions are very dangerous strategies. This has been the background of all revolutions in the world. Whenever there is systematic and widespread state persecution and violation of human rights, rebellion and revolution have taken place. The French, American, Russian and Chinese Revolutions are glowing examples of human history.

The first war of India’s Independence in 1857 resulted from long and systematic oppression of the Indian masses. The rapidly increasing discontent, frustration and alienation with British rule gave rise to strong national feelings and demand for political privileges and rights. Ultimately the Indian people, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, made the British leave India, setting the country free and independent.

Human rights and freedom ought to be preserved at all costs. Their curtailment degrades human life. The political needs of a country may reshape Human rights, but they should not be completely distorted. Tyranny, regimentation, etc., are inimical of humanity and should be resisted effectively and united. The sanctity of human values, freedom and rights must be preserved and protected. Human Rights Commissions should be established in all countries to take care of human freedom and rights. In cases of violation of human rights, affected individuals should be properly compensated, and it should be ensured that these do not take place in future.

These commissions can become effective instruments in percolating the sensitivity to human rights down to the lowest levels of governments and administrations. The formation of the National Human Rights Commission in October 1993 in India is commendable and should be followed by other countries.

Also Read: Law Courses in India

Human rights are of utmost importance to seek basic equality and human dignity. Human rights ensure that the basic needs of every human are met. They protect vulnerable groups from discrimination and abuse, allow people to stand up for themselves, and follow any religion without fear and give them the freedom to express their thoughts freely. In addition, they grant people access to basic education and equal work opportunities. Thus implementing these rights is crucial to ensure freedom, peace and safety.

Human Rights Day is annually celebrated on the 10th of December.

Human Rights Day is celebrated to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UNGA in 1948.

Some of the common Human Rights are the right to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom from slavery and torture and the right to work and education.

We hope our sample essays on Human Rights have given you some great ideas. For more information on such interesting blogs, visit our essay writing page and follow Leverage Edu .

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Human Rights Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on human rights.

Human rights are a set of rights which every human is entitled to. Every human being is inherited with these rights no matter what caste, creed, gender, the economic status they belong to. Human rights are very important for making sure that all humans get treated equally. They are in fact essential for a good standard of living in the world.

Human Rights Essay

Moreover, human rights safeguard the interests of the citizens of a country. You are liable to have human rights if you’re a human being. They will help in giving you a good life full of happiness and prosperity.

Human Rights Categories

Human rights are essentially divided into two categories of civil and political rights, and social rights. This classification is important because it clears the concept of human rights further. Plus, they also make humans realize their role in different spheres.

When we talk about civil and political rights , we refer to the classic rights of humans. These rights are responsible for limiting the government’s authority that may affect any individual’s independence. Furthermore, these rights allow humans to contribute to the involvement of the government. In addition to the determination of laws as well.

Next up, the social rights of people guide the government to encourage ways to plan various ways which will help in improving the life quality of citizens. All the governments of countries are responsible for ensuring the well-being of their citizens. Human rights help countries in doing so efficiently.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Importance of Human Rights

Human rights are extremely important for the overall development of a country and individuals on a personal level. If we take a look at the basic human rights, we see how there are right to life, the right to practice any religion, freedom of movement , freedom from movement and more. Each right plays a major role in the well-being of any human.

Right to life protects the lives of human beings. It ensures no one can kill you and thus safeguards your peace of mind. Subsequently, the freedom of thought and religion allows citizens to follow any religion they wish to. Moreover, it also means anyone can think freely.

Further, freedom of movement is helpful in people’s mobilization. It ensures no one is restricted from traveling and residing in any state of their choice. It allows you to grab opportunities wherever you wish to.

Next up, human rights also give you the right to a fair trial. Every human being has the right to move to the court where there will be impartial decision making . They can trust the court to give them justice when everything else fails.

Most importantly, humans are now free from any form of slavery. No other human being can indulge in slavery and make them their slaves. Further, humans are also free to speak and express their opinion.

In short, human rights are very essential for a happy living of human beings. However, these days they are violated endlessly and we need to come together to tackle this issue. The governments and citizens must take efforts to protect each other and progress for the better. In other words, this will ensure happiness and prosperity all over the world.

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The Idea of Human Rights

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The Idea of Human Rights

8 Conclusion

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This book has presented an analytical account of the idea of human rights as it exists within global practice, together with a description of the kind of justification that human rights, so conceived, should be capable of. It proposed a schema to identify and organize the considerations it seems reasonable to take into account in reflection about what ought to be the contents of the public doctrine. These are considerations that follow from a grasp of the general purpose and role of human rights within the global practice. They relate to the importance of the interests that might be protected, the advantage of protecting these interests by means of policies that might be adopted by states, and the character and weight of the reasons for action available to external agents in cases in which states fail to protect the interests in question.

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Human Rights

Human rights are norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to education.

The philosophy of human rights addresses questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights. The strong claims often made on behalf of human rights (for example, that they are universal, inalienable, or exist independently of legal enactment as justified moral norms) have frequently provoked skeptical doubts and countering philosophical defenses (on these critiques see Lacrois and Pranchere 2016, Mutua 2008, and Waldron 1988). Reflection on these doubts and the responses that can be made to them has become a sub-field of political and legal philosophy with a very substantial literature (see the Bibliography below).

This entry addresses the concept of human rights, the existence and grounds of human rights, the question of which rights are human rights, and relativism about human rights.

1. The General Idea of Human Rights

2.1 how can human rights exist, 2.2 normative justifications for human rights, 2.3 political conceptions of human rights, 3.1 civil and political rights, 3.2 social rights, 3.3 rights of women, minorities, and groups, 3.4 environmental rights, 4. universal human rights in a world of diverse beliefs and practices, bibliography: books and articles in the philosophy of human rights, recent collections, guides to international human rights law, other resources, related entries.

This section attempts to explain the general idea of human rights by identifying four defining features. The goal is to answer the question of what human rights are with a description of the core concept rather than a list of specific rights. Two people can have the same general idea of human rights even though they disagree about which rights belong on a list of such rights and even about whether universal moral rights exist. The four-part explanation below attempts to cover all kinds of human rights including both moral and legal human rights and both old and new human rights (e.g., both Lockean natural rights and contemporary human rights). The explanation anticipates, however, that particular kinds of human rights will have additional features. Starting with this general concept does not commit us to treating all kinds of human rights in a single unified theory (see Buchanan 2013 for an argument that we should not attempt to theorize together universal moral rights and international legal human rights).

(1) Human rights are rights . Lest we miss the obvious, human rights are rights (see Cruft 2012 and the entry on rights ). Most if not all human rights are claim rights that impose duties or responsibilities on their addressees or dutybearers. Rights focus on a freedom, protection, status, or benefit for the rightholders (Beitz 2009). The duties associated with human rights often require actions involving respect, protection, facilitation, and provision. Rights are usually mandatory in the sense of imposing duties on their addressees, but some legal human rights seem to do little more than declare high-priority goals and assign responsibility for their progressive realization. One can argue, of course, that goal-like rights are not real rights, but it may be better to recognize that they comprise a weak but useful notion of a right (See Beitz 2009 for a defense of the view that not all human rights are rights in a strong sense. And see Feinberg 1973 for the idea of “manifesto rights”). A human rights norm might exist as (a) a shared norm of actual human moralities, (b) a justified moral norm supported by strong reasons, (c) a legal right at the national level (where it might be referred to as a “civil” or “constitutional” right), or (d) a legal right within international law. A human rights advocate might wish to see human rights exist in all four ways (See Section 2.1 How Can Human Rights Exist?).

(2) Human rights are plural . If someone accepted that there are human rights but held that there is only one of them, this might make sense if she meant that there is one abstract underlying right that generates a list of specific rights (See Dworkin 2011 for a view of this sort). But if this person meant that there is just one specific right such as the right to peaceful assembly this would be a highly revisionary view. Human rights address a variety of specific problems such as guaranteeing fair trials, ending slavery, ensuring the availability of education, and preventing genocide. Some philosophers advocate very short lists of human rights but nevertheless accept plurality (see Cohen 2004, Ignatieff 2004).

(3) Human rights are universal . All living humans—or perhaps all living persons —have human rights. One does not have to be a particular kind of person or a member of some specific nation or religion to have human rights. Included in the idea of universality is some conception of independent existence . People have human rights independently of whether they are found in the practices, morality, or law of their country or culture. This idea of universality needs several qualifications, however. First, some rights, such as the right to vote, are held only by adult citizens or residents and apply only to voting in one’s own country. Second, the human right to freedom of movement may be taken away temporarily from a person who is convicted of committing a serious crime. And third, some human rights treaties focus on the rights of vulnerable groups such as minorities, women, indigenous peoples, and children.

(4) Human rights have high-priority . Maurice Cranston held that human rights are matters of “paramount importance” and their violation “a grave affront to justice” (Cranston 1967). If human rights did not have high priority they would not have the ability to compete with other powerful considerations such as national stability and security, individual and national self-determination, and national and global prosperity. High priority does not mean, however, that human rights are absolute. As James Griffin says, human rights should be understood as “resistant to trade-offs, but not too resistant” (Griffin 2008). Further, there seems to be priority variation within human rights. For example, when the right to life conflicts with the right to privacy, the latter will generally be outweighed.

Let’s now consider five other features or functions that might be added.

Should human rights be defined as inalienable? Inalienability does not mean that rights are absolute or can never be overridden by other considerations. Rather it means that its holder cannot lose it temporarily or permanently by bad conduct or by voluntarily giving it up. It is doubtful that all human rights are inalienable in this sense. One who endorses both human rights and imprisonment as punishment for serious crimes must hold that people’s rights to freedom of movement can be forfeited temporarily or permanently by just convictions of serious crimes. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that human rights are very hard to lose. (For a stronger view of inalienability, see Donnelly 2003, Meyers 1985).

Should human rights be defined as minimal rights? A number of philosophers have proposed the view that human rights are minimal in the sense of not being too numerous (a few dozen rights rather than hundreds or thousands), and not being too demanding (See Joshua Cohen 2004, Ignatieff 2005, and Rawls 1999). Their views suggest that human rights are—or should be—more concerned with avoiding the worst than with achieving the best. Henry Shue suggests that human rights concern the “lower limits on tolerable human conduct” rather than “great aspirations and exalted ideals” (Shue 1996). When human rights are modest standards they leave most legal and policy matters open to democratic decision-making at the national and local levels. This allows human rights to have high priority, to accommodate a great deal of cultural and institutional variation among countries, and to leave open a large space for democratic decision-making at the national level. Still, there is no contradiction in the idea of an extremely expansive list of human rights and hence minimalism is not a defining feature of human rights (for criticism of the view that human rights are minimal standards see Brems 2009 and Raz 2010). Minimalism is best seen as a normative prescription for what international human rights should be. Moderate forms of minimalism have considerable appeal, but not as part of the definition of human rights.

Should human rights be defined as always being or “mirroring” moral rights? Philosophers coming to human rights theory from moral philosophy sometimes assume that human rights must be, at bottom, moral rather than legal rights. There is no contradiction, however, in people saying that they believe in human rights, but only when they are legal rights at the national or international levels. As Louis Henkin observed, “Political forces have mooted the principal philosophical objections, bridging the chasm between natural and positive law by converting natural human rights into positive legal rights” (Henkin 1978). Theorists who insist that the only human rights are legal rights may find, however, that the interpretations they can give of universality, independent existence, and high priority are weak.

Should human rights be defined in terms of serving some sort of political function? Instead of seeing human rights as grounded in some sort of independently existing moral reality, a theorist might see them as the norms of a highly useful political practice that humans have constructed or evolved. Such a view would see the idea of human rights as playing various political roles at the national and international levels and as serving thereby to protect urgent human and national interests. These political roles might include providing standards for international evaluations of how governments treat their people and specifying when use of economic sanctions or military intervention is permissible (see Section 2.3 Political Conceptions of Human Rights below).

Political theorists would add to the four defining elements suggested above some set of political roles or functions. This kind of view may be plausible for the very salient international human rights that have emerged in international law and politics in the last fifty years. But human rights can exist and function in contexts not involving international scrutiny and intervention such as a world with only one state. Imagine, for example, that an asteroid strike had killed everyone in all countries except New Zealand, leaving it the only state in existence. Surely the idea of human rights as well as many dimensions of human rights practice could continue in New Zealand, even though there would be no international relations, law, or politics (for an argument of this sort see Tasioulas 2012). And if in the same scenario a few people were discovered to have survived in Iceland and were living without a government or state, New Zealanders would know that human rights governed how these people should be treated even though they were stateless. How deeply the idea of human rights must be rooted in international law and practice should not be settled by definitional fiat. We can allow, however, that the sorts of political functions that Rawls and Beitz describe are typically served by international human rights today.

2. The Existence and Grounds of Human Rights

A philosophical question about human rights that occurs to many people is how it is possible for such rights to exist. Several possible ways are explored in this section.

The most obvious way in which human rights come into existence is as norms of national and international law that are created by enactment, custom, and judicial decisions. At the international level, human rights norms exist because of treaties that have turned them into international law. For example, the human right not to be held in slavery or servitude in Article 4 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Council of Europe, 1950) and in Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN 1966) exists because these treaties establish it. At the national level, human rights norms exist because they have through legislative enactment, judicial decision, or custom become part of a country’s law. For example, the right against slavery exists in the United States because the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits slavery and servitude. When rights are embedded in international law we speak of them as human rights; but when they are enacted in national law we more frequently describe them as civil or constitutional rights.

Enactment in national and international law is clearly one of the ways in which human rights exist. But many have suggested that this cannot be the only way. If human rights exist only because of enactment, their availability is contingent on domestic and international political developments. Many people have looked for a way to support the idea that human rights have roots that are deeper and less subject to human decisions than legal enactment. One version of this idea is that people are born with rights, that human rights are somehow innate or inherent in human beings (see Morsink 2009). One way that a normative status could be inherent in humans is by being God-given. The U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) claims that people are “endowed by their Creator” with natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On this view, God, the supreme lawmaker, enacted some basic human rights.

Rights plausibly attributed to divine decree must be very general and abstract (life, liberty, etc.) so that they can apply to thousands of years of human history, not just to recent centuries. But contemporary human rights are specific and many of them presuppose contemporary institutions (e.g., the right to a fair trial and the right to education). Even if people are born with God-given natural rights, we need to explain how to get from those general and abstract rights to the specific rights found in contemporary declarations and treaties.

Attributing human rights to God’s commands may give them a secure status at the metaphysical level, but in a very diverse world it does not make them practically secure. Billions of people do not believe in the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. If people do not believe in God, or in the sort of god that prescribes rights, and if you want to base human rights on theological beliefs you must persuade these people of a rights-supporting theological view. This is likely to be even harder than persuading them of human rights. Legal enactment at the national and international levels provides a far more secure status for practical purposes.

Human rights could also exist independently of legal enactment by being part of actual human moralities. All human groups seem to have moralities in the sense of imperative norms of interpersonal behavior backed by reasons and values. These moralities contain specific norms (for example, a prohibition of the intentional murder of an innocent person) and specific values (for example, valuing human life.) If almost all human groups have moralities containing norms prohibiting murder, these norms could partially constitute the human right to life.

The view that human rights are norms found in all human moralities is attractive but has serious difficulties. Although worldwide acceptance of human rights has been increasing rapidly in recent decades (see 4. Universal Human Rights in a World of Diverse Beliefs and Practices ), worldwide moral unanimity about human rights does not exist. Human rights declarations and treaties are intended to change existing norms, not just describe the existing moral consensus.

Yet another way of explaining the existence of human rights is to say that they exist most basically in true or justified ethical outlooks. On this account, to say that there is a human right against torture is mainly to assert that there are strong reasons for believing that it is always morally wrong to engage in torture and that protections should be provided against it. This approach would view the Universal Declaration as attempting to formulate a justified political morality for the whole planet. It was not merely trying to identify a preexisting moral consensus; it was rather trying to create a consensus that could be supported by very plausible moral and practical reasons. This approach requires commitment to the objectivity of such reasons. It holds that just as there are reliable ways of finding out how the physical world works, or what makes buildings sturdy and durable, there are ways of finding out what individuals may justifiably demand of each other and of governments. Even if unanimity about human rights is currently lacking, rational agreement is available to humans if they will commit themselves to open-minded and serious moral and political inquiry. If moral reasons exist independently of human construction, they can—when combined with true premises about current institutions, problems, and resources—generate moral norms different from those currently accepted or enacted. The Universal Declaration seems to proceed on exactly this assumption (see Morsink 2009). One problem with this view is that existence as good reasons seems a rather thin form of existence for human rights. But perhaps we can view this thinness as a practical rather than a theoretical problem, as something to be remedied by the formulation and enactment of legal norms. The best form of existence for human rights would combine robust legal existence with the sort of moral existence that comes from widespread acceptance based on strong moral and practical reasons.

Justifications for human rights should defend their main features including their character as rights, their universality, and their high priority. Such justifications should also be capable of providing starting points for justifying a plausible list of specific rights (on starting points and making the transition to specific rights see Nickel 2007; see also Section 3 Which Rights are Human Rights? below). Further, justifying international human rights is likely to require additional steps (Buchanan 2012). These requirements make the construction of a good justification for human rights a daunting task.

Approaches to justification include grounding human rights in prudential reasons, practical reasons, moral rights (Thomson 1990), human well-being (Sumner 1987, Talbott 2010), fundamental interests (Beitz 2015), human needs (Miller 2012), agency and autonomy (Gewirth 1996, Griffin 2008) dignity (Gilabert 2018, Kateb 2011, Tasioulas 2015), fairness (Nickel 2007), equality, and positive freedom (Gould 2004, Nussbaum 2000, Sen 2004). Justifications can be based on just one of these types of reasons or they can be eclectic and appeal to several (Tasioulas. 2015).

Grounding human rights in human agency and autonomy has had strong advocates in recent decades. For example, in Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Application (1982) Alan Gewirth offered an agency-based justification for human rights. He argued that denying the value of successful agency and action is not an option for a human being; having a life requires regarding the indispensable conditions of agency and action as necessary goods. Abstractly described, these conditions of successful agency are freedom and well-being. A prudent rational agent who must have freedom and well-being will assert a “prudential right claim” to them. Having demanded that others respect her freedom and well-being, consistency requires her to recognize and respect the freedom and well-being of other persons. Since all other agents are in exactly the same position as she is of needing freedom and well-being, consistency requires her to recognize and respect their claims to freedom and well-being. She “logically must accept” that other people as agents have equal rights to freedom and well-being. These two abstract rights work alone and together to generate equal specific human rights of familiar sorts (Gewirth 1978, 1982, 1996). Gewirth’s aspiration was to provide an argument for human rights that applies to all human agents and that is inescapable. From a few hard-to-dispute facts and a principle of consistency he thinks we can derive two generic human rights—and from them, a list of more determinate rights. Gewirth’s views have generated a large critical literature (see Beyleveld 1991, Boylan 1999).

A more recent attempt to base human rights on agency and autonomy is found in James Griffin’s book, On Human Rights (2008). Griffin does not share Gewirth’s goal of providing a logically inescapable argument for human rights, but his overall view shares key structural features with Gewirth’s. These include starting the justification with the unique value of human agency and autonomy (which Griffin calls “normative agency”), postulating some abstract rights (autonomy, freedom, and well-being), and making a place for a right to well-being within an agency-based approach.

In the current dispute between “moral” (or “orthodox”) and “political” conceptions of human rights, Griffin strongly sides with those who see human rights as fundamentally moral rights. Their defining role, in Griffin’s view, is protecting people’s ability to form and pursue conceptions of a worthwhile life—a capacity that Griffin variously refers to as “autonomy,” “normative agency,” and “personhood.” This ability to form, revise, and pursue conceptions of a worthwhile life is taken to be of paramount value, the exclusive source of human dignity, and thereby the basis of human rights (Griffin 2008). Griffin holds that people value this capacity “especially highly, often more highly than even their happiness.”

“Practicalities” also shape human rights in Griffin’s view. He describes practicalities as “a second ground” of human rights. They prescribe making the boundaries of rights clear by avoiding “too many complicated bends,” enlarging rights a little to give them safety margins, and consulting facts about human nature and the nature of society. Accordingly, the justifying generic function that Griffin assigns to human rights is protecting normative agency while taking account of practicalities.

Griffin claims that human rights suffer even more than other normative concepts from an “indeterminacy of sense” that makes them vulnerable to proliferation (Griffin 2008). He thinks that tying all human rights to the single value of normative agency while taking account of practicalities is the best way to remedy this malady. He criticizes the frequent invention of new human rights and the “ballooning of the content” of established rights. Still, Griffin is friendly towards most of the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beyond this, Griffin takes human rights to include many rights in interpersonal morality. For example, Griffin thinks that a child’s human right to education applies not just against governments but also against the child’s parents.

Griffin’s thesis that all human rights are grounded in normative agency is put forward not so much as a description but as a proposal, as the best way of giving human rights unity, coherence, and limits. Unfortunately, accepting and following this proposal is unlikely to yield effective barriers to proliferation or a sharp line between human rights and other moral norms. The main reason is one that Griffin himself recognizes: the “generative capacities” of normative agency are “quite great.” Providing adequate protections of the three components of normative agency (autonomy, freedom, and minimal well-being) will encounter a lot of threats to these values and hence will require lots of rights.

Views that explain human rights in terms of the practical political roles that they play have had prominent advocates in recent decades. These “political” conceptions of human rights explain what human rights are by describing the things that they do . Two philosophers who have developed political conceptions are discussed in this section, namely, John Rawls and Charles Beitz (for helpful discussions of political conceptions and their alternatives see the collections of essays in Etinson 2018 and Maliks and Schaffer 2017).

Advocates of political conceptions of human rights are often agnostic or skeptical about universal moral rights while rejecting wholesale moral skepticism and thinking possible the provision of sound normative justifications for the content, normativity, and roles of human rights (for challenges to purely political views see Gilabert 2011, Liao and Etinson 2012, Sangiovanni 2017, and Waldron 2018).

John Rawls introduced the idea of a political conception of human rights in his book, The Law of Peoples (Rawls 1999). The basic idea is that we can understand what human rights are and what their justification requires by identifying the main roles they play in some political sphere. In The Law of Peoples this sphere is international relations (and, secondarily, national politics). Rawls was attempting a normative reconstruction of international law and politics within today’s international system, and this helps explain Rawls’s focus on how human rights function within this system.

Rawls says that human rights are a special class of urgent rights . He seems to accept the definition of human rights given in Section 1 above. Besides saying that human rights are rights that are high priority or “urgent,” Rawls also accepts that they are plural and universal. But Rawls was working on a narrower project than Gewirth and Griffin. The international human rights he was concerned with are also defined by their roles in helping define in various ways the normative structure of the global system. They provide content to other normative concepts such as legitimacy, sovereignty, permissible intervention, and membership in good standing in the international community.

According to Rawls the justificatory process for human rights is analogous to the one for principles of justice at the national level that he described in A Theory of Justice (Rawls 1971). Instead of asking about the terms of cooperation that free and equal citizens would agree to under fair conditions, we ask about the terms of cooperation that free and equal peoples or countries would agree to under fair conditions. We imagine representatives of the world’s countries meeting to choose the normative principles that constitute the basic international structure. These representatives are imagined to see the countries they represent as free (rightfully independent) and equal (equally worthy of respect and fair treatment). These representatives are also imagined to be choosing rationally in light of the fundamental interests of their country, to be reasonable in seeking to find and respect fair terms of cooperation, and impartial because they are behind a “veil of ignorance”—they lack information about the country they represent such as its size, wealth, and power. Rawls holds that under these conditions these representatives will unanimously choose principles for the global order that include some basic human rights (for further explanation of the global original position see the entries on John Rawls and original position ).

Rawls advocated a limited list of human rights, one that leaves out many fundamental freedoms, rights of political participation, and equality rights. He did this for two reasons. One is that he wanted a list that is plausible for all reasonable countries, not just liberal democracies. The second reason is that he viewed serious violations of human rights as triggering permissible intervention by other countries, and only the most important rights can play this role.

Leaving out protections for equality and democracy is a high price to pay for assigning human rights the role of making international intervention permissible when they are seriously violated. We can accommodate Rawls’underlying idea without paying that price. To accept the idea that countries engaging in massive violations of the most important human rights are not to be tolerated we do not need to follow Rawls in equating international human rights with a heavily-pruned list. Instead we can work up a view—which is needed for other purposes anyway—of which human rights are the weightiest and then assign the intervention-permitting role to this subset.

Charles Beitz’s account of human rights in The Idea of Human Rights (Beitz 2009) shares many similarities with Rawls’s but is much more fully developed. Like Rawls, Beitz deals with human rights only as they have developed in contemporary international human rights practice. Beitz suggests that we can develop an understanding of human rights by attending to “the practical inferences that would be drawn by competent participants in the practice from what they regard as valid claims of human rights.” Observations of what competent participants say and do inform the account of what human rights are. The focus is not on what human rights are at some deep philosophical level; it is rather on how they work by guiding actions within a recently emerged and still evolving discursive practice. The norms of the practice guide the interpretation and application of human rights, the appropriateness of criticism in terms of human rights, adjudication in human rights courts, and—perhaps most importantly—responding to serious violations of human rights. Beitz says that human rights are “matters of international concern” and that they are “potential triggers of transnational protective and remedial action.”

Beitz does not agree with Rawls’s view that these roles require an abbreviated list of human rights. He accepts that the requirements of human rights are weaker than the requirements of social justice at the national level, but denies that human rights are minimal or highly modest in other respects.

Beitz rightly suggests that a reasonable person can accept and use the idea of human rights without accepting any particular view about their foundations. It is less clear that he is right in suggesting that good justifications of human rights should avoid as far as possible controversial assumptions about religion, metaphysics, ideology, and intrinsic value (see the entry public reason ). Beitz emphasizes the practical good that human rights do, not their grounds in some underlying moral reality. This helps make human rights attractive to people from around the world with their diverse religious and philosophical traditions. The broad justification for human rights and their normativity that Beitz offers is that they protect “urgent individual interests against predictable dangers (”standard threats“) to which they are vulnerable under typical circumstances of life in a modern world order composed of independent states.”

3. Which Rights are Human Rights?

This section discusses the question of which rights belong on lists of human rights. The Universal Declaration’s list, which has had great influence, consists of six families: (1) Security rights that protect people against murder, torture, and genocide; (2) Due process rights that protect people against arbitrary and excessively harsh punishments and require fair and public trials for those accused of crimes; (3) Liberty rights that protect people’s fundamental freedoms in areas such as belief, expression, association, and movement; (4) Political rights that protect people’s liberty to participate in politics by assembling, protesting, voting, and serving in public office; (5) Equality rights that guarantee equal citizenship, equality before the law, and freedom from discrimination; and (6) Social rights that require that governments ensure to all the availability of work, education, health services, and an adequate standard of living. A seventh category, minority and group rights, has been created by subsequent treaties. These rights protect women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, children, migrant workers, and the disabled.

Not every question of social justice or wise governance is a human rights issue. For example, a country could have too many lawyers or inadequate provision for graduate-level education without violating any human rights. Deciding which norms should be counted as human rights is a matter of considerable difficulty. And there is continuing pressure to expand lists of human rights to include new areas. Many political movements would like to see their main concerns categorized as matters of human rights, since this would publicize, promote, and legitimize their concerns at the international level. A possible result of this is “human rights inflation,” the devaluation of human rights caused by producing too much bad human rights currency (See Cranston 1973, Orend 2002, Wellman 1999, Griffin 2008).

One way to avoid rights inflation is to follow Cranston in insisting that human rights only deal with extremely important goods, protections, and freedoms. A supplementary approach is to impose several justificatory tests for specific human rights. For example, it could be required that a proposed human right not only protect some very important good but also respond to one or more common and serious threats to that good (Dershowitz 2004, Donnelly 2003, Shue 1996, Talbott 2005), impose burdens on the addressees that are justifiable and no larger than necessary, and be feasible in most of the world’s countries (on feasibility see Gilabert 2009 and Nickel 2007). This approach restrains rights inflation with several tests, not just one master test.

In deciding which specific rights are human rights it is possible to make either too little or too much of international documents such as the Universal Declaration and the European Convention. One makes too little of them by proceeding as if drawing up a list of important rights were a new question, never before addressed, and as if there were no practical wisdom to be found in the choices of rights that went into the historic documents. And one makes too much of them by presuming that those documents tell us everything we need to know about human rights. This approach involves a kind of fundamentalism: it holds that when a right is on the official lists of human rights that settles its status as a human right (“If it’s in the book that’s all I need to know.”) But the process of identifying human rights in the United Nations and elsewhere was a political process with plenty of imperfections. There is little reason to take international diplomats as the most authoritative guides to which human rights there are. Further, even if a treaty’s ratification by most countries can settle the question of whether a certain right is a human right within international law, such a treaty cannot settle its weight. The treaty may suggest that the right is supported by weighty considerations, but it cannot make this so. If an international treaty enacted a right to visit national parks without charge as a human right, the ratification of that treaty would make free access to national parks a human right within international law. But it would not be able to make us believe that the right to visit national parks without charge was sufficiently important to be a real human right (see Luban 2015).

The least controversial family of human rights is civil and political rights. These rights are familiar from historic bills of rights such as the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) and the U.S. Bill of Rights (1791, with subsequent amendments). Contemporary sources include the first 21 Articles of the Universal Declaration , and treaties such as the European Convention , the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , the American Convention on Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights . Some representative formulations follow:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one’s choice. (American Convention on Human Rights, Article 13.1)
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests (European Convention, Article 11).
Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law. 2. Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to the public service of his country. 3. Every individual shall have the right of access to public property and services in strict equality of all persons before the law (African Charter, Article 13).

Most civil and political rights are not absolute—they can in some cases be overridden by other considerations. For example, the right to freedom of movement can be restricted by public and private property rights, by restraining orders related to domestic violence, and by legal punishments. Further, after a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake free movement is often appropriately suspended to keep out the curious, permit access of emergency vehicles and equipment, and prevent looting. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permits rights to be suspended during times “of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” (Article 4). But it excludes some rights from suspension including the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the prohibition of slavery, the prohibition of ex post facto criminal laws, and freedom of thought and religion.

The Universal Declaration included social (or “welfare”) rights that address matters such as education, food, health services, and employment. Their inclusion has been the source of much controversy (see Beetham 1995). The European Convention did not include them (although it was later amended to include the right to education). Instead they were put into a separate treaty, the European Social Charter . When the United Nations began the process of putting the rights of the Universal Declaration into international law, it followed the same pattern by treating economic and social standards in a treaty separate from the one dealing with civil and political rights. This treaty, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (the “Social Covenant,” 1966), treated these standards as rights—albeit rights to be progressively realized.

The Social Covenant’s list of rights includes nondiscrimination and equality for women in economic and social life (Articles 2 and 3), freedom to work and opportunities to work (Article 4), fair pay and decent conditions of work (Article 7), the right to form trade unions and to strike (Article 8), social security (Article 9), special protections for mothers and children (Article 10), the right to adequate food, clothing, and housing (Article 11), the right to basic health services (Article 12), the right to education (Article 13), and the right to participate in cultural life and scientific progress (Article 15).

Article 2.1 of the Social Covenant sets out what each of the parties commits itself to do about this list, namely to “take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation…to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant.” In contrast, the Civil and Political Covenant commits its signatories to immediate compliance, to “respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory the rights recognized in the present Covenant” (Article 2.1). The contrast between these two levels of commitment has led some people to suspect that economic and social rights are really just valuable goals. Why did the Social Covenant opt for progressive implementation and thereby treat its rights as being somewhat like goals? The main reason is that many of the world’s countries lacked the economic, institutional, and human resources to realize these standards fully or even largely. For many countries, noncompliance due to inability would have been certain if these standards had been treated as immediately binding.

Social rights have often been defended with linkage arguments that show the support they provide to adequate realization of civil and political rights. This approach was first developed philosophically by Henry Shue (Shue 1996; see also Nickel 2007 and 2016). Linkage arguments defend controversial rights by showing the indispensable or highly useful support they provide to uncontroversial rights. For example, if a government succeeds in eliminating hunger and providing education to everyone this promotes people’s abilities to know, use, and enjoy their liberties, due process rights, and rights of political participation. Lack of education is frequently a barrier to the realization of civil and political rights because uneducated people often do not know what rights they have and what they can do to use and defend them. Lack of education is also a common barrier to democratic participation. Education and a minimum income make it easier for people near the bottom economically to follow politics, participate in political campaigns, and to spend the time and money needed to go to the polls and vote.

Do social rights yield a sufficient commitment to equality? Objections to social rights as human rights have come from both the political right and the political left. A common objection from the left, including liberal egalitarians and socialists, is that social rights as enumerated in human rights documents and treaties provide too weak of a commitment to material equality (Moyn 2018; Gilabert 2015). Realizing social rights requires a state that ensures to everyone an adequate minimum of resources in some key areas but that does not necessarily have strong commitments to equality of opportunity, to strong redistributive taxation, and to ceilings on wealth (see the entries equality , equality of opportunity , distributive justice , and liberal feminism ).

The egalitarian objection cannot be that human rights documents and treaties showed no concern for people living in poverty and misery. That would be wildly false. One of the main purposes of including social rights in human rights documents and treaties was to promote serious efforts to combat poverty, lack of education, and unhealthy living conditions in countries all around the world (see also Langford 2013 on the UN Millennium Development Goals). The objection also cannot be that human rights facilitated the hollowing out of systems of welfare rights in many developed countries that occurred after 1980. Those cuts in welfare programs were often in violation of the requirements of adequately realizing social rights.

Perhaps it should be conceded that human rights documents and treaties have not said enough about positive measures to promote equal opportunity in education and work. A positive right to equal opportunity, like the one Rawls proposed, would require countries to take serious measures to reduce disparities between the opportunities effectively available to children of high-income and low-income parents (Rawls 1971).

A strongly egalitarian political program is best pursued partially within but mostly beyond the human rights framework. One reason for this is that the human rights movement will have better future prospects for acceptance and realization if it has widespread political support. That requires that the rights it endorses appeal to people with a variety of political views ranging from center-left to center-right. Support from the broad political center will not emerge and survive if the human rights platform is perceived as mostly a leftist program.

Do social rights protect sufficiently important human interests? Maurice Cranston opposed social rights by suggesting that social rights are mainly concerned with matters such as holidays with pay that are not matters of deep and universal human interests (Cranston 1967, 1973. Treatments of objections to social rights include Beetham 1995; Howard 1987; and Nickel 2007). It is far from the case, however, that most social rights pertain only to superficial interests. Consider two examples: the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to free public education. These rights require governments to try to remedy widespread and serious evils such as severe poverty, starvation and malnutrition, and ignorance. The importance of food and other basic material conditions of life is easy to show. These goods are essential to people’s ability to live, function, and flourish. Without adequate access to these goods, interests in life, health, and liberty are endangered and serious illness and death are probable. Lack of access to educational opportunities typically limits (both absolutely and comparatively) people’s abilities to participate fully and effectively in the political and economic life of their country.

Are social rights too burdensome? Another objection to social rights is that they are too burdensome on their dutybearers. It is very expensive to guarantee to everyone basic education and minimal material conditions of life. Frequently the claim that social rights are too burdensome uses other, less controversial human rights as a standard of comparison, and suggests that social rights are substantially more burdensome or expensive than liberty rights. Suppose that we use as a basis of comparison liberty rights such as freedom of communication, association, and movement. These rights require both respect and protection from governments. And people cannot be adequately protected in their enjoyment of liberties such as these unless they also have security and due process rights. The costs of liberty, as it were, include the costs of law and criminal justice. Once we see this, liberty rights start to look a lot more costly.

Further, we should not generally think of social rights as simply giving everyone a free supply of the goods they protect. Guarantees of things like food and housing will be intolerably expensive and will undermine productivity if everyone simply receives a free supply. A viable system of social rights will require most people to provide these goods for themselves and their families through work as long as they are given the necessary opportunities, education, and infrastructure. Government-implemented social rights provide guarantees of availability (or “secure access”), but governments should have to supply the requisite goods in only a small fraction of cases. Note that education is often an exception to this since many countries provide free public education irrespective of ability to pay.

Countries that do not accept and implement social rights still have to bear somehow the costs of providing for the needy since these countries—particularly if they recognize democratic rights of political participation—are unlikely to find it tolerable to allow sizeable parts of the population to starve and be homeless. If government does not supply food, clothing, and shelter to those unable to provide for themselves, then families, friends, and communities will have to shoulder this burden. It is only in the last hundred or so years that government-sponsored social rights have taken over a substantial part of the burden of providing for the needy. The taxes associated with social rights are partial replacements for other burdensome duties, namely the duties of families and communities to provide adequate care for the unemployed, sick, disabled, and aged. Deciding whether to implement social rights is not a matter of deciding whether to bear such burdens, but rather of deciding whether to continue with total reliance on a system of informal provision that distributes assistance in a very spotty way and whose costs fall very unevenly on families, friends, and communities.

Are social rights feasible worldwide? Another objection to social rights alleges that they are not feasible in many countries (on how to understand feasibility see Gilabert 2009). It is very expensive to provide guarantees of subsistence, measures to protect and restore people’s health, and education. Many governments will be unable to provide these guarantees while meeting other important responsibilities. Rights are not magical sources of supply (Holmes and Sunstein 1999).

As we saw earlier, the Social Covenant dealt with the issue of feasibility by calling for progressive implementation, that is, implementation as financial and other resources permit. Does this view of implementation turn social rights into high-priority goals? And if so, is that a bad thing?

Standards that outrun the abilities of many of their addressees are good candidates for treatment as goals. Viewing them as largely aspirational rather than as imposing immediate duties avoids problems of inability-based noncompliance. One may worry, however, that this is too much of a demotion for social rights because goals seem much weaker than rights. But goals can be formulated in ways that make them more like rights. They can be assigned addressees (the parties who are to pursue the goal), beneficiaries, scopes that define the objective to be pursued, and a high level of priority (see Langford 2013 and Nickel 2013; see also UN Human Rights and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals ). Strong reasons for the importance of these goals can be provided. And supervisory bodies can monitor levels of progress and pressure low-performing addressees to attend to and work on their goals.

Treating very demanding rights as goals has several advantages. One is that proposed goals that greatly exceed our abilities are not so farcical as proposed duties that do so. Creating grand lists of social rights that many countries cannot presently realize seems farcical to many people. Perhaps this perceived lack of realism is reduced if we understand that these “rights” are really goals that countries should seriously promote. Goals coexist easily with low levels of ability to achieve them. Another advantage is that goals are flexible: addressees with different levels of ability can choose ways of pursuing the goals that suit their circumstances and means. Because of these attractions it may be worth exploring sophisticated ways to transform very demanding human rights into goals. The transformation may be full or partial. It is possible to create right-goal mixtures that contain some mandatory elements and that therefore seem more like real rights (see Brems 2009). A right-goal mixture might include some rights-like goals, some mandatory steps to be taken immediately, and duties to realize the rights-like goals as quickly as possible.

Equality of rights for historically disadvantaged or subordinated groups is a longstanding concern of the human rights movement. Human rights documents repeatedly emphasize that all people, including women and members of minority ethnic and religious groups, have equal human rights and should be able to enjoy them without discrimination. The right to freedom from discrimination figures prominently in the Universal Declaration and subsequent treaties. The Civil and Political Covenant, for example, commits participating states to respect and protect their people’s rights “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or social status” (on minority and group rights see Kymlicka 1995, Nickel 2007).

A number of standard individual rights are especially important to ethnic and religious minorities, including rights to freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom from discrimination. Human rights documents also include rights that refer to minorities explicitly and give them special protections. For example, the Civil and Political Covenant in Article 27 says that persons belonging to ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities “shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”

Feminists have often protested that standard lists of human rights do not sufficiently take into account the different risks faced by women and men. For example, issues like domestic violence, reproductive choice, and trafficking of women and girls for sex work did not have a prominent place in early human rights documents and treaties. Lists of human rights have had to be expanded “to include the degradation and violation of women” (Bunch 2006, 58; see also Lockwood 2006 and Okin 1998). Violations of women’s human rights often occur in the home at the hands of other family members, not in the street at the hands of the police. Most violence against women occurs in the “private” sphere. This has meant that governments cannot be seen as the only addressees of human rights and that the right to privacy of home and family needs qualifications to allow police to protect women within the home.

The issue of how formulations of human rights should respond to variations in the sorts of risks and dangers that different people face is difficult and arises not just in relation to gender but also in relation to age, profession, political affiliation, religion, and personal interests. Due process rights, for example, are much more useful to young people (and particularly young men) than they are to older people since the latter are far less likely to run afoul of the criminal law.

Since 1964 the United Nations has mainly dealt with the rights of women and minorities through specialized treaties such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2007). See also the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). Specialized treaties allow international norms to address unique problems of particular groups such as assistance and care during pregnancy and childbearing in the case of women, custody issues in the case of children, and the loss of historic territories by indigenous peoples.

Minority groups are often targets of violence. Human rights norms call upon governments to refrain from such violence and to provide protections against it. This work is partly done by the right to life, which is a standard individual right. It is also done by the right against genocide which protects some groups from attempts to destroy or decimate them. The Genocide Convention was one of the first human rights treaties after World War II. The right against genocide is clearly a group right. It is held by both individuals and groups and provides protection to groups as groups. It is largely negative in the sense that it requires governments and other agencies to refrain from destroying groups; but it also requires that legal and other protections against genocide be created at the national level.

Can the right against genocide be a human right? More generally, can a group right fit the general idea of human rights proposed earlier? On that conception, human rights are rights of all persons . Perhaps it can, however, if we broaden our conception of who can hold human rights to include important groups that people form and cherish (see the entry on group rights ). This can be made more palatable, perhaps, by recognizing that the beneficiaries of the right against genocide are individual humans who enjoy greater security against attempts to destroy the group to which they belong (Kymlicka 1989).

In spite of the danger of rights inflation, there are doubtless norms that should be counted as human rights but are not generally recognized as such. After all, there are lots of areas in which people’s dignity and fundamental interests are threatened by the actions and omissions of individuals and governments. Consider environmental rights, which are often defined to include rights of animals or even of nature itself (see the entry on environmental ethics ). Conceived in this broad way environmental rights don’t have a good fit with the general idea of human rights because the rightholders are not humans or human groups.

Alternative formulations are possible, however. A basic environmental human right can be understood as requiring maintenance and restoration of an environment that is safe for human life and health. Many countries have environmental rights of this sort in their constitutional bills of rights (Hayward 2005). And the European Union’s Bill of Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union , includes in Article 37 an environmental protection norm: “A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development.”

A human right to a safe environment or to environmental protection does not directly address issues such as the claims of animals or biodiversity, although it might do so indirectly using the idea of ecosystem services to humans (see Biodiversity and Human Rights . A justification for a human right to a safe environment should show that environmental problems pose serious threats to fundamental human interests, values, or norms; that governments may appropriately be burdened with the responsibility of protecting people against these threats; and that most governments actually have the ability to do this.

Climate change is currently a major environmental threat to many people’s lives and health, and hence it is unsurprising that human rights approaches to climate change have been developed and advocated in recent decades (see Bodansky 2011, Gardiner 2013, and UN Human Rights and Climate Change ). One approach, advocated by Steve Vanderheiden accepts the idea of a human right to an environment that is adequate for human life and health and derives from this broad right a more specific right to a stable climate (Vanderheiden 2008). Another approach, advocated by Simon Caney, does not require introducing a new environmental right. It suggests instead that serious action to reduce and mitigate climate change is required by already well-established human rights because severe climate change will violate many people’s rights to life, food, and health (Caney 2010). One could expand this approach by arguing that severe climate change should be reduced and mitigated because it will cause massive human migrations and other crises that will undermine the abilities of many governments to uphold human rights (for evaluation of these arguments see Bell 2013).

Two familiar philosophical worries about human rights are that they are based on moral beliefs that are culturally relative and that their creation and advocacy involves ethnocentrism. Human rights prescribe universal standards in areas such as security, law enforcement, equality, political participation, and education. The peoples and countries of planet Earth are, however, enormously varied in their practices, traditions, religions, and levels of economic and political development. Putting these two propositions together may be enough to justify the worry that universal human rights do not sufficiently accommodate the diversity of Earth’s peoples. A theoretical expression of this worry is “relativism,” the idea that ethical, political, and legal standards for a particular country or region are mostly shaped by the traditions, beliefs, and conditions of that country or region (see the entry on moral relativism ). The anthropologist William G. Sumner, writing in 1906, asserted that “the mores can make anything right and prevent condemnation of anything” (Sumner 1906).

Relativists sometimes accuse human rights advocates of ethnocentrism, arrogance, and cultural imperialism (Talbott 2005). Ethnocentrism is the assumption, usually unconscious, that “one’s own group is the center of everything” and that its beliefs, practices, and norms provide the standards by which other groups are “scaled and rated” (Sumner 1906; see also Etinson 2018 who argues that ethnocentrism is best understood as a kind of cultural bias rather than as a belief in cultural superiority). Ethnocentrism can lead to arrogance and intolerance in dealings with other countries, ethical systems, and religions. Finally, cultural imperialism occurs when the economically, technologically, and militarily strongest countries impose their beliefs, values, and institutions on the rest of the world. Relativists often combine these charges with a prescription, namely that tolerance of varied practices and traditions ought to be instilled and practiced through measures that include extended learning about other cultures.

The conflict between relativists and human rights advocates may be partially based on differences in their underlying philosophical beliefs, particularly in metaethics. Relativists are often subjectivists or noncognitivists and think of morality as entirely socially constructed and transmitted. In contrast, philosophically-inclined human rights advocates are more likely to adhere to or presuppose cognitivism, moral realism , and intuitionism .

During the drafting in 1947 of the Universal Declaration, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association warned of the danger that the Declaration would be “a statement of rights conceived only in terms of the values prevalent in Western Europe and America.” Perhaps the main concern of the AAA Board in the period right after World War II was to condemn the intolerant colonialist attitudes of the day and to advocate cultural and political self-determination. But the Board also made the stronger assertion that “standards and values are relative to the culture from which they derive” and thus “what is held to be a human right in one society may be regarded as anti-social by another people” ( American Anthropological Association Statement on Human Rights 1947 ).

This is not, of course, the stance of most anthropologists today. Currently the American Anthropological Association has a Committee on Human Rights whose objectives include promoting and protecting human rights and developing an anthropological perspective on human rights. While still emphasizing the importance of cultural differences, anthropologists now often support cultural survival and the protection of vulnerable cultures, non-discrimination, and the rights and land claims of indigenous peoples.

The idea that relativism and exposure to other cultures promote tolerance may be correct from a psychological perspective. People who are sensitive to differences in beliefs, practices, and traditions, and who are suspicious of the grounds for extending norms across borders, may be more inclined to be tolerant of other countries and peoples than those who believe in an objective universal morality. Still, philosophers have been generally critical of attempts to argue from relativism to a prescription of tolerance (Talbott 2005). If the culture and religion of one country has long fostered intolerant attitudes and practices, and if its citizens and officials act intolerantly towards people from other countries, they are simply following their own traditions and cultural norms. They are just doing what relativists think people mostly do. Accordingly, a relativist from a tolerant country will be hard-pressed to find a basis for criticizing the citizens and officials of the intolerant country. To do so the relativist will have to endorse a transcultural principle of tolerance and to advocate as an outsider cultural change in the direction of greater tolerance. Because of this, relativists who are deeply committed to tolerance may find themselves attracted to a qualified commitment to human rights.

East Asia is the region of the world that participates least in the international human rights system—even though some important East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea do participate. In the 1990s Singapore’s Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and others argued that international human rights as found in United Nations declarations and treaties were insensitive to distinctive “Asian values” such as prizing families and community (in contrast to strong individualism); putting social harmony over personal freedom; respect for political leaders and institutions; and emphasizing responsibility, hard work, and thriftiness as means of social progress (on the Asian Values debate see Bauer and Bell 1999; Bell 2000; Sen 1997; and Twining 2009). Proponents of the Asian values idea did not wish to abolish all human rights; they rather wanted to deemphasize some families of human rights, particularly the fundamental freedoms and rights of democratic participation (and in some cases the rights of women). They also wanted Western governments and NGOs to stop criticizing them for human rights violations in these areas.

At the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, countries including Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Iran advocated accommodations within human rights practice for cultural and economic differences. Western representatives tended to view the position of these countries as excuses for repression and authoritarianism. The Conference responded by approving the Vienna Declaration . It included in Article 5 the assertion that countries should not pick and choose among human rights: “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Perhaps the debate about relativism and human rights has become obsolete. In recent decades widespread acceptance of human rights has occurred in most parts of the world. Three quarters of the world’s countries have ratified the major human rights treaties, and many countries in Africa, the Americas, and Europe participate in regional human rights regimes that have international courts (see Georgetown University Human Rights Law Research Guide in the Other Internet Resources below). Further, all of the world’s countries now use similar political institutions (law, courts, legislatures, executives, militaries, bureaucracies, police, prisons, taxation, and public schools) and these institutions carry with them characteristic problems and abuses (Donnelly 2003). Finally, globalization has diminished the differences among peoples. Today’s world is not the one that early anthropologists and missionaries found. National and cultural boundaries are breached not just by international trade but also by millions of travelers and migrants, electronic communications, international law covering many areas, and the efforts of international governmental and non-governmental organizations. International influences and organizations are everywhere and countries borrow freely and regularly from each other’s inventions and practices.

Worldwide polls on attitudes towards human rights are now available and they show broad support for human rights and international efforts to promote them. Empirical research can now replace or supplement theoretical speculations about how much disagreement on human rights exists worldwide. A December 2011 report by the Council on Foreign Relations surveyed recent international opinion polls on human rights that probe agreement and disagreement with propositions such as “People have the right to express any opinion,” “People of all faiths can practice their religion freely,” “Women should have the same rights as men,” “People of different races [should be] treated equally,” and governments “should be responsible for ensuring that [their] citizens can meet their basic need for food.” Big majorities of those polled in countries such as Argentina, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Nigeria, China, India, and Indonesia gave affirmative answers. Further, large majorities (on average 70%) in all the countries polled supported UN efforts to promote the human rights set out in the Universal Declaration. Unfortunately, popular acceptance of human rights ideas has not, however, prevented a recent slide in many of these same countries towards authoritarianism.

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Other Internet Resources

  • Georgetown Law Library Human Rights Law Research Guide
  • United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • University of Minnesota Human Rights Library .
  • Francisco Suarez (1548–1617), entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  • Human Rights entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .

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Essay on Importance of Human Rights

Students are often asked to write an essay on Importance of Human Rights in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

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100 Words Essay on Importance of Human Rights

Understanding human rights.

Human rights are basic rights that every person should have, regardless of their nationality, race, or religion. They include the right to life, freedom, and equality.

Importance of Human Rights

Human rights are critical because they ensure everyone’s dignity and respect. They promote fairness, justice, and equal opportunities for all.

Protection of Human Rights

Human rights are protected by laws and treaties globally. These legal protections help prevent discrimination and abuse.

Role of Education

Education plays a vital role in promoting human rights. It helps people understand their rights and responsibilities, fostering a culture of respect and equality.

250 Words Essay on Importance of Human Rights

Introduction to human rights.

Human rights are fundamental principles that recognize the inherent dignity and equal worth of every human being. These rights are universal, inalienable, and interdependent, spanning across cultural, social, and geographical boundaries. They serve as the basic framework for freedom, justice, and peace.

The Significance of Human Rights

Human rights are essential for the sustenance of a civilized society. They provide a moral compass, guiding the actions of governments and individuals. These rights ensure that every person is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.

Human Rights and Social Justice

Human rights play a crucial role in promoting social justice. They provide the foundation for equality and fairness, preventing discrimination and abuses. The right to education, for instance, ensures equal opportunities for all, fostering social mobility and reducing income disparities.

Human Rights and Democracy

Democracy and human rights are closely intertwined. The principles of freedom of expression, assembly, and association are fundamental to a democratic society. They facilitate the free exchange of ideas, constructive dialogue, and active participation in political processes.

In conclusion, human rights form the backbone of a fair and just society. They uphold the inherent dignity of every individual, promote social justice, and foster democratic values. Therefore, understanding and respecting human rights is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative for all.

500 Words Essay on Importance of Human Rights


Human rights are fundamental principles that recognize the inherent value and dignity of all individuals. These rights are inalienable, universal, and apply without prejudice or discrimination. The importance of human rights cannot be overstated, as they form the bedrock of just and equitable societies, ensuring freedom, respect, and equality for all.

Foundation of Democracy

Human rights are the cornerstones of democratic societies. They ensure that governments respect the freedoms and rights of their citizens, thereby promoting social harmony and peace. They provide a framework for the rule of law, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their position or power, is subject to the same laws. This promotes accountability, transparency, and justice, which are crucial for the functioning of a democratic society.

Protection of Vulnerable Groups

Human rights play a pivotal role in protecting marginalized and vulnerable groups. They ensure that everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or social status, is treated with dignity and respect. They protect individuals from discrimination, violence, and abuse, thereby promoting social inclusion and equality.

Enabler of Social Progress

Human rights are also a catalyst for social progress. They encourage the free exchange of ideas, fostering innovation and creativity. They ensure everyone has access to education, healthcare, and social services, which are crucial for personal development and societal advancement. Moreover, they promote economic growth by ensuring fair labor practices and protecting workers’ rights.

Guardian of Individual Freedom

Human rights safeguard individual freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. These freedoms allow people to express their opinions, practice their beliefs, and participate in societal decision-making processes. They empower individuals, giving them the agency to shape their lives and the society they live in.

In conclusion, human rights are integral to the development and well-being of individuals and societies. They ensure equality, respect, and freedom for all, fostering social harmony and peace. They protect the vulnerable, promote social progress, and safeguard individual freedoms. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the 21st century, the importance of human rights becomes even more pronounced. It is our collective responsibility to uphold and protect these rights, ensuring a just and equitable world for all.

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Human Rights Careers

5 Essays to Learn More About Equality

“Equality” is one of those words that seems simple, but is more complicated upon closer inspection. At its core, equality can be defined as “the state of being equal.” When societies value equality, their goals include racial, economic, and gender equality . Do we really know what equality looks like in practice? Does it mean equal opportunities, equal outcomes, or both? To learn more about this concept, here are five essays focusing on equality:

“The Equality Effect” (2017) – Danny Dorling

In this essay, professor Danny Dorling lays out why equality is so beneficial to the world. What is equality? It’s living in a society where everyone gets the same freedoms, dignity, and rights. When equality is realized, a flood of benefits follows. Dorling describes the effect of equality as “magical.” Benefits include happier and healthier citizens, less crime, more productivity, and so on. Dorling believes the benefits of “economically equitable” living are so clear, change around the world is inevitable. Despite the obvious conclusion that equality creates a better world, progress has been slow. We’ve become numb to inequality. Raising awareness of equality’s benefits is essential.

Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. He has co-authored and authored a handful of books, including Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration—and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives . “The Equality Effect” is excerpted from this book. Dorling’s work focuses on issues like health, education, wealth, poverty, and employment.

“The Equality Conundrum” (2020) – Joshua Rothman

Originally published as “Same Difference” in the New Yorker’s print edition, this essay opens with a story. A couple plans on dividing their money equally among their children. However, they realize that to ensure equal success for their children, they might need to start with unequal amounts. This essay digs into the complexity of “equality.” While inequality is a major concern for people, most struggle to truly define it. Citing lectures, studies, philosophy, religion, and more, Rothman sheds light on the fact that equality is not a simple – or easy – concept.

Joshua Rothman has worked as a writer and editor of The New Yorker since 2012. He is the ideas editor of

“Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom” (2019) –

Equality in education is critical to society. Students that receive excellent education are more likely to succeed than students who don’t. This essay focuses on the importance of equity, which means giving support to students dealing with issues like poverty, discrimination and economic injustice. What is the difference between equality and equity? What are some strategies that can address barriers? This essay is a great introduction to the equity issues teachers face and why equity is so important. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving equity and education in the United States. It believes that the educational experiences children receive are crucial for their future. was founded by Dr. Dustin Heuston.

“What does equality mean to me?” (2020) – Gabriela Vivacqua and Saddal Diab

While it seems simple, the concept of equality is complex. In this piece posted by WFP_Africa on the WFP’s Insight page, the authors ask women from South Sudan what equality means to them. Half of South Sudan’s population consists of women and girls. Unequal access to essentials like healthcare, education, and work opportunities hold them back. Complete with photographs, this short text gives readers a glimpse into interpretations of equality and what organizations like the World Food Programme are doing to tackle gender inequality.

As part of the UN, the World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization focusing on hunger and food security . It provides food assistance to over 80 countries each year.

“Here’s How Gender Equality is Measured” (2020) – Catherine Caruso

Gender inequality is one of the most discussed areas of inequality. Sobering stats reveal that while progress has been made, the world is still far from realizing true gender equality. How is gender equality measured? This essay refers to the Global Gender Gap report ’s factors. This report is released each year by the World Economic Forum. The four factors are political empowerment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity, and education. The author provides a brief explanation of each factor.

Catherine Caruso is the Editorial Intern at Global Citizen, a movement committed to ending extreme poverty by 2030. Previously, Caruso worked as a writer for Inquisitr. Her English degree is from Syracuse University. She writes stories on health, the environment, and citizenship.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

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Indian History, Festivals, Essays, Paragraphs, Speeches.

Essay on Human Rights

Category: Essays and Paragraphs On March 8, 2019 By Various Contributors

Human Rights – Essay. 

These are the standard behaviour of human rights which are declared as national and International laws.

They apply to all the humans as these are Human rights irrespective of their skin, Religion, Language and nation. They apply everywhere and at all time. They are applied as rule of law to every human being .

Human rights should never be snatched or taken away from someone. It refers to as the fundamental freedom of every Individual.

How these Rights help you?

The human rights irrespective of everything protect you in many ways.

  • Right to study.
  • Right to have a private life.
  • Right to express your feelings.
  • Right for not being mistreated.

Types of Human rights:

  • Economic Rights.
  • Social Rights
  • Cultural Rights
  • Civil rights
  • Political Rights.

This is a very fundamental and main topic. Human rights cannot be neglected in any era at any cost. They should be emphasized by every nation. Its violation is considered as a sin. By incorporating these laws a healthy and a prosperous society is formed.

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Human Rights Essay, with Outline

Published by gudwriter on January 4, 2021 January 4, 2021

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Human Rights Sample Essay Outline


Thesis: Human rights guarantee equal treatment of all people irrespective of their color, gender, religion or nationality.

Paragraph 1:

Every human being is entitled to all human rights upon their conception.

  • All persons are entitled to their human rights without discrimination.
  • Universal human rights under the international law dictate the responsibilities of state governments and list the practices that they should cease from to promote rights and freedoms of their people.
  • Human rights are unchallengeable.
  • Human rights violation such as human trafficking are severely punished.

Paragraph 2: 

In the U.S., the Constitution protects human rights through the 9th Amendment.

  • The amendment states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
  • The “certain rights” here are those that are taken care of or protected through other amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Paragraph 3:

Human rights are symbiotic and inseparable.

  • Human rights are interdependent.
  • Improvement of one human right translates to development of all, and deprivation one is a deprivation of all.

Paragraph 4:

Human rights facilitate peaceful living for all individuals.

  • Human rights are not for the oppressed but all individuals.
  • Human rights protect individuals in their day to day activities.
  • Freedom of expression gives ordinary people the power to condemn acts of the powerful as well as oppose abuse of power by state governments.

Paragraph 5:

Human rights came to be universally accepted after World War II.

  • Sources of human rights include Magna Carta 1215 , the United States Constitution and bill of rights in 1791, and the French declaration of human rights in 1789.
  • United Nations played a significant role in the establishment of the international laws, which enforce human rights.

Paragraph 6:

The League of Nations first raised concern over abuse of human rights after the First World War.

  • The push for human rights bore fruits after the World War II when the Nazis killed more than 6million Jews, disabled people, and homosexuals.
  • State governments formed the United Nations to help prevent interstate conflicts and promote peace.

Paragraph 7:

In 1941, President Franklin Delano in his speech to the United Nations Congress mentioned the need for established of four central freedoms, which were freedom of religion, expression, and freedom from fear and want.

  • In 1945 the United Nations Charter was drafted.
  • A commission on human rights was formed to come up with a document containing a declaration of all human rights.
  • A restatement of the thesis statement
  • A summary of the main points
  • A take-away  statement  made based on presented facts or information  

Human rights essay – informative essay about human rights, history, what it is, etc. 

A Sample Essay on Human Rights

The world is made up of people with different characters. People are divided into the three social classes: the rich, the middle class, and the poor. There are people who hold positions of power and leadership while others are ruled or governed. In spite of these differences, all human beings are equal and should be treated equally. However, there some people, particularly those in positions of power, who may use their influence to mistreat others. Human rights exist to prevent those in power and ordinary people from abusing others. In this regard, human rights guarantee equal treatment of all people irrespective of their color, gender, religion, or nationality.

Every human being regardless of their gender, color, nationality, and religion are born with their rights. All persons are entitled to their human rights without discrimination (Hoffman, 2016). Laws and treaties enforce human rights, and the universal law on human rights ensures that no person or government abuses the rights of another human being (Hoffman, 2016). Universal human rights under the international law dictate the responsibilities of governments and list the practices that they should cease from in order to promote the rights and freedoms of their people. The international law provides that human rights are collective and unchallengeable (Hoffman, 2016). All countries from around the world have approved at least one or more of the four universal treaties of human rights.

In the United States for example, the Constitution protects human rights through the 9th Amendment. This amendment states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” (Schmitt, 2010). The “certain rights” here are those that are taken care of or protected through other amendments in the Bill of Rights. However, there are also “others retained by the people,” and they include all other human rights that should be naturally enjoyed by a free people. A good example of these other rights are “the “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” identified by the Declaration of Independence” (Schmitt, 2010). They additionally include such natural rights as the right to defense of family and self, property, privacy, thought, communication, work, travel, education, and free association. In other terms, they are intensive rights that all human beings should inherently enjoy.

Human rights are symbiotic and inseparable. According to the international law, all human rights are dependent on each other. No person should be deprived of their social, civil, political, or economic rights. The right to life, right to equality, right to work, freedom of expression, and other rights are inseparable. Improvement of one of these rights translates to the development of all, and deprivation of one culminates in deprivation of all (Carrim, 2007). The fundamental purpose of this interrelation among all human rights is to ensure they are one so that governments or individuals will not improve some rights while depriving others. Thus, an abuse of a single human freedom is an abuse of all human rights.

Further, human rights facilitate peaceful living for all human beings. Most people believe that human rights are meant to emancipate the oppressed from oppression, but in the real sense, they apply to everyone (Hoffman, 2016). The rights protect individuals in their day to day activities. Without them, it would be impossible to express oneself, but due to the freedom of expression, everyone can speak up their minds (Hoffman, 2016). Freedom of speech gives ordinary people the power to condemn acts of the powerful as well as oppose abuse of power by state governments (Hoffman, 2016). In this regard, human rights empower ordinary people to the point that they can negotiate with those in power. It is through these rights that people have access to education, family life, and private life.

Noteworthy, human rights came to be universally accepted after the Second World War (Swimelar, 2009). Before then, people had no rights, and they got their freedoms from joining a family, religious organizations, and national groups. There are several materials that serve as the source of human rights and they include Magna Carta 1215, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights of 1791, and the French declaration of human rights of 1789 (McFarland, 2017). The formation of the United Nations played a significant role in the establishment of the international laws which enforce human rights. Slavery also contributed to the formulation of some human rights. In the year 1919, in efforts to put a stop to slavery, countries formed the International Labor Organization, which was meant to protect workers from harassment and guarantee their safety.

The League of Nations first raised concern over the abuse of human rights after the First World War. The countries involved were concerned about the sufferings that some minority groups had been subjected to. However, the efforts of the countries bore no fruits because the United States failed to join. The push for human rights arose again after the Second World War when the Nazis killed more than 6million Jews, disabled people, and gays (McFarland, 2017). The whole world was horrified by such high levels of cruelty. Some leaders from the defeated nations were tried in Tokyo and Nurnberg for committing crimes against humanity (McFarland, 2017). Governments across the world then decided to form the United Nations (UN), which would help prevent interstate conflicts and promote peace.

In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his speech to the United Nations Congress mentioned the need for the establishment of four central freedoms, which were freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from fear, and freedom from want (McFarland, 2017). Other countries called for the declaration of standard human rights to protect ordinary people living within the borders of their nations from war. Due to these calls, the United Nations Charter was drafted in the year 1945 (McFarland, 2017). Members of the organization affirmed their commitment towards promoting reverence for human rights for all people. In efforts to support this move, the UN formed a commission on human rights, which was then given the responsibility to come up with a document listing all the reasons discussed in the 1945 Charter.

Human rights came into existence to protect the weak and oppressed from mistreatment by those in power. Human rights assure all people of fair treatment as all individuals are equal irrespective of their color, sex, religion, or social class. The Second World War marked the peak for the push for human rights. The act of Nazis of killing more than 6million innocent people made the world see the need for the official declaration of human rights. It was among the major events that made the world realize the need for universal human rights, which are today enjoyed by billions of people across the world.

Carrim, N. H. (2007).  Human rights and the construction of identities in South African education  (Doctoral dissertation).

Hoffmann, S. L. (2016). Human rights and history.  Past & Present ,  232 (1), 279-310.

McFarland, S. (2017). The universal declaration of human rights: a tribute to its architects.  Public Integrity ,  19 (2), 108-122.

Schmitt, H. H. (2010). “Natural rights and the 9th amendment”. America’s Uncommon Sense . Retrieved May 12, 2020 from

Swimelar, S. (2009). International human rights: a comprehensive introduction.  Human Rights Quarterly ,  31 (3), 821-826.

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Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

2024 human rights essay award, call for submission for the human rights essay award is now open, 2024 topic: protection and guarantee of human rights in digital environments .

The Human Rights Essay Award is an annual award sponsored by the Academy aimed at encouraging the production of academic articles in the field of international human rights law. The topic for the 2024 award is " Protection and Guarantee of Human Rights in Digital Environments ." Participants have the flexibility to choose any subject related to this theme. However, the scope of the essay must directly correspond to the 2024 theme, or it will be disqualified. Additionally, we would like to note that we believe international human rights law includes international humanitarian law and international criminal law.


Due to technical difficulties with the Essays submission form, the Award pre-selection committee hasn’t been able to collect all the submitted Essays. If you have sent an Essay to us, even if you received a confirmation email acknowledging that we received the Essays, it might happen that we didn’t. We apologize for these technological issues . In order to guarantee that all prospective candidates who presented their Essays timely and in proper shape and form can participate on the Award, we have decided to extend the submission deadline until Wednesday, February 7th, 2024, at 11:59 PM (Washington DC Time)

For resubmission, please send us an email to [email protected] and attached both: (i) Resume; and (ii) Essay. Make sure to attached both document. Include your name. We kindly ask you to also forward us the received confirmation email to certify that your submission was done during the original deadline.

The essay submission form has been disable to avoid confusion. If you still have access to that form please disregard it. The only valid mean to successfully complete your resubmission is by sending us an email as described above.

We encourage you to make your resubmission. Our Honor Jury and the Academy is excited to read you approaches to the protection of Human Rights in Digital Environments, and once again, apologize to all the candidates for this inconvenience.


The Academy will grant  two  Awards, one for the best article in English and one for the best article in Spanish. The Award in each case will consist of:

A full tuition scholarship to the Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law for either the Diploma or Certificate of Attendance options (travel, housing and per diem living expenses are not included)*

The best articles may also be published in the American University International Law Review,  which contains relevant and diverse academic material. This prestigious journal receives approximately 1,500 submissions each year and publishes legal research from professors, judges, lawyers, and renowned scholars.

* In 2021 the Program of Advanced Studies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law  was held virtually due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Academy reserves the right to determine if the 2024 Program will be held virtually. 

Participants Eligibility Requirements:

Must hold a law degree, Juris Doctor, (J.D.), Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), or equivalent.

Shall have a demonstrated experience or interest in international human rights law.  

H ave the flexibility to choose any subject related to the 2024 topic: ¨ Protection and Assurance of Human Rights in Digital Environments ¨

Must keep in mind the essay must be a legal article citation sources. 

Important dates:

Deadline for submissions (EXTENDED!): February 7, 2024, 11:59 PM (DC Time)

Winners Announcement: April 1st, 2024 (Website)

Difference between the award and our LL.M Program

We would like to remind you that the Human Rights Essay Award is a project offered by the Academy of Human Rights and International Law. The project is not related to the application process for our LL.M. programs , for which you need to follow all the steps outlined on our website at this link , which we encourage you to consult if you are interested.

Want to know more?

Click on the right menu to learn more about the Award regulations.

Contact us!

For more information, please contact us at  [email protected] . Allow  48 to 72 business hours for responses

We invite you all to keep visiting this page for more details on the 2024 Human Rights Essay Award!

Official Rules

Essay Submission

American University International Law Review

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Guest Essay

The Drop in Crime in El Salvador Is Stunning, but It Has a Dark Side

A photograph of a hand holding a folded ballot above a slot in a box.

By Will Freeman and Lucas Perelló

Dr. Freeman is a fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Perelló is an assistant professor of political science at Marist College. They reported in El Salvador before and during the election.

Voters in El Salvador this week gave their tough-on-crime president a sweeping mandate: Keep going.

While votes are still being counted, President Nayib Bukele claims he won re-election by a landslide , with more than 85 percent of the vote. If those results hold when the official count is announced, not even Latin America’s best-known populist presidents, like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez or Bolivia’s Evo Morales , will have come close to winning election by such margins.

Mr. Bukele’s unparalleled rise comes down to a single factor: El Salvador’s stunning crime drop. Since he took office in 2019, intentional homicide rates have decreased from 38 per 100,000 in that year to 7.8 in 2022 , well below the Latin American average of 16.4 for the same year.

The crackdown Mr. Bukele has led on organized crime has all but dismantled the infamous street gangs that terrorized the population for decades. It also exacted a tremendous price on Salvadorans’ human rights, civil liberties and democracy. Since March 2022, when Mr. Bukele declared a state of emergency that suspended basic civil liberties, security forces have locked up roughly 75,000 people. A staggering one in 45 adults is now in prison.

Other leaders in the neighborhood are taking notice, and have debated adopting many of the same drastic measures to fight their own criminal violence. But even if they wanted to make the trade-off that Mr. Bukele’s government has — making streets safer through methods that are blatantly at odds with democracy — they aren’t likely to succeed. The conditions that enabled Mr. Bukele’s success and political stardom are unique to El Salvador, and can’t be exported.

Walking the streets of the capital, San Salvador, in the days before the election, we saw firsthand how families with children have returned to parks. People can now cross formerly impassable gang-controlled borders between neighborhoods. The city center, which for years was largely empty by sunset, is now lively late into the night.

But El Salvador, which transitioned to democracy in the 1990s, has veered off that path. Mr. Bukele now controls all government branches. The nation of 6.4 million is run as a police state: Soldiers and police officers routinely whisk citizens off the streets and into prison indefinitely without providing a reason or allowing them access to a lawyer. There are credible reports that inmates have been tortured. Government critics told us they have been threatened with prosecution, and journalists have been spied on . Even last Sunday’s vote is under a microscope after the transmission system for the results of the preliminary vote count collapsed in a highly unusual manner.

As political scientists who study Latin American politics, we have been tracking Mr. Bukele’s growing fan club in the region. In neighboring Honduras, the left-wing president, Xiomara Castro, declared a “war against extortion” targeting gangs in late 2022. As in El Salvador, Ms. Castro decreed a state of emergency, but although the homicide rate has decreased , gangs remain powerful.

Farther south, Ecuador is reeling from its own explosion of gang violence. When one of us visited last year, several people interviewed said that they longed for “someone like Bukele” to come and set things right. Even in Chile — historically both a stronger democracy and safer country than El Salvador, but where crime is now rising — Mr. Bukele boasts a 78 percent approval rating.

It’s not a mystery why Mr. Bukele’s tough-on-crime model has such appeal in Latin America. In 2021, according to a Mexican think tank, the region was home to 38 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world. In a typical year, the region, which now accounts for just 8 percent of the world’s population, suffers roughly a third of all murders.

But Bukele copycats and those who believe his model can be replicated far and wide overlook a key point: The conditions that allowed him to wipe out El Salvador’s gangs are unlikely to jointly appear elsewhere in Latin America.

El Salvador’s gangs were unique, and far from the most formidable criminal organizations in the entire region. For decades, a handful of gangs fought one another for control of territory and became socially and politically powerful. But, unlike cartels in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, El Salvador’s gangs weren’t big players in the global drug trade and focused more on extortion . Compared to these other groups, they were poorly financed and not as heavily armed.

Mr. Bukele started to deactivate the gangs by negotiating with their leaders, according to Salvadoran investigative journalists and a criminal investigation led by a former attorney general. (The government denies this.) When Mr. Bukele then arrested their foot soldiers in large sweeps that landed many innocent people in prison, the gangs collapsed.

It would not be such a simple story elsewhere in Latin America, where criminal organizations are wealthier, more internationally connected and much better armed than El Salvador’s gangs once were. When other governments in the region have tried to take down gang and cartel leaders, these groups haven’t simply crumbled. They have fought back, or new criminal groups have quickly filled the void, drawn by the drug trade’s huge profits. Pablo Escobar’s war on the state in 1980s-90s Colombia, the backlash by cartels to Mexican law enforcement activity since the mid-2000s, and the violent response to Ecuador’s government’s recent moves against gangs are just a few examples.

El Salvador also had more formidable and professional security forces , committed to crushing the gangs when Mr. Bukele called on them, than some of its neighbors. Take Honduras, where gang-sponsored corruption among security forces apparently runs deep. That helped doom Ms. Castro’s attempts to emulate Mr. Bukele from the start. In other countries, like Mexico, criminal groups have also reportedly managed to co-opt high-ranking members of the military and police. In Venezuela, it has been reported that military officials have run their own drug trafficking operation. Even if presidents send soldiers and police to do Bukele-style mass roundups, security forces may not be prepared, or may have incentives to undermine the task at hand.

Finally, Mr. Bukele faces very little political opposition, with the country’s two traditional parties significantly weakened since 2019 and unable to constrain the new president as he established control over state institutions . In many other Latin American countries, there are more robust political parties or opposition forces in place that would help keep an overreaching executive in check.

If other Bukeles in waiting try to copy what he has done, they are more likely to replicate only the dark side of El Salvador’s model, and not its achievements. Governments could find themselves subsumed in chaos as criminal groups multiply in numbers or fight back with ample firepower. And in the process they could potentially shrink the space for civil society and the press, reduce government transparency, pile detainees into already overcrowded prisons, and weaken the courts. Historically, presidents in Latin America who have been less than fully committed to democracy have been eager to take some or all of these steps for political gain anyway. Crime-fighting makes for the perfect excuse.

For all of its success in lowering crime, the Bukele model comes at a stark cost. Copycats beware: Not only will following the El Salvador playbook not work, attempts to do it may very well do lasting damage to democracy along the way.

Will Freeman is a fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations who researches organized crime and democracy. Lucas Perelló is an assistant professor of political science at Marist College.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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a view of an alleged former detention centre, known as Yengisheher-2, in Shule County in Kashgar in China's northwestern Xinjiang region

Genetics journal retracts 18 papers from China due to human rights concerns

Researchers used samples from populations deemed by experts and campaigners to be vulnerable to exploitation, including Uyghurs and Tibetans

A genetics journal from a leading scientific publisher has retracted 18 papers from China, in what is thought to be the biggest mass retraction of academic research due to concerns about human rights.

The articles were published in Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine (MGGM), a genetics journal published by the US academic publishing company Wiley. The papers were retracted this week after an agreement between the journal’s editor in chief, Suzanne Hart, and the publishing company. In a review process that took over two years, investigators found “inconsistencies” between the research and the consent documentation provided by researchers.

The papers by different scientists are all based on research that draws on DNA samples collected from populations in China . In several cases, the researchers used samples from populations deemed by experts and human rights campaigners to be vulnerable to exploitation and oppression in China, leading to concerns that they would not be able to freely consent to such samples being taken.

Several of the researchers are associated with public security authorities in China, a fact that “voids any notion of free informed consent”, said Yves Moreau, a professor of engineering at the University of Leuven, in Belgium, who focuses on DNA analysis. Moreau first raised concerns about the papers with Hart, MGGM’s editor-in-chief, in March 2021.

One retracted paper studies the DNA of Tibetans in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, using blood samples collected from 120 individuals. The article stated that “all individuals provided written informed consent” and that work was approved by the Fudan University ethics committee.

But the retraction notice published on Monday stated that an ethical review “uncovered inconsistencies between the consent documentation and the research reported; the documentation was not sufficiently detailed to resolve the concerns raised”.

Xie Jianhui, the corresponding author on the study, is from the department of forensic medicine at Fudan University in Shanghai. Xie did not respond to a request for comment, but the retraction notice states that Xie and his co-authors did not agree with the retraction.

Several of Xie’s co-authors are affiliated with the public security authorities in China, including the Tibetan public security authorities. Tibet is considered to be one of the most closely surveilled and tightly monitored regions in China. In Human Rights Watch’s most recent annual report , the campaign group said that the authorities “enforce severe restrictions on freedoms of religion, expression, movement, and assembly”.

Another of the retracted studies used blood samples from 340 Uyghur individuals in Kashgar, a city in Xinjiang, to study the genetic links between them and Uyghurs from other regions. The scientists said the data would be a resource for “forensic DNA and population genetics”.

The retracted papers were all published between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, after Moreau raised concerns about the papers in MGGM, eight of the journal’s 25 editors resigned. The journal’s editor in chief, Hart, has remained in her post. Hart and MGGM did not respond to a request for comment.

MGGM is considered by some to be a mid-ranking genetics publication. It has an impact factor of 2.473, which puts it roughly in the top 40% of journals. It is considered to be a relatively easy forum for publication, which may have been a draw for Chinese researchers looking to publish in English-language journals, said David Curtis, a professor of genetics at University College London. Curtis resigned from his position as editor-in-chief of Annals of Human Genetics, another Wiley journal, after the publisher vetoed a call to consider boycotting Chinese science because of ethical concerns, including those relating to DNA collection.

MGGM states that its scope is human, molecular and medical genetics. It primarily publishes studies on the medical applications of genetics, such as a recent paper on genetic disorders linked to hearing loss. The sudden pivot towards publishing forensic genetics research from China came as other forensic genetics journals started facing more scrutiny for publishing research based on DNA samples from vulnerable minorities in China, said Moreau. He argues that may have pushed more controversial research towards mid-ranking journals such as MGGM that do not specialise in forensic genetics.

On its information page, MGGM states that it “does not consider studies involving forensic genetic analysis”. That caveat was added in 2023, after an editorial review of the journal’s aims.

In recent years there has been a growing scrutiny on research that uses DNA or other biometric data from individuals in China, particularly those from vulnerable populations. In 2023 , Elsevier, a Dutch academic publisher, retracted an article based on blood and saliva samples from Uyghur and Kazakh people living in Xinjiang, a region in north-west China where there are also widespread reports of human rights abuses.

The Wiley retractions come days before a Chinese government deadline requiring universities to submit lists of all academic articles retracted in the past three years. According to an analysis by Nature, nearly 14,000 retraction notices were published last year, of which three-quarters involved a Chinese co-author.

A spokesperson for Wiley said: “We are continuing to learn from this case, and collaboration with international colleagues is valuable in developing our policies.

“Investigations that involve multiple papers, stakeholders and institutions require significant effort, and often involve lag time in coordinating and analysing information across all involved, as well as translation of materials. We recognise that this takes a significant amount of time but always aim to act as swiftly as possible.”

In recent years, China has outstripped the EU and the US in terms of total research output, and the impact of its research is also catching up with output from the US.

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Human Rights and NGOs Analytical Essay

Introduction, human rights and ngos, when and how ngos effectively executes their duties.


Human rights NGOs are private associations that engage in the promotion and protection of human rights. Various NGOs around the globe have dedicated their efforts towards the protection of human rights and elimination of human rights abuses.

These NGOs have been on the forefront in monitoring the activities of governments and mounting pressure on the governments, forcing them to adhere to human rights tenets 1 . This paper will establish when and how human rights NGOs become most effective. Essentially, the NGOs intervene whenever there is a perceived violation of human right principles.

The nongovernmental organizations play a critical role in governance issues across the world. In the world today, there are numerous international human rights treaties which stipulate the obligations of states, and the rights of the citizens in these states and beyond 2 .

Despite this, the civil society has continued to play a fundamental role in helping the establishment of a strong and operational human rights system in various countries across the world. The NGOs engage in various activities including the collection of critical data and offering advisory services to victims of human rights abuses.

Also, the NGOs take it upon themselves to file complaints in regard to observed weaknesses in state agencies. At times, the NGOs may support legal cases that are brought before national, regional, and international conventions and courts 3 .

In the case of a national context, political tension is most likely to arise between the NGOs and the government. The assertions put forward by Peter R. Baehr on international NGOs also apply to the human rights NGOs at the national and regional levels.

He asserted that: “despite the abundance of non-governmental human rights organizations, little is actually known about their effectiveness or impact, except for the fact that they tend to rely on what is commonly known as the ‘mobilization of shame’” 4 .

Amnesty International (AI) has played a leading role in enhancing human rights across the world. AI conducts research and come up with an action plan aimed at preventing and eliminating human right abuses. It also demands for justice to victims of human rights abuses 5 . AI was formed in 1961 by individuals who wanted to oversee the implementation of the human rights across the world.

Since its formation, AI has been more interested in the suffering of people who have been killed, subjected to torture, and incarcerated due to political reasons.

In the recent past, AI has started focusing on the general human rights protection; this is achieved through legal redress and mounting of public pressure from the international community. Following the formation of AI, there have been notable improvements in cultivating norms and behavior that is in line with human right principles 6 .

NGOs are forced to swing into action when human rights are perceived to have been violated specifically due to political reasons. A good example is the case of Joelito Filartiga, whose 17 year old son was subjected to torture and eventually killed for political reasons in Paraguay 7 . The NGOs also intervene when there is need to educate the public and share information regarding what is happening on the ground in areas hit by conflicts.

B’Tselem is one of the NGOs that have been involved in this kind of work by letting the world know about what is happening in the Middle East conflict 8 . When technical analysis of the human rights violation is needed, NGOs play a critical role in explaining the history, details, and demographic analysis of the situation 9 .

The NGOs also get involved in matters of human rights when there is need to influence public policy. This can be achieved through lobbying and advocacy 10 .

There are certain aspects that make human rights organizations to become more effective. In this case, the human rights NGOs have to be accountable on how they run their affairs. Also, for the human rights NGOs to be effective, their officials must have well defined office terms. It has been observed that long and renewable terms for office bearers are the most appropriate.

The office bearers should also be presented with sufficient remuneration. This guarantees integrity and independence of the human rights officials. Effectiveness of the human rights officials is also enhanced by the ability to avoid conflict of interest. In this case, the officials of the human rights NGOs have to solely dedicate themselves to serving the interests of the organization 11 .

These organizations also improve on their effectiveness when their officials are granted immunity from litigation that may arise from actions taken in their official capacity. The NGOs can also improve on their effectiveness when they cooperate with other organizations at the international level.

This reinforces their independence and effectiveness. It has also to be noted that financial independence, adequate resources and staffing enhance the effectiveness of the human rights NGOs 12 .

One of the fundamental roles played by human rights NGOs is monitoring human rights abuses. When individuals are subjected to unnecessary torture or even killed due to political reasons, the human rights NGOs step in to demand for justice and an end to the uncalled for sufferings.

The AI has been effective in this aspect as it has been engaged in demanding for an end to human rights violations mostly carried out by agents of the state 13 . The NGOs have also played the role of educating the public and sharing information related to human rights aspects. Such NGOs aim at providing the public with a basis from which an action can be taken and decisions made.

In this case, the people concerned are provided with information so that they cannot blame ignorance for their actions 14 . The NGOs also engage in technical analysis of the human rights violations. Addressing the violations of human rights “requires an assessment of how, how much and why human freedoms are curtailed or condemned” 15 .

In some cases, NGOs influence public policy through political lobbying and advocacy. This is achieved through campaigns of persuasion and exerting pressure on the government or private groups and corporations seen to be violating human rights 16 . The NGOs have also been engaged in building solidarity in an effort to enhance human rights across the world.

In this case, they advance sympathetic concerns for the causes and concerns of others in relation to human rights 17 . In the recent past, it has been noted that many people have been displaced from their homes due to armed conflicts. The NGOs have come to the rescue of these victims through the provision and facilitation of service and humanitarian relief 18 .

Lastly, through litigation, the NGOs have been able to advance the protection of individuals from human rights violations. All this has been applied by the NGOs to effectively achieve their objective of enhancing human rights.

It can be observed that the NGOs have played a significant role in enhancing human rights around the world. The NGOs often step in when human rights abuses and violations have been noted and the victims ignored. These NGOs engage in various activities and actions to effectively address the violation of human rights that is experienced in various states.

Baehr, Peter, R. Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations . Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Clark, Ann, Marie. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International in International Politics . 2001. Web.

Claude, Richard, Pierre and Burns, H. Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

International Council on Human Rights Policy. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions . 2005. Web.

Welch, Claude, E. ed. NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

  • Claude E. Welch, ed., NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, p 54.
  • Peter R. Baehr, Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations, Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009, p 120.
  • Claude E. Welch, ed., NGOs and Human Rights. Promise and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, p 62.
  • Peter R. Baehr, Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations, Houndsmill: Pallgrave Macmillan, 2009, p 123.
  • Ann Marie Clark. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International in International Politics. 2001.
  • Ibid, para 2.
  • Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p 425.
  • Ibid, p 426.
  • Ibid, p 428.
  • Ibid, p 429.
  • International Council on Human Rights Policy. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions. 2005.
  • Ibid, p 427.
  • Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H Weston. Human rights in the world community: issues and action. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p 428.
  • Ibid, p 430.
  • Ibid, p 431.
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IvyPanda. (2024, February 6). Human Rights and NGOs.

"Human Rights and NGOs." IvyPanda , 6 Feb. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) 'Human Rights and NGOs'. 6 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "Human Rights and NGOs." February 6, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "Human Rights and NGOs." February 6, 2024.

IvyPanda . "Human Rights and NGOs." February 6, 2024.

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