The issue of human rights concerns all of us. In all parts of the world, people and governments continue to commit acts such as torture, arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killing, and other human rights abuses against individuals. It is important to have an understanding of basic human rights and freedoms in order to prevent abuses from taking place. Some governments attempt to define human rights on the basis of cultural differences. This distinction ignores the universal nature of human rights which recognizes that all human beings everywhere have common basic needs and should be treated with equal human dignity.
Individuals and governments which fail to uphold human rights standards are accountable to their people and to the world community. By understanding human rights, one can develop a sense of responsibility toward defending and advocating respect for human rights as well as expressing concern for those people whose human rights have been or are being violated. Human rights violations can only be remedied if one realises his or her basic ‘ rights and is willing to work for the promotion and protection of the human rights of oneself and of others.
Human rights education enables individuals and groups to become aware of the universal standards set forth in internationally recognised human rights instruments and increases understanding of both the personal and communal nature of human rights. Human rights thus become relevant to people’s relationships with each other as well as with the state and other entities. It is only through the realisation of human rights that social justice and human freedom can be achieved.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in the wake of the second world war, aims to ensure respect for human rights in all pans of the world. Since then, substantial efforts have been made to promote and protect human dignity and human rights. However, many people and governments continue to violate human rights resulting in barbarous acts against mankind.
Governments are obliged, under international law, to act as the protectors of universal human rights.
The history of human rights is a long one with its roots in many individual struggles for freedom and equality in different parts of the world. Its principles can also be found in most of the world’s religions and philosophies. The idea of human rights, therefore, pre-dates the United Nations, yet the creation of this international body represented the formal recognition of the importance of human rights in the world.
The area of human rights does not refer merely to violations. Human rights are becoming incorporated into many aspects of life; a type of social contract that fulfils people’s aspirations to live in dignity and freedom. Human Rights are also about the prevention of the misuse of power. The real protection of civil society can only come from its own creators: the people. People want to know that they are in full control of their lives and that they are recognized as unique individuals within society.
As the 20th century draws to a close, human rights in the world are confronted with many serious challenges and threats. Despite the many legal instruments and international mechanisms set up to ensure respect for human rights, shocking violations continue to take place in all parts of the world. Human rights are not a kind of miraculous cure for all the world’s ills; it is dependent on the people themselves to respect human dignity and work actively to end human suffering.