I am continuing a series of blogs on human rights that I began in December: “Towards Human Rights.” The purpose of this blog series is to make the case for the implementation and acceptance of human rights as a global values system. It is based on my Human Rights: Towards a Universal Values System?
“…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Towards Human Rights as a Global Values System, last in the series, part 26
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
A History and Philosophy of Human Rights, The 19th and 20th Centuries The concept of human rights expanded in the 19th and 20th centuries. In Western Europe and North America, labor unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and stopping or regulating child labor.
Abolitionists fought hard and succeeded in abolishing slavery and the slave trade. For
instance, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the rebel states in 1862, and Brazil abolished slavery in 1889. The women’s rights movement struggled for many years to gain the right to vote (suffrage) for women. Success in gaining women’s suffrage came about at different dates in the 20th century, although New Zealand was the first nation to grant women the right to vote in 1893.
The U.S. passed the 19th amendment to its constitution which made it legal for women to vote in 1920, even though the territory of Wyoming granted suffrage to women years earlier in 1869. The newly created modern nation of Turkey granted women voting rights in 1926. France, a center of Enlightenment thinking in the 18th century, only granted women voting rights in 1944, although the government abolished slavery in 1794. The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Voting Rights for Women, as stated in Article 21, passed into international law in 1948.
Between World War I and World War II (1919-1939) the world community of nations
established a number of organizations to ensure peace and stability throughout the world. The most notable was the League of Nations in 1919, following the end of the devastating World War I. The League’s goals included disarmament, preventing future wars, and settling disputes between countries through negotiation and diplomacy. Part of its charter was an order to promote many of the rights which were later included into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Geneva Conventions consist of four treaties that came into being between 1864 and 1949. It was in large part a direct result of efforts by the Red Cross. Although the four treaties are chiefly concerned with the treatment of the wounded, civilians shipwrecked and prisoners of war, it was at the forefront of the international community’s first attempt to define laws of war.
After the horrors of another even more deadly war, World War II (1939–1945), a renewed commitment to protect basic principles of human rights was generally accepted around the world. There was general recognition of the idea that the human rights practices of individual countries toward their own citizens are matters of international concern. The 1945 United Nations Charter included a commitment to respect human rights, but it was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that provided the basic statement of widely accepted international human rights standards.
About the Author:
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more information about the topic of human rights see Dr. Ames’ book Human Rights: Towards a Global Values System, $17.95, 225 pgs. Also available on Amazon.