December is Human Rights Month and December 10 is Human Rights Day!
It is observed every year on this day since 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“…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
In recognition of this notable achievement, for the month of December I will be posting a series of blogs, “Towards Human Rights,” about 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 book Human Rights: Towards a Universal Values System?
Towards Human Rights: A Global Values System, part 1
I question whether human rights are actually accepted globally as universal human values, since I realize that many people in other parts of the world do not hold these values. Either they are not part of their cultural foundation, or their governments or other authorities restrict their exercising of these values. But I aim to explain, encourage and support an expanded notion of human rights as a global values system for all global citizens to embrace.
This expanded notion of human rights is not just a modern or Western concept; it has broad and deep historical roots that span diverse cultures, societies, and nations throughout the world. With this expanded notion, human rights can be a universal value system for all to uphold.
There are many different definitions of human rights. One I particularly like is by Lynn Hunt that includes three interlocking qualities: Rights must be natural (inherent in human beings), equal (same for everyone), and universal (applicable everywhere). All humans…possess them equally…because they are human beings.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
After the end of World War II in 1945, many people looked back at the horrors unleashed
by the war and wondered what happened to our sense of humanity, morals and ethics. The shock of the terrible Holocaust, the dropping of the atomic bomb by the U.S., killing thousands of Japanese civilians, and the death and suffering of millions around the world (the Chinese had the most deaths with an estimated 25 million).
This cruelty affected many concerned citizens who decided they could no longer look the other way while tyrants jailed, tortured, and killed their fellow citizens. They took steps to found an international organization called the United Nations (UN) in 1945. The stated purpose of the UN is to set up a framework for national cooperation in the areas of international law and security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and world peace. Today the U.N. is located on international territory in New York City and has 193 member states.
One of the main accomplishments of the UN is the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, served as President and Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1946-1952. Under her able and dedicated leadership, member states passed over two dozen human rights laws.
International human rights’ experts researched and wrote the UDHR, including representatives from all continents and all major religions, and drawing on contributions from peace leaders around the world, such as Mahatma Gandhi of India.
Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights were included as inseparable, basic human rights. The countries that signed the document pledged to respect and protect the dignity and rights of all humans across the globe.
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.