Human Rights are a basic requirement of any form of social structure. They are the basic agreement amongst groups of people as to the minimum standard of treatment any individual member of that group may expect from any other member, or group of members.
The exact nature of this minimum standard has of course changed over time. Changes which one would hope would be recognised as an improved direction. Unfortunately deteriorations have also occurred in different Cultures and Geographical (Political) regions.
This Agreement is unfortunately almost always expressed in terms of explicit Rights, without direct specification of the corresponding implied Responsibilities. Human Rights could be better described as Human Responsibilities as understanding the Responsibility implied by any “Right” actually defines the case of and for that Right better than simply stating the Right itself.
When looked at as a set of responsibilities, Human Rights can never be considered to be contrary to any local or religious customs, traditions or laws. The reverse, however may not be true – as those laws, customs or practices would have to incorporate the responsibility of both individuals and the society in question to respect the right of the individual.
Of course there are many Societies, Specific adherents to certain Religions and Governments that fall short – in some cases dismally so – of even recognising, let alone meeting, their most basic responsibilities in this respect.
I should state that my interest in this has been roused over the last three years or so due the fact that in Britain, which was often regarded as one of the key drivers behind what we could described as Modern Human Rights, we are seeing an erosion of the implementation of these rights in a way that most people of my age (born in 1964) would not have believed possible in such a “developed” nation during their lifetime!
We even have the current UK Government talking of “Withdrawing from Human Rights Legislation”. Thus indicating that it regards these Human Rights as an External and not Indigenous concept. This is of course incorrect as most of the core of “Modern Human Rights” has it’s origins within the UK. Certainly from the late 1700’s to the very recent past, this was the case. Although the Magna Carta is often mentioned as a major point in the history of Civil Rights, it was perhaps not quite the great triumph for General Rights sometimes ascribed to it, more a tiny little step in the right direction, for a few but not the majority.
It is also worth bearing in mind that archaeology has thrown up evidence suggesting that some of the earlier (Stone, Bronze and Iron Age) social groups had reasonably agreeable levels of social justice, so it’s not just a new thing – Nor is it a one-way journey!
It is with this in mind that I see the importance of constant vigilance regarding human rights not simply as a bunch of “Do-Gooders” from the EU or UN to try to coerce so-called developing nations into adopting Western Ideologies. It is something more of a constant fight between those who would try to evade their responsibilities (usually in Governments and Corporations) and those who would hold them to their responsibilities (a wide and varied band of individuals and organisations acting both independently and in co-operation).
It could be argued that “doing your bit” to uphold those responsibilities is the most fundamental Responsibility and Right of all.
The Declaration Of Human Rights and it’s relation to Law...