HUMAN RIGHTS - A GOAL
Human rights work is laborious and long-term. States first
agree on a declaration and then often produce legally binding
conventions. The third step is the states observing their
obligations. This is an important stage in which words are
transformed into actions.
The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948
was a great step forward. For the first time in history there
was agreement on common rights for all people in all parts
of the world. Since then more documents have been produced
that develop human rights and more organisations have been
set up to work to achieve the goals. Today there is a large
international human rights system that works to produce better
living conditions for people the world over.
Nonetheless, everyday we read of people who are suffering
distress and being oppressed in newspapers and see them on
TV. There are still many states that discriminate and do not
ensure their citizens social benefits, and even if a state
wants to develop its health service and education provision,
it may lack the resources to do so. The implementation of
some rights requires more resources than others. It is more
"expensive" to ensure universal schooling, health
services and social benefits than it is to ensure universal
freedom of expression and religion.
Many people therefore say that the world community has come
a long way as far as defining human rights is concerned, but
there is a shortage of putting them into action.
Change takes time. But work is being done every day, by the
UN and other international organisations, by states and by
voluntary organisations to ensure that more people's human
rights are observed. All of them use the international documents
on human rights as tools. It is therefore important to learn
about human rights because we can only demand them if we know
what they are. And only by knowing what they are can we learn
to respect other people's human rights, show solidarity and
work for a better and fairer world.