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Human Right Course
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What are human rights?
The history of human rights
In the really old days..
the middle class and the development of cicil and political rights
the working class and the development of economic, social and cultural rights
World war II and the founding of the UN
Universial declartion of human rights
Human rights in our time
What right do we have?
The protection of Human Rights
Human rights in everyday life
Human Rights

Did you know

Did you know that representatives of countries from all over the world participated in the negotiations on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?




The UN Charter from June 1945 states that the UN shall work for both peace and cooperation between states and promote human rights. However, it does not state which rights it is talking about. The UN therefore established a Commission on Human Rights which was tasked with defining human rights. Many different states participated in the work: Australia, Belgium, Chile, Egypt, the Philippines, France, India, Iran, Yugoslavia, China, Belarus, the Lebanon, Panama, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Ukraine, the USA and Uruguay. Besides this, all UN member states could give their opinions regarding the proposals.

On 10 th December 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted after two long years of negotiations, compromises and fine tuning. No country voted against it. The declaration contains 30 articles that define individual human rights:

Everyone has a right to life, no one shall be subjected to torture or be treated in a degrading manner, everyone shall have the right to think and believe what they want; everyone shall have the right to express themselves and freedom of movement. Everyone shall have the right to vote, the right to work and to receive the support of the authorities when they need it, and many other rights.

For the first time in history there were universal rules concerning how states should act towards individual people. The states had thus given up some of their sovereignty. In other words, each individual state’s treatment of its citizens was no longer just the business of that state alone. If a state breached human rights, the state could be criticised by others.

A Norwegian professor once said that the Universal Declaration was a stroke of good luck in history.

It came about because of a completely unique global situation. The terrible things done during WWII had created an unusual feeling of togetherness between countries. This situation was unique and unfortunately did not last long. After just a few years a new long-lasting period of fear and suspicion arose between states in Eastern and Western Europe called the Cold War. However, by then the Universal Declaration of Human Rights already existed.



The UN has 191 member states. The Vatican State is the only sovereign state in the world that has chosen not to join the UN

Kofi Annan from Ghana has been the UN’s Secretary General since 1997. In 2001, Kofi Annan and the UN were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The UN’s headquarters are in New York. In addition to the 9,000 people who work there, the UN employs thousands of people throughout the world.

Fact box


The American representative suggested that Article 1 should read: “All men are created equal” like the American Declaration of Independence from 1776 does. However, the female representative from India did not like the formulation “all men” because she thought that it could be interpreted far too literally. What about women? And the representative from the Soviet Union did not like the formulation “created” because it invoked the idea of a creating god. The Soviet Union was supposed to be a religion-free society and could not sign anything like that! After much debate the result was arrived at: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

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