6.1 WHAT CAN
During this course you have learnt that human rights are
primarily the responsibility of states. It was states that
produced the Universal Declaration, it is states that ratify
conventions, it is states that have to put rights in effect,
and it is only states which can violate them. You may therefore
be thinking that your contribution is not needed.
It is important to be aware of the fact that states also
consist of many individual people that together add up to
a greater whole. Individuals can always make a difference.
During this course we have learnt that it was individuals
who first began to philosophise about human rights. It was
individuals who formulated concepts in speeches, writings
and books. It was individuals and groups who over hundreds
of years appealed, protested, inspired and finally demanded
that states incorporate human rights into law. If it had not
been for all these individuals, there would never have been
a Universal Declaration.
You have also learnt that the world still has a long way
to go and that injustices occur every single day. It is still
individuals who together make the greatest and most important
contribution. One of the UN's constitutions puts it nicely
when it says, "since it is in people's minds that wars
arise, it is in people's minds that peace must be created".
This means that the most important work for human rights takes
place in ordinary people's thoughts, through ordinary people's
actions and ordinary people's lives.
This means that your contribution to human rights is important.
These are some of the things you can do:
- Be aware and have the courage to speak out when you think
someone is being treated unfairly at school, at home in
the family, when training and among friends
- Make sure you do not treat anyone unfairly
- Read and learn more on your own. There are many books,
magazines and websites that discuss and debate human rights
- Tell your teachers that you want to learn more about human
rights at your school. Write essays, do group work or create
campaigns that deal with issues that you think are important:
bullying and racism
- Write a letter to your local authority or an article for
you local newspaper
- Organise collections and jumble sales, and donate the
money to human rights work
- Travel and get to know people from other cultures
- Join a voluntary organisation that works for human rights.
Most organisations have membership schemes through which
you can support their work by paying a fixed membership
fee each year.
- It often costs a bit less if you are a young person/student.
Some also have active membership schemes, which enable you
to get involved in campaigns, actions and other activities
- Join a political party and work for human rights in your
local municipality or county
- Get an education. Many people work for human rights on
a daily basis, both in organisations and the public sector.
They may have studied human rights as a separate subject
at university, but most have other qualifications. Choose
an education or a combination of subjects that you think
are interesting The human rights field needs lawyers, linguists,
social scientists, publicists, good writers (authors, journalists),
teachers, managers, accountants, health workers and so on.
- If you have some spare time, there are organisations which
occasionally need voluntary help.