When drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Commission on Human Rights focused on the rights that are most important to every human being. Commission chairperson and former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt emphasized that human rights begin close to home. “Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere,” she said.
The 30 articles of the Declaration lay out the UN’s vision of what human rights are. These articles establish a wide range of rights and prohibitions, which include the following:
- Right to dignity, liberty, and equality for all people regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.
- Right to life and the security of one’s person.
- Right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
- Prohibition of slavery and torture.
- Right to impartial trials and equal protection under the law.
- Right to participate in one’s government, directly or through representation.
- Right to own property.
- Right to an education.
- Right to peaceful assembly.
- Right to free movement within one’s own national borders.
- Right to leave one’s nation.
- Right to work where one chooses and receive just and equal pay for that work.
- Right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and of one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.
Additionally, the Declaration states that individuals have a duty to uphold the principles of human rights in their communities. There is only so much any government can do to ensure rights like dignity. Protecting human rights takes all of us.