Portal:Human rights

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Welcome to the Human Rights portal

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Human rights are commonly understood as "inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being". Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law. The doctrine of human rights in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organizations, has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world. In The idea of human rights it says: "if the public discourse of peacetime global society can be said to have a common moral language, it is that of human rights". Despite this, the strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights to this day. Indeed, the question of what is meant by a "right" is itself controversial and the subject of continued philosophical debate.

Many of the basic ideas that animated the movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of the Shoah, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

In 1949, 10 governments — Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom — set up the Council of Europe. It paved the way for the introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights, to supervise states’ compliance with the convention.

The modern concept of human rights developed during the early Modern period, alongside the European secularization of Judeo-Christian ethics. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Selected article

The 14th and current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Dalai Lama said nonviolence is the only way progress can be made with China.

Nonviolence is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of violence. As such, nonviolence is an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it. Practitioners of nonviolence may use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action, and targeted communication via mass media.

Random picture

Woman in the Sudetenland weeping upon the annexation of the territory to Nazi Germany
Credit: US National Archives, originally from Völkischer Beobachter (Nazi newspaper)
Woman in the Sudetenland weeping upon the annexation of the territory to Nazi Germany. The US National Archives provides this cropped photo and this caption: "The tragedy of this Sudeten woman, unable to conceal her misery as she dutifully salutes the triumphant Hitler, is the tragedy of the silent millions who have been `won over' to Hitlerism by the `everlasting use' of ruthless force."


Did you know...

... that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force on May 3, 2008?

... that Tom Kahn organized American unions' $300,000 aid to the Polish labor-union Solidarity in 1979–1981, despite Secretary of State Muskie's warnings that this aid might provoke a new Soviet invasion?

Random quote

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

Selected biography

Matthew McDaniel and his Akha wife, Michu Uaiyue, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (May 2006)

Matthew McDaniel is a U.S. indigenous rights activist, formerly a carpenter, working to improve human rights for the Akha people of Thailand and Laos. He is the founder of the Akha Heritage Foundation. He lived in Thailand from 1991 to 2004. McDaniel is opposed to what he claims are missionary efforts to rewrite Akha history and eradicate their culture. This includes a language and oral history, which he says are critical components to their unique identity. He opposes coercive missionary conversion tactics, and the removal of Akha children from their families and villages.

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