Portal:Human rights

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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 has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world – in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organization. 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

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Multiculturalism in Canada in the sense of equal acceptance of races, religions and cultures was adopted as the official policy of the Canadian government during the prime ministership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1970s and 1980s. The Canadian government has been described as the instigator of multiculturalism as an ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. The Canadian Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often referred to as the origins of modern political awareness of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite the official policies, segments of the Canadian population are critical of the concept(s) of a cultural mosaic and implantation(s) of multiculturalism.

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Credit: Flickr user zoonabar
The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay was met with protests by human rights groups particularly on the issue of Tibet. The Chinese government complained at the politicization of a sporting event. However, track-suited Chinese security officials who accompanied the torch in London were called "thugs" by both the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and chairman of the London Olympic Committee Lord Coe, because of their behaviour.


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

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead (1901–1978)

Selected biography

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Gujarati: મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી, pronounced [moːɦən̪d̪aːs kərəmʨən̪d̪ ɡaːn̪d̪ʱiː] ( ); 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa or total nonviolence—which helped India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi ([məɦaːt̪maː]; Sanskrit: महात्मा mahātmā or "Great Soul", an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore), and in India also as Bapu (Gujarati: બાપુ, bāpu or "Father"). He is officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

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