By Eustacia A. English, NRWA DEI Columnist
Human Rights Day is observed each year on December 10th. This is the day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is one of the United Nation’s major achievements and proclaims the inherent rights of every human, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or status.
What’s in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Interest in and awareness of human rights has grown in recent decades. The UHDR stipulates universal values and a shared standard of achievement for everyone in every country. It has become the most important document of what should be considered the standard for basic equality and human rights.
Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights without discrimination.
Why Human Rights Day?
Despite the efforts to protect human rights, the hostility toward human rights and those who defend them continues to rise. Human Rights Day advocates for everyone to stand up for their rights and those of others' civil, economic, political, and cultural rights. Additionally, the day aims to enlighten us about how our rights are a foundation of sustainable development and peaceful societies. The day also acknowledges the advocates and defenders of human rights worldwide. While the UN holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s most translated document (the UHDR), far too many people are still unaware of their basic rights as human beings.
Why Human Rights Matter
Let’s discuss 10 specific reasons human rights matter.
1. Human rights guarantee that people's basic needs are met.
Everyone must have access to food, water, clothing, and shelter. Each individual has a foundational level of dignity thanks to the inclusion of these in basic human rights. Although millions of people still lack these basic needs, claiming that it is a matter of human rights enables activists and others to work toward ensuring that everyone has access to them.
2. Vulnerable groups are shielded from abuse by human rights.
The tragedies of the Holocaust and World War II greatly influenced the creation of the Declaration of Human Rights. At that time in history, the most defenseless members of society, such as the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and the Jewish community, were targeted. Instead of overlooking those in society most susceptible to abuse from those in positions of authority, human rights organizations focus on them.
3. Human rights empower individuals to confront societal corruption.
The idea of human rights empowers individuals to speak out when they encounter abuse and corruption. No society is flawless, which is why certain rights, like the freedom to assemble, are so important. The idea of human rights gives people authority and conveys to them that society, including the government and the workplace, owes them a certain amount of decency. They can stand up if they don't get this respect.
4. Human rights promote the right to freedom of speech and expression.
This is related to what you just read, but it goes beyond to say that you should be able to express yourself without worrying about being brutally punished. Additionally, it protects those who desire to argue against particular views represented in their culture and goes both ways. No one should ever feel threatened by their government because of their opinions, even if they hold ideas and ways of speaking that not everyone will enjoy or agree with.
5. People have the freedom to practice their religion or none at all.
Throughout history, there have been numerous instances of religiously motivated violence and tyranny, including the Crusades, the Holocaust, and current acts of terrorism. Human rights allow people to practice their religions and spiritual beliefs in peace and recognize the importance of those beliefs. A human right also includes the freedom not to practice a particular religion or any religion at all.
6. People can love whomever they want.
The significance of this right cannot be underestimated. A fundamental human right is the freedom to decide how one wants to live their romantic life. When you consider nations where women are pushed into marriages they don't want or where LGBTQ+ individuals are repressed and abused, the effects of not guaranteeing this right are obvious.
7. Equal employment possibilities are encouraged by human rights.
People can thrive in their society when they have the freedom to work and earn a living. People experience mistreatment or limited chances if they don't acknowledge that the workplace might be biased or even oppressive. The idea of human rights promotes equality and serves as a guide for how employers should handle employees.
8. Access to education is made possible by human rights.
Societies where poverty is pervasive need education to help break the cycle of poverty. Organizations and governments concerned with human rights provide access to education and supplies. Everyone can obtain education if it is viewed as a right, not only the wealthy few.
9. Human rights protect the environment.
As a result of climate change and its effects on people, there is a growing marriage between human rights and environmentalism. Since humans are a part of the earth and require land, it makes sense that environmental changes impact human beings. As important as the other rights on this list, the rights to clean water, clean air, and clean soil are equally important.
10. Governments can be held liable for their conduct if they violate human rights.
When the UHDR was published, it had two purposes: to set a standard for the future and to make the world recognize that human rights had been seriously violated during World War II. This important document set a definition for human rights. It and other documents are crucial because they call attention to injustice and establish a precedent. With the standards set for what constitutes a human right, governments can be held accountable for their conduct in the case of a human rights violation.
Where to Learn More About Human Rights
If you want to learn more about human rights, you can access free courses on children’s human rights, international human rights laws, international women’s health and human rights, international humanitarian law, defending dignity, and human rights for open societies from Harvard University, UNICEF, or Amnesty International among others. Many of these education providers also offer a completion certificate.
As 2022 comes to a close, let’s do our part to stand up for the rights and dignity of all individuals. Let’s go into 2023 with a mindset of peace, love, happiness, and blessings.
Eustacia English writes the Perspectivecolumn, which examines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in resume writing and career strategy. She is a 20-year HR and talent acquisition veteran and started Resumes on Demand last year. She also writes on DEI for The Black in HR e-zine. She lives with her husband and two children in Cherry Hill, NJ. Find her online at LinkedIn.com/in/ecampbell05.