What are the Human Rights anyhow?


Yesterday Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the United States was withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

George W. Bush thought about doing the same thing. The Obama administration recognized the group wasn’t the most effective, but decided to work from within it.

But putting the politics aside…do you have any idea what the human rights actually are?

I bet you can’t name all 25 articles. I bet you didn’t even know that there aren’t 25 articles but 30. Ha! Got ya! I certainly couldn’t until I looked them up while researching WHERE AM I GIVING? Here’s an excerpt–probably the most boring of the entire book– where I summarize the human rights.

The 1948 United Nations General Assembly drafted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including 30 articles, which I’ll quickly summarize:

We are all born free and equal; these rights apply to everyone; everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person; no slavery; no torture; rights apply to everyone everywhere; we’re all equal in the eyes of the law; human rights are protected by law; no unfair imprisonment; the right to a trial; we’re all innocent until proven guilty; right to privacy; freedom to move; the right to seek a safe place to live; everyone has the right to a nationality; right to marry; right to own property; freedom of opinion and expression; right to assemble; equal right to participate in government and elections and receive government services; right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and child care, and enough income to live on; the equal right to work; equal right to leisure and periodic holidays with pay; right to a standard of living adequate for well-being; right to education; copyright protection; a fair and free world in which rights are realized; the responsibility to help others and protect their rights and freedoms; no one can take away your human rights.

One jumps out at me as different, so I’ll quote it directly from the original preamble: “Article 29: Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

While the rest seem like declarations of rights, some straight out of the US Bill of Rights, Article 29 is more of a commandment: “You have a duty to help others.”

Another thing that really jumped out at me when I came across the 30 articles was how much the US, the land of the free and home of the brave, falls short. And in some sense, this is why the administration pulled out. Many of the groups members fall short (China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) and appear rather hypocritical.

Human rights should know no borders. In theory, a family from Honduras escaping violence that crosses into the United States should have all the rights of the rest of us–that’s why they are called Human Rights and not American rights or Honduran rights. But in practice…

The United States pulled out of the Human Rights Council.  It was hypocritical for us to stay. We don’t deserve to belong to such a group, nor do many of the other members.

As Colbert tweeted: “No one on the right side of history has ever had to nitpick what the definition of ‘cage’ is.”

(photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by AK Rockefeller)
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