Equal Rights



Throughout history every society has developed systems to ensure social cohesion by codifying the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. It was finally in 1948 that the international community came together to agree on a code of rights that would be binding on all states; this was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Since 1948 other human rights documents have been agreed, including for instance the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990.

Human rights reflect basic human needs; they establish the basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity. Human rights are about equality, dignity, respect, freedom and justice. Examples of rights include freedom from discrimination, the right to life, freedom of speech, the right to marriage and family and the right to education. 

Human rights are held by all persons equally, universally and for ever. Human rights are universal, that is, they are the same for all human beings in every country. They are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, that is, they cannot be taken away – ever; all rights are equally important and they are complementary, for instance the right to participate in government and in free elections depends on freedom of speech.

How can people use and defend human rights, and use and defend them if they have never learned about them? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) acknowledges this in its preamble, and in Article 26 it gives everyone the right to education that should "strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms". The aim of human rights education is to create a world where human rights are part of culture. This is a culture where everyone's rights are respected and rights themselves are respected; a culture where people understand their rights and responsibilities, recognise human rights violations and take action to protect the rights of others. It is a culture where human rights are as much a part of the lives of individuals as language, customs, the arts and ties to place are.

A rights-based quality education encompasses the concept of education for sustainable development. This was included in the 'Plan of Implementation of the 1992 World Summit on Sustainable Development' where education is seen as a process for addressing important questions such as rural development, health care, community involvement, HIV/AIDS, the environment, traditional and indigenous knowledge, and wider ethical issues such as human values and human rights. It is further stated that the success in the struggle for sustainable development requires an approach to education that strengthens our engagement in support of other values — especially justice and fairness — and the awareness that we share a common destiny with others”.

One of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the international community on the occasion of the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 is the promotion of universal access to primary education, which is still a major challenge. Although enrolment rates have been increasing in several regions, the quality of education remains low for many. For example, gender biases, threats to the physical and emotional security of girls and gender insensitive curricula can all conspire against the realization of the right to education. This plan of action aims at contributing to the achievement of this Millennium Development Goal by promoting rights-based quality at all levels of education.

Summary and the full text of the UDHR.

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