Human Rights Challenges

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The Chapter 1 which is called “International documents and institutions protecting human rights” gives the brief information about history of human rights and tells about major international treaties and institutions defending human rights.
Chapter 2 named “Human rights challenges in various regions” defines the core problems occurring in different countries during application of some international laws due to cultural variety, the most violated human rights and throws light upon human rights’ state in some countries.

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1.1 Development of Human rights and International Documents
1.2. Human Rights Institutions

2.1 The Challenge of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity
2.2. Human Rights in Various Regions




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1.1 Development of Human rights and International Documents

1.2. Human Rights Institutions



2.1 The Challenge of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

2.2. Human Rights in Various Regions






















The main aim of this work is to make a research on human rights, study the mechanism of human rights protection and analyze the attendant problems which befall the world society nowadays.

To achieve this aim the following tasks are set:

1 to study the development of human rights

2 to study the main sources of human rights’ legislation

3 to find the most influential human rights organizations

4 to analyze the challenges of human rights in the modern world

5 to make a brief overview on human rights’  violations in different regions of the world

The Chapter 1 which is called “International documents and institutions protecting human rights” gives the brief information about history of human rights and tells about major international treaties and institutions defending human rights.

Chapter 2 named “Human rights challenges in various regions” defines the core problems occurring in different countries during application of some international laws due to cultural variety, the most violated human rights and throws light upon human rights’ state in some countries.













1 Development of Human rights and International Documents

If you were to ask people in the street, “What are human rights?” you would get many different answers. They would tell you the rights they know about, but very few people know all their rights.

A right is a freedom of some kind. It is something to which you are entitled by virtue of being human.

Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human rights because they are universal. Whereas nations or specialized groups enjoy specific rights that apply only to them, human rights are the rights to which everyone is entitled—no matter who they are or where they live—simply because they are alive.

Yet many people, when asked to name their rights, will list only freedom of speech and belief and perhaps one or two others. There is no question these are important rights, but the full scope of human rights is very broad. They mean choice and opportunity. They mean the freedom to obtain a job, adopt a career, select a partner of one’s choice and raise children. They include the right to travel widely and the right to work gainfully without harassment, abuse and threat of arbitrary dismissal. They even embrace the right to leisure.1

Originally, people had rights only because of their membership in a group, such as a family. Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, did something totally unexpected—he freed all slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared people should choose their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history.

The idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and eventually Rome. The most important advances since then have included:

1215: The Magna Carta – gave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.

1628: The Petition of Right – set out the rights of the people.

1776: The United States Declaration of Independence – proclaimed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

1789: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen – a document of France, stating that all citizens are equal under the law.

1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first document listing the 30 rights to which everyone is entitled.2

On October 24, 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations came into being as an intergovernmental organization, with the purpose of saving future generations from the devastation of international conflict.

United Nations representatives from all regions of the world formally adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

The Charter of the United Nations established six principal bodies, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and in relation to human rights, an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The UN Charter empowered ECOSOC to establish “commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights….”  One of these was the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

By 1948, the United Nations’ new Human Rights Commission had captured the attention of the world. Under the dynamic chairmanship of Eleanor Roosevelt—President Franklin Roosevelt’s widow, a human rights champion in her own right and the United States delegate to the UN—the Commission set out to draft the document that became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt, credited with its inspiration, referred to the Declaration as the “international Magna Carta for all mankind.” It was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

In its preamble and in Article 1, the Declaration unequivocally proclaims the inherent rights of all human beings: “Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people....All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The Member States of the United Nations pledged to work together to promote the thirty Articles of human rights that, for the first time in history, had been assembled and codified into a single document. In consequence, many of these rights, in various forms, are today part of the constitutional laws of democratic nations.

Following this historic act, the Assembly called upon all Member Countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

Today, the Declaration is a living document that has been accepted as a contract between a government and its people throughout the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the most translated document in the world.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an ideal standard held in common by nations around the world, but it bears no force of law. Thus, from 1948 to 1966, the UN Human Rights Commission’s main task was to create a body of international human rights law based on the Declaration, and to establish the mechanisms needed to enforce its implementation and use.

The Human Rights Commission produced two major documents: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Both became international law in 1976. Together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these two covenants comprise what is known as the “International Bill of Human Rights.”

The ICCPR focuses on issues such as the right to life, freedom of speech, religion and voting. The ICESCR focuses on food, education, health and shelter. Both covenants proclaim these rights for all people and forbid discrimination.

Furthermore, Article 26 of the ICCPR established a Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. Composed of eighteen human rights experts, the Committee is responsible for ensuring that each signatory to the ICCPR complies with its terms. The Committee examines reports submitted by countries every five years (to ensure they are in compliance with the ICCPR), and issues findings based on a country’s performance.

Many countries that ratified the ICCPR also agreed that the Human Rights Committee may investigate allegations by individuals and organizations that the State has violated their rights. Before appealing to the Committee, the complainant must exhaust all legal recourse in the courts of that country. After investigation, the Committee publishes the results. These findings have great force. If the Committee upholds the allegations, the State must take measures to remedy the abuse.

In addition to the covenants in the International Bill of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted more than twenty principal treaties further elaborating human rights. These include conventions to prevent and prohibit specific abuses such as torture and genocide and to protect specific vulnerable populations such as refugees (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951), women (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979), and children (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). Other conventions cover racial discrimination, prevention of genocide, political rights of women, prohibition of slavery and torture.

Each of these treaties has established a committee of experts to monitor implementation of the treaty provisions by its State parties.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights served as the inspiration for the European Convention on Human Rights, one of the most significant agreements in the European Community. The Convention was adopted in 1953 by the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization established in 1949 and composed of forty-seven European Community Member States. This body was formed to strengthen human rights and promote democracy and the rule of law.

The Convention is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Any person claiming to be the victim of a violation in one of the forty-seven countries in the European Community which has signed and ratified the Convention, may seek relief with the European Court. One must first have exhausted all recourse in the courts of their home country and have filed an application for relief with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In North and South America, Africa and Asia, regional documents for the protection and promotion of human rights extend the International Bill of Human Rights.

The American Convention on Human Rights pertains to the inter-American states—the Americas—and was entered into force in 1978.

African states have created their own Charter of Human and People’s Rights (1981), and Muslim states have created the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990).

The Asian Human Rights Charter (1986) was created by the Asian Human Rights Commission, founded that year by a group of jurists and human rights activists in Hong Kong. The Charter is described as a “people’s charter,” because no governmental charter has been issued to date.


2. Human Rights Institutions

Many organizations around the world dedicate their efforts to protecting human rights and ending human rights abuses. Major human rights organizations maintain extensive websites documenting violations and calling for remedial action, both at a governmental and grass-roots level. Public support and condemnation of abuses is important to their success, as human rights organizations are most effective when their calls for reform are backed by strong public advocacy. Below are some examples of such groups.

Globally, the champions of human rights have most often been citizens, not government officials. In particular, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have played a primary role in focusing the international community on human rights issues.

NGOs monitor the actions of governments and pressure them to act according to human rights principles.

Some of these groups are listed alphabetically below with descriptions based on their website information:

Amnesty International:

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. With more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries, they conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated. 

Children’s Defense Fund (CDF): The CDF is a child advocacy organization that works to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect and ensure their right to equal care and education. 

Human Rights Action Center:

The Human Rights Action Center is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, headed by Jack Healey, world-renowned human rights activist and pioneer. The Center works on issues of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and uses the arts and technologies to innovate, create and develop new strategies to stop human rights abuses. They also support growing human rights groups all over the world.

Human Rights Watch:

Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. They investigate and expose human rights violations, hold abusers accountable, and challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights

Human Rights Without Frontiers: (HRWF)

HRWF focuses on monitoring, research and analysis in the field of human rights, as well as promotion of democracy and the rule of law on the national and international level. 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP):

The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic quality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.

Simon Wiesenthal Center:

This prestigious international Jewish human rights organization is dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time. The Center generates changes by confronting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.


Intergovernmental and Governmental Organizations

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ mission is to work for the protection of human rights for all people; to help empower people to realize their rights; and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights in ensuring that they are implemented.

Human Rights Council:

An intergovernmental body with membership encompassing forty-seven states, the Human Rights Council has the task of promoting and protecting human rights internationally. Its mechanisms to forward these ends include a Universal Periodic Review which assesses situations in all 192 UN Member States, an Advisory Committee which provides expertise on human rights issues, and a Complaints Procedure for individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

UNESCO’s goal is to build peace in the minds of men.  Its work in the field of human rights aims to strengthen awareness and acts as a catalyst for regional, national and international action in human rights.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

This office directs and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor:

The US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor strives to learn the truth and state the facts in all of its human rights investigations, annual reports on country conditions, etc. The bureau takes action to stop ongoing abuses and maintains partnerships with organizations committed to human rights.

Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE):

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, comprised of fifty-six participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America, is engaged in human rights activities focusing on freedom of movement and religion and preventing torture and trafficking in persons.

Human Rights Commissions

Commission for Human Rights, Council of Europe

The Commission is an independent institution within the Council of Europe mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in forty-seven Council of Europe Member States. The Commission’s work thus focuses on encouraging reform measures to achieve tangible improvement in the area of human rights promotion and protection. Being a nonjudicial institution, the Commissioner’s Office cannot act upon individual complaints, but the Commission can draw conclusions and take wider initiatives on the basis of reliable information regarding human rights violations suffered by individuals.

European Union Ombudsman:

The European Union Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the European Union. The Ombudsman is completely independent and impartial.  

European Commission Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities:

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities works toward the creation of more and better jobs, an inclusive society and equal opportunities for all.


African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

This Commission is officially charged with three major functions: the protection of human and peoples’ rights, the promotion of these rights, and the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Asian Human Rights Commission:

Asian Human Rights Commission works to achieve the following priorities, among others: to protect and promote human rights by monitoring, investigation, advocating and taking solidarity actions.3




1 The Challenge of Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

Largely through the ongoing work of the United Nations, the universality of human rights has been clearly established and recognized in international law. Human rights are emphasized among the purposes of the United Nations as proclaimed in its Charter, which states that human rights are "for all without distinction". Human rights are the natural-born rights for every human being, universally. They are not privileges.

The Charter further commits the United Nations and all Member States to action promoting "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms". As the cornerstone of the International Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms consensus on a universal standard of human rights. In the recent issue of A Global Agenda, Charles Norchi points out that the Universal Declaration "represents a broader consensus on human dignity than does any single culture or tradition".

Universal human rights are further established by the two international covenants on human rights (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and the other international standard-setting instruments which address numerous concerns, including genocide, slavery, torture, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, rights of the child, minorities and religious tolerance.

Universal human rights do not impose one cultural standard, rather one legal standard of minimum protection necessary for human dignity. As a legal standard adopted through the United Nations, universal human rights represent the hard-won consensus of the international community, not the cultural imperialism of any particular region or set of traditions.

Like most areas of international law, universal human rights are a modern achievement, new to all cultures. Human rights are neither representative of, nor oriented towards, one culture to the exclusion of others. Universal human rights reflect the dynamic, coordinated efforts of the international community to achieve and advance a common standard and international system of law to protect human

Out of this process, universal human rights emerge with sufficient flexibility to respect and protect cultural diversity and integrity. The flexibility of human rights to be relevant to diverse cultures is facilitated by the establishment of minimum standards and the incorporation of cultural rights.

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