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Why are human rights so important? What do we have to fight against?

By Miriam Dámaso


The world is submitted to an ongoing process of transformations. There are multiple cultures, beliefs, and ways of seeing the meaning of life and because of it, human beings have fought among them many times throughout history. There was not a common and universal base or reference where people could measure the gravity of their acts and this reason has been the key point in many conflicts. The XXth century has been witness of terrific wars where millions of people were killed. In the WWI and the WWII there was an irreversible and unbelievable damage in form of deaths, destroyed cities and a moral base that seemed to be inexistent. After that, the declaration of human rights was created as a new way of preventing and avoiding these kinds of incidents; a new perspective of future where this would not happen again. ("The Foundation of International Human Rights Law", n.d.)


In 1948 the declaration of HHRR was adopted. It was thought to become a framework in which governments had to establish their policies and in which all people, in general, had to limit their actions. Nevertheless, these initial articles had evolved and since then, many treaties and intergovernmental declarations have been created in order to adapt this common moral into a changing society. (Clapham, 2007) 


Nowadays the UN defines them as:

“Rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. 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.” (UN, n.d.)  


Despite all the differences existent between humans, each person in this world is subjected to these articles and treaties as the UN declares. However, sometimes this is more a utopia than the reality. It is important to bear in mind that although these inalienable rights are thought to be the base of human dignity, nowadays there are still multiple occasions where they are violated. We, as young people, have to be conscious of that and fight for them. In the present, the world is facing simultaneously many problems that need a lot of attention. From wars to different social and political problems, all of them have different features and are facing different HHRR relating problems. This article presents briefly and superficially 4 concrete and up to date examples in 4 extremely different contexts as a way to illustrate the complexity of this field. 


The first one is located in Chechnya. Although we are closer to reach a more equal and tolerant world with the LGBT+ collective, in some parts of the world their fundamental rights are stolen. In 2017 it was discovered that in this country homosexuals were persecuted, imprisoned in concentration camps and even tortured. (Russian republic of Chechnya accused of targeting male homosexuals, 2017) (Smith, 2017) Taking into account the articles 1 (All human beings are born free and equal and should be treated the same way), 2 (Freedom from discrimination) and 5 (Freedom from torture) this is a clear violation of them. (UN General Assembly, 1948) ("Stand up for Human Rights", n.d.) 


When talking about concentration camps, other problems come to light. In China, concentration camps for the Muslim community have been found. There, they are incarcerated and retained in un attempt to reconducting and reeducating them. This is another case in which the articles 2 (Freedom from discrimination) and 18 (Freedom of religion or belief) are overlooked and dismissed. (BBC News, 2019) (Democracy Now, 2018) (CBC News, 2019) Although we sometimes think that tolerance is mainly spread all over the world and things such as concentration camps are an issue of the last century, both cases show how these are problems of today, and the first step to end with these injustices is to be aware of it. Not because this is inexistent in first world countries it is not a real problem, and people should be conscious about it.  


Apart from these examples, there are others that are more hidden and seem not to be a matter of interest and something to concern about. On the one hand, child labour and work exploitation are two things that are more common than we might think. Some new trends and production methods and the high consumers’ demand are three of the main causes.  In 2016 it was estimated that “152 child were victims of child labour”. Among them, 73 million “worked in hazardous child labour”. (ILO, 2017) (Moulds, 2015) All these young people, at the same time, were and are still deprived of their education, so many articles like 4 (freedom from slavery), 22 (right to social security) and 26 (right to education) are violated. People in 1st world societies look at this issue as something inconceivable for 1st world children. However, it seems that if this happens in other developing or undeveloped countries, it is not something that serious and a strong reason to change our style of living. 


On the other hand, new kinds of problems are appearing and are demanding new perspectives and theories. These are related to technology and data. Day to day, there are technological improvements, and this many times is a synonym of dependence and a step backward in our privacy. It is appearing a new way to manipulate and control the society. In the Brexit and the Cambridge Analytica scandal citizens’ personal data, uploaded in their social media, was used in order to tilt the balance in their favor. (Scott, 2019) (The Guardian, 2019) (Amer & Noujaim, 2019) Taking into account our right to privacy, we should consider deeply our use of social media and technology. Sometimes there are things that only for being a trend and actual are considered the best option. Nevertheless, they may have a dark side and in this case, we have to look after our rights; comfort should never go before them. 


Finally, these few examples are a small sample of how human rights issues affect in a global scale and how diverse and complicated it is this field. There are many other situations with specific characteristics and it is important to be aware of it. Human Rights were created with the intention of building a fairer and better world. They contemplate all people at the same level and in an equal way, and this is why are so important. Most problems in history have been justified with the argument of difference, but having a universal base in which everybody can be respected (within the framework of these rights) is something that can evolve into the end of these hate speeches. These are the main reasons why we have to fight for them, and young people are the key actors in this struggle. With so many problems, now is the time to fix them and avoid a major one in some years. Nowadays, we have all the information within hand's reach so it is time to act and avoid conformism. We must try to seek this fair and equal world for everybody.


References and endnotes


Amer, K., & Noujaim, J. (2019). The Great Hack [Film]. United States.


BBC News. (2019). Inside China's 'thought transformation' camps [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmId2ZP3h0c 


CBC News. (2019). Uncovering China's detention camps for Muslim minority [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ6R0fI-ib8 


Clapham, A. (2007). Human rights : A very short introduction. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com  


Democracy Now. (2018). Re-education Camps, Infiltration, Surveillance: China Criticized over Persecution of Uyghur Muslims [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoVRfxQMLIc


ILO. (2017). Global estimates of child labour: Results and trends, 2012-2016. Geneva. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf


Moulds, J. (2015). Child labour in the fashion supply chain. Retrieved from https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/


Russian republic of chechnya accused of targeting male homosexuals. (2017). Washington, D.C.: NPR. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1889063289?accountid=14478


Scott, M. (2019). Cambridge Analytica did work for Brexit groups, says ex-staffer. Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.eu/article/cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-ukip-brexit-facebook/ 


Smith, L. (2017). Chechnya detains 100 gay men in first concentration camps since the Holocaust. International B Retrieved from https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chechnya-detains-100-gay-men-first-concentration-camps-since-holocaust-1616363 


Stand up for Human Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.standup4humanrights.org/en/declaration.html 


The Guardian. (2019). This article is more than 4 months old Cambridge Analytica did work for Leave. EU, emails confirm. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jul/30/cambridge-analytica-did-work-for-leave-eu-emails-confirm


UN. (n.d.). Human rights. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/


UN. (n.d.). The Foundation of International Human Rights Law. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/sections/universal-declaration/foundation-international-human-rights-law/index.html 

UN. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf