ETHICS FOR ALL SEASONS.
THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
I first discovered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a 16 year old back in 1958. The press article had been published under the above photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt
to mark the UDHR’s tenth birthday.
Its underlaying principles are easy to understand…
-We are all born free and equal
-Everyone is entitled to these rights, no matter your race, religion, gender or nationality
-Everyone has the right to Life, Freedom and Safety.
There are 30 such Human Rights…
-No one has the right to hold you in slavery
-No one has the right to torture you
-You have the right to be everywhere recognised as a person before the law
-We are all equal before the law and entitled to protection from it.
-You have the right to seek legal help if your rights are violated.
-No one has the right to wrongly imprison you or force you to leave your country
-You have the right to a fair nd public trial.
-Everyone is innocent until PROVEN guilty
-You have the right to privacy. No one can interfere with your reputation, family, home or correspondnce.
-You have the right to seek asylum in another country if you are being persecuted in your own.
-You can travel to wherever you want
-Everyone has a right to a nationality
-All adults have the right to marriage and to raise a family
-You have the right to own property
-Everyone has the right to adhere to a religion
-You have the right to free thought and to express your opinions to others
-Everyone has the right to gather in a peaceful assembly
-You have the right to choose and to take part in the governing of your country through chosen representatives or directly.
-You have the right to social security and are entitled to economic, social and cultural help from your government
-Every adult has the right to a job, a fair wage and to joine a trade union.
-Everyone has the right to leisure and rest from work
-Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family
-Everyone has the right to education
-Your intellectual property as an artist or scientist should be protected.
-We are entitled to social order so we can enjoy these rights.
NO ONE CAN TAKE AWAY OR DENY YOU ANY OF THESE RIGHTS TO DIGNITY BUT YOU HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF RESPECTING THE RIGHTS TO DIGNITY OF OTHERS!
As a sixteen year old idealist I found the Declaration inspiring and yer know what? Sixty years later…I still do.
“BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS”.
It is therefore small wonder that I have supported Amnesty International since its foundation following an “Observer” article by London lawyer Peter Beneson in 1961.
The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for "a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments."
Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.
The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its "defence of human dignity against torture", and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
A CASE STUDY.
At the moment, Amnesty has campaigns in Russia, Mozambique, Mauritania, China, Palestine, Mexico, Israel, Philippines, Sudan, Egypt, India, et al. It is therefore easy to think that Human Rights are only being denied in the shadiest corners of the world, but what of us developed countries here in the west? What of the UK?.
I am a middle aged, middle class, heterosexual, anglo-saxon retired professional male who grew up in an English protestant community. Therefore free from apparent discrimination and knowing of the existing legislation to prevent it from happening, it is tempting for those like me to deny it exists.
“I am not against coloureds/ immigrants/women/men/fat people/the working classes/ Moslems/lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-sexuals/the elderly/teenagers/Socialists, Tories/foreigners/the unemployed/the homeless/the bloke at the end of the street, BUT…”
It is the use of that one word that signals the exact opposite, yet is never used when the speaker perceives you as possessing one of those hateful characteristics or are connected to those that have.
I am ashamed to say that I hear it used most often by the 60-plusses- those in my own age bracket (who, incidentally voted most solidly for Brexit).
Once such prejudice reaches a sufficiently large critical mass might it not inevitably impact on anti-discriminatory legislation?
Might not this eventuality put all Human Rights under threat, bearing in mind that to deny just one will inevitably violate others?
[To follow…recognising the signs of prejudice and strategies for countering them].