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The idea of human rights emerged officially stronger after World War II in response to its atrocities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the foundation of the international system of protection for human rights. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10th, 1948, then, the UDHR was not legally binding, though it carried great moral weight. In order to give the human rights listed in the UDHR the force of law, the UN drafted two treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The division of rights between these two covenants is artificial, reflecting the global ideological divide during the Cold War. Though politics prevented the creation of a unified treaty, the two covenants are interconnected, and the rights contained in one covenant are necessary to the fulfillment of the rights contained in the other. Together, the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR are known as the International Bill of Human Rights. They contain a comprehensive list of human rights that governments must respect, protect, and fulfill. That is why December 10th is celebrated annually as International Human Rights Day.
I know from firsthand experience how important human rights are, having served in countries where there was little respect for these liberties. That is why, the day the world celebrates International Human Rights Day, holds special significance for me. This year's recognition is particularly poignant. The world has to pause to reflect on the great legacy of all the people who fought for human rights for all people within his nation and in doing so, inspired the world.
Human rights reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity. Human rights give people the freedom to choose how they live, how they express themselves, and what kind of government they want to support, among many other things. Human rights also guarantee people the means necessary to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, housing, and education, so they can take full advantage of all opportunities. Finally, by guaranteeing life, liberty, equality, and security, human rights protect people against abuse by those who are more powerful. The 30 articles of the UDHR establish the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in terms of freedom in participating in cultural activities, shelter, education, right to food and work.. etc. Lifting a slogan of preserving the dignity of every human being in this world.
Under human rights treaties, governments have the primary responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights. However, governments are not solely responsible for ensuring human rights. The UDHR states:
“Every individual and every organ of society … shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.”
This provision means that not only the government, but also businesses, civil society, and individuals are responsible for promoting and respecting human rights.
When a government ratifies a human rights treaty, it assumes a legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights contained in the treaty. Governments are obligated to make sure that human rights are protected by both preventing human rights violations against people within their territories and providing effective remedies for those whose rights are violated.
Government parties to a treaty must do the following:
RESPECT : Governments must not deprive people of a right or interfere with persons exercising their rights by creating constitutional guarantees of human rights, Providing ways for people who have suffered human rights violations by the government to seek legal remedies from domestic and international courts and signing international human rights treaties.
PROTECT : Governments must prevent private actors from violating the human rights of others, by prosecuting perpetrators of human rights abuses, such as crimes of domestic violence, Educating people about human rights and the importance of respecting the human rights of others and cooperating with the international community in preventing and prosecuting crimes against humanity and other violations.
FULFILL : Governments must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights by providing free, high-quality public education, creating a public defender system so that everyone has access to a lawyer, and ensuring everyone has access to food by funding public assistance programs. Countries have different methods for acceding to or ratifying treaties. For the United States to become a party to a treaty, the president must first sign it, and then present it to the Senate, where two-thirds of the senators must vote to ratify it. Through ratification, a country agrees to be legally bound by the terms of the treaty.
Countries that ratify treaties are allowed to enter reservations to those instruments. Reservations are statements made by a country that “modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty.” Entering a reservation allows a government to agree to most of a treaty, while excluding or limiting parts that might be controversial or unconstitutional in its own country. Many countries have entered reservations to the major human rights treaties, which can limit the effectiveness of the treaties in protecting people against abuses committed by their governments.