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Useful And Fantastic: Human Rights

Val Yule summarises the rights which make civilised living possible and worthwhile.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights as it stands is short and intelligible enough for educated people, but language and length are still too hard for everyone. A shorter, simpler version could be understood by all, and be a ready reference. It could be part of the Humanist curriculum for schools.

The 30 clauses set out here could fit on two sides of an A4 sheet of paper and could be listed in passports.

Our multicultural societies risk division by segregation. New immigrants need more help to adapt, as they must. The whole population needs to know how to help one another to pull up their own socks. Migrants may bring with them values, beliefs and practices that downgrade or restrict women, and deny religious freedoms.

All citizens should accept that all people are born free and equal, and have the same rights without discrimination - political rights to life, liberty, justice, fair trials, privacy, security of person, and recognition and protection by the law, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and to be given asylum from persecution, the right to a nationality, and to take part in their government, rights to a decent standard of living, work, a fair wage, to join a trade union, own property, marry and have a family, social security, education, rest and leisure, and to participate freely in their community and enjoy the benefits of our progress, in an international order that makes these possible to realise.

“FREEDOMS TO” are freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and freedom of movement.

“FREEDOMS FROM include freedoms from slavery, servitude, torture, and arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

RESPONSIBILITIES. With these rights go duties to the community, in order to be full citizens. No one has the right to destroy any of these rights or freedoms for others.

The history behind the UN Declaration is a way to teach world history and the foundations to our own history, showing what hard struggles have obtained these precious rights and freedoms, not to be given up lightly. “History” in our schools should include its background, which includes:

The English Magna Carta, 1215, the Charter of 37 rights that the English barons forced King John to sign in 1215. It became the basis for English rights, including protection from arbitrary detention (habeas corpus) and arbitrary taxes.

The American Declaration of Independence, 1776, famously states that all humans are created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we add, the pursuit of truth.

Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood was the hope of the French Revolution 1795.

The Four Freedoms set out in 1941 during World War II, following Churchill and Roosevelt’s Anglo-American Atlantic Charter, are Freedom from hunger, Freedom from fear, Freedom of speech, and Freedom of worship.

History also shows us no steady progress. There are repeated roll-backs. Few countries today would score 30 out of 30. An annual Human Rights Ladder could/should be as publicly competitive as national medal scores in Olympic Games.

We can monitor our own legislation for how it matches up, or falls away, and why. Eroding basic freedoms attacks other freedoms. The foundations of all freedoms in the U N Declaration are freedom from fear and from want. Who are the fortunate and free, and what can be done about the unfortunate?

Here is a very quick summary of what could be the equivalent of a bill of rights and citizenship test for every country of the world. Since even in Western countries they are not all taken as manifestly accepted, everyone is asked to think about each clause.

1. All people are born free and equal

2. Everyone has the same rights without discrimination

3. Right to life, liberty and security of person

4. No slavery or servitude

5. No torture

6. Recognition as a person in law

7. Protection of the law

8. Right to justice

9. No arbitrary arrest, detention or exile

10. Right to a fair trial

11. Innocent until proven guilty

12. Right to privacy

13. Freedom of movement

14. Right to asylum from persecution

15. Right to a nationality

16. Right to marry and have a family

17. Right to own property

18. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

19. Freedom of opinion and expression

20. Freedom of peaceful assembly and association

21. Right to take part in government

22. Right to social security and the benefits of society's progress

23. Right to work, a fair wage, and to join a trade union

24. Right to rest and leisure

25. Right to a decent standard of living

26. Right to education

27. Right to freely participate in their community

28. Right to an international order in which to realise these rights

29. Everyone has duties to their community

30. No one has the right to destroy any of these rights or freedoms


And here is a shorter version for general use.

Freedom, justice and peace are founded on the inborn dignity and equal rights of all human beings, protected by the rule of law.

Article I. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They have reason and conscience to act to each other as brothers and sisters.

2. These rights and freedoms are for everyone, no matter what race, colour, sex, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth or birth, and in all countries.

3. All have the right to life, liberty and personal safety.

4. No slavery in any form.

5. No torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

6-8. Everyone is equal before the law, to have the equal protection of the law to maintain their basic rights.

9 No arrest, detention or exile without just cause and public knowledge.

10. Fair and public trials.

11. The right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. No-one can be held guilty of a penal offence that was not an offence at the time, or given a heavier punishment than what was legal at the time.

12. The right to the protection of the law against all arbitrary interference with privacy, or attacks on reputation.

13. Freedom to move within the borders of each state, and the right to leave any country, including your own, and to return home.

14. The right to seek and find in other countries asylum from persecution (except for non-political crimes or acts against the purposes and principles of the United Nations.)

15. Everyone has the right to keep their nationality or to change it.

16. All adults have the right to marry and found a family, with rights to free consent to marry, and equal rights within marriage and in its dissolution. The family is protected by society and the State.

17. The right to own property, and not have it arbitrarily taken away.

18 The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, with freedom to change religion or belief, and to follow your religion or belief in public and private.

19 The right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to seek and give information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

20. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association with others. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

21 The right to take part in the government of the country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. The right to equal access to public service. The will of the people is the basis of the authority of government. This will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections, by universal and equal rights of adults to vote by secret vote or equivalent free voting.

22. Everyone has the right to social security and the economic, social and cultural rights essential for dignity and free development of personality, through national effort, international co-operation and according to the resources of each State.

23. The right to work, with free choice of employment, with just and favourable conditions of work and protection against unemployment. The right to equal pay for equal work. The right to just and favourable pay for work, to ensure that everyone and their families can live with dignity, supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions to protect their interests.

24. The right to rest and leisure, with reasonable working hours and regular paid holidays.

25. The right to a standard of living good enough for health and well-being, including food, clothes, housing medical care and necessary social services, and with security if jobless, sick, disabled, widowed, aged or with other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. Special care and help for mothers and all children, regardless of birth.

26. Education. The right to free, compulsory elementary education. Technical and professional education must be generally available and higher education shall open to all on the basis of merit. The aims of education are the full development of human personality, respect for human rights and basic freedoms, and promoting understanding, tolerance, friendship and peace among all nations, races and religions.

Parents have the right to choose their children’s education.

27. The right to join in freely in the cultural life of the community, enjoy the arts, and share in scientific progress and its benefits. The right of protection of moral and material interests for anyone’s scientific, literary or artistic work.

28. The right to live in a social and international order with all these rights and freedoms.

29. Duties. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. In exercising their rights and freedoms, everyone shall be limited only by the legal requirements to recognise and respect the rights and freedoms of others, and the just requirements of morality, public order and everybody’s general welfare in a democratic society.

30. These rights and freedoms may never be exercised against the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

No State, group or person has any right to do anything aimed at destroying any of these rights and freedoms. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying that they can.

31. The right to literacy should be added to these rights. 'Everyone has the right to free access to literacy, anywhere, anytime'. An implication of this is that writing systems must be made as user-frendly as possible, while remaining close to the appearance of present print to maintain easy access. Lerning literacy must also be made as easy as possibl, including simpl methods of self-help.


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