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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where did this all come from?

Image above: Facebook traffic in the world.  A drive for Human Rights?

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Documents which have formed the basis of our present day concept of Human Rights in the West.

The demand for Human Rights has not come from nowhere! Since a period of history called the Enlightenment (18th Century), individuals and countries in Western Nations and after 1948, the United Nations have been working at writing down in formal documents (and hopefully binding - but not always) what the rights of Humans are. That is not to say that other societies through history have not had a go at discussing and documenting the rights of their people but generally the three documents below are fundamental to the development of what we call Human Rights in 2012 around the world. This also does not mean all nations must or do follow these documents. As we all know many countries ignore the sentiments and expectations for Human Rights outlined in the documents. Only last week Australia's foreign Minister, Bob Carr met with the Indonesian Prime Minister to talk about the perceived abuse of Human Rights in Indonesia.

1. The Greeks
In the 5th Century BCE, Greek philosophers of the Sophist School argued that all human
beings are equal by nature. Laws and institutions that failed to respect this basic equality, 
e.g. slavery, were thus branded as being contrary to nature. Both Plato and his disciple
Aristotle, each in his own way, argued for a common nature of being human.

 2. American Declaration of Independence (July 4th 1776)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be based only on public utility.”

“The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.”

4. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris).

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world …”

A Thinkpiece for class
A related issue to this posting is that Australia does not have any type of Declaration of Human Rights as part of the Australian Constitution.  Some people say that we should write such a document and make it law. 
  • Why and would they say this?
  • What would it include?
  • Why would anyone object to such a document?

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