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Human Right Course
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What are human rights?
the states responsibilities
human rights a goal
The history of human rights
What right do we have?
The protection of Human Rights
Human rights in everyday life
Human Rights

Did you know

Did you know that human rights are rights we have simply because we are human beings?




There are various types of international documents which obligate states to promote human rights. If a state votes for a declaration of human rights, this means that it is saying that it agrees with its contents. This is very important. When a state publicly agrees with an international declaration, other states will hold it to its word. As in relationships between people, states must be able to trust each other. It is important to know where each other stands if you are going to cooperate economically and politically. A declaration is therefore a political and morally binding document.

When states agree upon a declaration of human rights, they often take the next step and produce a convention. A convention is legally binding. This means that states are no longer simply saying they agree, but are through a special procedure undertaking to comply with the rules. This procedure is called ratification. Only states that ratify a convention are legally bound to comply with it:

States that ratify an international convention undertake to:

  • ensure that national laws comply with the convention
  • accept that other countries will monitor what the state is doing
  • report to the organisation that produced the convention on how the rules are being observed
  • accept the organisation assessing the conditions in the country

Even when states ratify human rights conventions, it can take some time before the rights become part of every citizen's life. This can often be due to genuine difficulties such as a lack of knowledge or limited resources. Ensuring the provision of schooling for all children, good health services and other welfare provision often require a great deal of resources. However, in some cases the rights are not implemented because the states lack the genuine will to implement them. Some people in power may ratify conventions in order to make other states believe that they are governing a free, democratic society that treats its citizens well, while in reality they may be more interested in their own private wealth than their citizen's welfare.

Human rights are a goal one works towards; they do not change reality overnight.



- When Norway ratified the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1970, it had to amend its penal code to improve its protection against racism. It became illegal to commit acts that "subject to hate, persecution or contempt a person or group of people based on their religious convictions, race, skin colour or national or ethnic origin".


- The UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has been ratified by 191 states and is the human rights convention with the most signatories.

- 90% of the world's countries have ratified the UN's Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

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