Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, opens with a complex philosophical statement:
“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…”
Whatever your opinion is of the UN’s effectiveness, this preamble to an international agreement on human rights matters. Because those human rights are the things we’re all entitled to have — safety, respect and freedom — including freedom to think and believe as we choose without bias, bigotry or oppression.
But these big ideas are not only about governments and policy removed from you and me. In fact, if we want to have human rights, we have to work at it.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said,
“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Human rights are your right. They are also each of our responsibility. And when it comes to really helping our neighborhoods preserve human rights, it can start with countering fear and hate of neighbors we have never met, and making sure everyone is welcome and treated with respect. When people take human rights personally, they take them seriously.
In sum…universal human rights not only anchor global governments and international corporations, but they anchor ordinary people to the value of every human life.
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