The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines 30 rights and freedoms that belong to all of us. Nobody can take them away from us. These rights form the basis for international human rights law. Today, the Declaration remains a living document. It is the most translated document in the world.
WHAT IS THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) acts like a global road map for freedom and equality. It protects the rights of every individual, everywhere. For the first time, countries agreed on the freedoms and rights that deserve universal protection so everyone can live their lives freely, equally and in dignity.
The newly established United Nations adopted the UDHR on 10 December 1948, in response to the “barbarous acts which […] outraged the conscience of [humankind]” during the Second World War. Its adoption recognized human rights to be the foundation for freedom, justice and peace.
Work on the UDHR began in 1946, with a drafting committee composed of representatives of a wide variety of countries, including the USA, Lebanon and China. Later, the drafting committee included representatives of Australia, Chile, France, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, allowing the document to benefit from contributions of states from all regions, and their diverse religious, political and cultural contexts. All members of the UN Commission on Human Rights discussed the UDHR and the General Assembly finally adopted it in 1948.
A MILESTONE DOCUMENT
The UDHR is a milestone document. For the first time, the world had a globally agreed document that marked out all humans as being free and equal, regardless of sex, colour, creed, religion or other characteristics.
The 30 rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR include the right to be free from torture, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education and the right to seek asylum. It includes civil and political rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and privacy. It also includes economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to social security, health and adequate housing.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR RIGHTS?
Hover over each of the Article numbers to reveal the answer.
HOW RELEVANT IS IT AFTER 75 YEARS?
The UDHR is, as its title suggests, universal – meaning it applies to all people, in all countries around the world. Although it is not legally binding, the protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration are incorporated into many national constitutions and domestic legal frameworks.
The Declaration also provides the foundation from which a wealth of other legally binding human rights treaties have been developed, and has become a clear benchmark for the universal human rights standards that must be promoted and protected in all countries.
The UDHR continues to serve as a foundation for national and international laws and standards. For organizations like Amnesty International who are committed to protecting and fighting for human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acts as a guiding inspiration for our mission and vision.
UNIVERSAL, INDIVISIBLE & INTERDEPENDENT
All human rights are equally important, and all governments must treat human rights in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. All states have a duty, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights for everyone without discrimination.
So no matter what distinctions people have, there is one basic principle that underlies all the rights outlined in the UDHR: that every human being has the same inalienable rights. This means human rights are the same for every man, woman and child across the world, no matter what their circumstances.
There can be no distinction of any kind: including race, colour, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, of fortune, of birth or any other situation. Universal means everyone, everywhere.
The UDHR also shows us that human rights are interdependent and indivisible. All of the 30 articles in the Declaration are equally important. Nobody can decide that some are more important than others. Taking away one right has a negative impact on all the other rights.
HOW DOES AMNESTY FIGHT FOR THESE RIGHTS?
The UDHR is the foundation stone of the rights that Amnesty, and its seven-million strong power base, fight for day in, day out. More than 50 years since we started, we continue to take action and campaign for justice, freedom, truth and dignity wherever it has been denied.
We do this by investigating and exposing human rights abuses wherever they happen. By galvanizing our global movement, we shine a light where individuals are at risk and provide information to future generations so that the progressive fulfilment of human rights make it a reality for all.
Article 1: Freedom and equality in dignity and rights. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas and we should all be treated the same way.
Article 2: Non-discrimination. The rights in the UDHR belong to everyone, no matter who we are, where we’re from, or whatever we believe.
Article 3: Right to life, liberty, and security of person. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
Article 4: Freedom from slavery. No one should be held as a slave, and no one has the right to treat anyone else as their slave.
Article 5: Freedom from torture. No one has the right to inflict torture, or to subject anyone else to cruel or inhuman treatment.
Article 6: Protected by the law. We should all have the same level of legal protection whoever we are, and wherever in the world we are.
Article 7: Equal before the law. The law is the same for everyone, and must treat us all equally.
Article 8: A remedy when rights have been violated. We should all have the right to legal support if we are treated unfairly.
Article 9: No unjust detention, imprisonment or exile. Nobody should be arrested, put in prison, or sent away from our country unless there is good reason to do so.
Article 10: Right to a fair trial. Everyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair and public trial, and those that try us should be independent and not influenced by others.
Article 11: Innocent until proven guilty. Everyone accused of a crime has the right to be considered innocent until they have fairly been proven to be guilty.
Article 12: Privacy and the right to home and family life. Nobody has the right to enter our home, open our mail, or intrude on our families without good reason. We also have the right to be protected if someone tries to unfairly damage our reputation.
Article 13: Freedom to live and travel freely within state borders. We all have the right to move freely within our country, and to visit and leave other countries when we wish.
Article 14: Right to go to another country and ask for protection. If we are at risk of harm we have the right to go to another country to seek protection.
Article 15: Right to a nationality. We all have the right to be a citizen of a country and nobody should prevent us, without good reason, from being a citizen of another country if we wish.
Article 16: Right to marry and start a family. We should have the right to marry and have a family as soon as we’re legally old enough. Our ethnicity, nationality and religion should not stop us from being able to do this. All individuals have the same rights when they are married and also when they’re separated. We should never be forced to marry. The government has a responsibility to protect us and our family.
Article 17: Right to own property and possessions. Everyone has the right to own property, and no one has the right to take this away from us without a fair reason.
Article 18: Freedom of belief (including religious belief). Everyone has the freedom to think or believe what they want, including the right to religious belief. We have the right to change our beliefs or religion at any time, and the right to publicly or privately practice our chosen religion, alone or with others.
Article 19: Freedom of expression and the right to spread information. Everyone has the right to their own opinions, and to be able to express them freely. We should have the right to share our ideas with who we want, and in whichever way we choose.
Article 20: Freedom to join associations and meet with others in a peaceful way. We should all have the right to form groups and organize peaceful meetings. Nobody should be forced to belong to a group if they don’t want to.
Article 21: Right to take part in the government of your country. We all have the right to take part in our country’s political affairs either by freely choosing politicians to represent us, or by belonging to the government ourselves. Governments should be voted for by the public on a regular basis, and every person’s individual vote should be secret. Every individual vote should be worth the same.
Article 22: Right to social security. The society we live in should help every person develop to their best ability through access to work, involvement in cultural activity, and the right to social welfare. Every person in society should have the freedom to develop their personality with the support of the resources available in that country.
Article 23: Right to work for a fair wage and to join a trade union. We all have the right to employment, to be free to choose our work, and to be paid a fair salary that allows us to live and support our family. Everyone who does the same work should have the right to equal pay, without discrimination. We have the right to come together and form trade union groups to defend our interests as workers.
Article 24: Right to rest and leisure. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure time. There should be limits on working hours, and people should be able to take holidays with pay.
Article 25: Right to a standard of living adequate for your health and well-being. We all have the right to enough food, clothing, housing and healthcare for ourselves and our families. We should have access to support if we are out of work, ill, older, disabled, widowed, or can’t earn a living for reasons outside of our control. An expectant mother and her baby should both receive extra care and support. All children should have the same rights when they are born.
Article 26: Right to education, including free primary education. Everyone has the right to education. Primary schooling should be free. We should all be able to continue our studies as far as we wish. At school we should be helped to develop our talents, and be taught an understanding and respect for everyone’s human rights. We should also be taught to get on with others whatever their ethnicity, religion, or country they come from. Our parents have the right to choose what kind of school we go to.
Article 27: Right to share in your community’s cultural life. We all have the right to get involved in our community’s arts, music, literature and sciences, and the benefits they bring. If we are an artist, a musician, a writer or a scientist, our works should be protected and we should be able to benefit from them.
Article 28: Right to an international order where all these rights can be fully realized. We all have the right to live in a peaceful and orderly society so that these rights and freedoms can be protected, and these rights can be enjoyed in all other countries around the world.
Article 29: Responsibility to respect the rights of others. We have duties to the community we live in that should allow us to develop as fully as possible. The law should guarantee human rights and should allow everyone to enjoy the same mutual respect.
Article 30: No taking away any of these rights! No government, group or individual should act in a way that would destroy the rights and freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.