Are Human Rights Universal? - Essay

1283 Words Jul 22nd, 2012 6 Pages
The concept of Universal Human Rights is a fairly new conception in human history. Rights are not the same thing as social or cultural norms, which can be used to oppress minority interest and be fundamentally unfair to individuals. The beginnings of this concept can be traced back to the Enlightenment Era of the mid 17th through the 18th century. The formal international consensus of this idea did not take effect until after World War II, when the United Nations (U.N.) adapted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948 establishing an international standard of human rights. Although the majority of member nations of the U.N. agreed on this resolution, there where nations that argued against it. Thus the …show more content…
Before that time, the earliest rules of behavior dealt with prohibiting or recommending behaviors that where likely to reduce conflict. The major religions of the world, as well as some great lawmakers, such as Justinian, of the Roman Empire, sought to establish moral codes of conduct based on divine law. These codes contained profound ideas on the dignity of human beings; and the obligations and duties of man to his fellow human beings, nature, and God. The framework of these laws, rules, and codes emphasized duties and privileges that arose from peoples' status or relationships, rather than abstract rights that would later become known as “natural rights” or “rights of man” (Rayner,M).
During the 17th century natural or moral rights became part of the political agenda. Attention moved from social responsibilities to the individual's needs and it was seen as fundamental to the well-being of society. The protection of the people's rights became a tremendous cause in 17th century England. The 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 led to the English Bill of Rights, in 1689. It was argued by philosopher John Locke, that it was part of God's natural law that no-one should harm anybody else in their life, health, liberty or possessions. This thinking underlay the American colonies' Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens in 1788, as a result of the French Revolution. The Universal

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