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Humanist Essay for July 2011
"It's Time to Get Serious About The Universal Declaration of Human Rights"
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[Reprinted from the HSNM July 2011 Newsletter]

Printed in this Newsletter is an abridged version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the United Nations committee that drafted this document, which was adopted by the U.N. on December 10, 1948. The United States was a signatory nation, but in the ensuing years we have not walked the talk. Our country has assiduously avoided ratifying several International legal treaties that together constitute an International Bill of Rights to give the weight of law to the 30 human rights enshrined in the Declaration.

Think about the highly politicized issues dividing our country today, and how differently we would have to approach them if we truly embraced the meaning of this Declaration. We could stop arguing about who should be entitled to what and start figuring out how to guarantee everyone the fundamental security and dignity that civilized, compassionate human beings recognize to be the birthright of all. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number and severity of problems facing our country and the world at this moment, look at the foundation that has been laid for us by others who lived in hard times. Extraordinary work has been done. It is a fitting task for our humanist societies to carry the mission forward. Let's consider what we can do to educate the public about Universal Human Rights, and bring the weight of public opinion to bear on our leaders to put deeds to words.

Read the complete Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[Abridged Preamble]
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,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Now, therefore, The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

[Abridged Articles 1- 30]
1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.
3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
5. No one shall be subjected to torture.
6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
7. All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.
8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him.
9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing in the determination of any criminal charge against him.
11. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.
13. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence.
14. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution.
15. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
16. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.
17. Everyone has the right to own property. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
20. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
21. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
22. Everyone has the right to social security and is entitled to realization of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for the free development of his personality.
23. Everyone has the right to work, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours.
25. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
26. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
27. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
29. Everyone has duties to the community. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Read the complete Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Copyright © 2011 Zelda Gatuskin

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