IntroductIon Since the beginning of the second term, we have been discussing the importance of theHuman Rights. It is known that they have been evolving along with the human needs,affecting the daily life of people in so many different situations, although it does not interferewith their lives by the same way. There are still many people who are not even aware of therights they could claim, just because they are. We can compare the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to thelanding on the moon, a small step for a human being, but a giant step for Humanity. As weconsider this document a very important piece, we will mention its creation and what itprovoked during the past decades. We will also be focusing on the more fundamental rightslike women, children and labour’s rights, which, unfortunately, are not that well respected inso many places throughout the world. To enrich our research we will choose an icon for the Human Rights. As we think ofNelson Mandela as one of the most propelling people for the fight against the violation of theHuman Rights, we will speak about his life and his struggle against apartheid in South-Africa.
Human rIgHts The Human Rights didn’t emerge out of nowhere. The fundamentals can be foundthrough history, in religious beliefs and cultures all over the world. The first declaration,comparable to the UDHR, is the Cyrus Cylinder, written in 539 B.C., by Cyrus the Great,king of Persia. After the Second World War the world needed to re-establish, and there were so manysignificant differences between people and their conditions, that something had to be done. Bythese days the allies agreed about the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom fromfear and freedom from want. As soon as the cruelties done by Germany became clear theworld community realised that the United Nations Charter was not sufficient. Therefore a newdocument, which specified all individual rights, had to be formed to the acceptance of allnations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UnitedNations General Assembly on the 10th December in 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. Atfirst it consisted of 30 inherent articles to international treaties, regional human rightsassociations, national constitutions and laws. In 1966 two detailed Covenants were adopted bythe General Assembly, they completed the International Bill of Human Rights. In 1976 theseCovenants took on the force of international law, because it had been ratified by a largenumber of individual nations. Most of the work to form to form the UDHR was done by John Peters Humphrey whowas called upon by the United Nations Secretary-General. Humphrey was working asDirector of the Division of Human Rights by the United Nations Secretariat. Initiating with anInternational Bill of Rights, the Commission on Human Rights, an instrument of the UnitedNations, was constituted to undertake the work. The Commission was formed by memberssuch as Australia, Belgium, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Chile, China, Egypt,France, India, Iran, Lebanon, Panama, Philippines, United Kingdom, United States ofAmerica, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The Commissionincluded well-known members like Eleanor Roosevelt(USA), Chairman, Jacques Maritainand René Cassin(FR), Charles Malik(Lebanon) and P.C. Chang(China).
Finally on 10 December 1948 the UDHR was accepted and adopted by the GeneralAssembly by a vote of 48 in favour, 0 against and 8 abstentions(all Soviet Bloc states, SouthAfrica and Saudi Arabia. The following countries voted in favour of the Declaration:Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Chile, China,Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, ElSalvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon,Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan,Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom,the United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela. Despite the central role played by Canadian John Humphrey, the CanadianGovernment at first abstained from voting on the Declarations draft, but later voted in favourof the final draft in the General Assembly.
Back to BasIcs The UDHR issues a large number of rights with uncountable backgrounds, thereforewe will be discussing the more basic ones. Starting with the rights of children and youngsters, we have to realise that the way welive here, in Western-Europe, is not at all, compared to the rest of the world, the average.Many children, in for example Third World countries, do not have access to clean water,hygiene or time to themselves, not to mention access to education. Many children have to goand work to earn money to supply their families and keep them alive. This drowses against allchildren’s rights, as they have the right to a standard of living adequate for a child’sintellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development, including adequate food, shelter andclothing. These rights are just basic human rights, such as the right to freedom ofdiscrimination based on gender, race, colour, language, religion, nationality, ethnicity, or anyother status, or on the status of the child’s parents. And this last part, the right to freedom ofdiscrimination based on the status of the child’s parent, is already more specific. The HumanRights belong to all human beings, therefore including children and young people. But youngpeople also enjoy certain human rights specifically linked to their status as under-aged andtheir need for special care and protection. A good example is the right of the child to live in afamily environment. States should provide families with assistance and support if necessaryfor meeting the fundamental needs of the child. Another very well known children’s right, isthe right to education – to free and compulsory education, to readily available forms ofsecondary and higher education, and to the freedom from all types of discrimination at alllevels of education. Other, not less important, rights are the women’s rights. Although women are, in FirstWorld countries, accepted as equal to men within public treaties and legal procedures, theyare still understated by large numbers in other parts of the world. Millions of women live inconditions of direct deprivation of, or attack against, their fundamental rights with as singlemotive their being women. Abuses against them are relentless, systematic and tolerated, if notsilenced. Many bodies, associations and foundations have been set up for the protection ofwomen’s rights. They provide shelter for those who have fled their homes, register cases ofrape, domestic violence, trafficking of women, female genital mutilation, and so on, and theyare committed to voicing a worldwide call for justice and equality for women. Other concerns
of theirs are reproductive rights and equal access to economic opportunity and politicalparticipation. As the Human Rights are meant for all human beings, they include children andwomen. Children’s and women’s right over lapse each other in when a girl or young womanis denied higher education, a situation much more common than denial of education tochildren in general. Even in our western society girls are brought up with the idea thatsecondary or higher education is not part of their future. Their concerns should be finding agood husband, having a lot of children and a neat house. Labour rights do not appear in the news every now and then, but they form the roots ofa healthy working situation. Labour rights are used with negotiation of workers’ wages,benefits and safe conditions. They are based on, for example, the working terms and therelation between workers and their employees. The most basic right within labour rights, isthe right to unionise. Unions make use of collective negotiating and industrial actions torealise the raise of the wages or other concerns. “When Adam delved and Eve span, who wasthen the gentleman?” is a famous quote by John Ball, one of the leaders of the Peasants’Revolt, a foundation which defended the labour rights in the Middle Age. For example, theyfought against the enclosure movement, which took traditionally communal land and madethem private. A new law was accepted in 1833 which stated that children under the age of 9could not work, between 9 and 13 only 8 hours a day and between 14 and 18 not more than 12hours a day. In 1919 the International Labour Organisation was formed, which later becamepart of the United Nations, causing the addition of two articles to the UDHR. These read thateveryone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to fair and reasonableconditions of work and to protect against unemployment. The right to equal pay for equalwork, without any discrimination. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, includingreasonable limitation of work hours and periodic holidays with pay. All human rights arelinked to each other. As children have the right to education, this overlaps with the rightagainst discrimination of girls who are not allowed to go to school just because of their sex.Labour rights have, for example, put an end to child labour, overlapping the children’s rights.
nelson rolIHlaHla mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, also known as uTata Madiba in South Africa, was born onthe 18th July 1918, in Mvezo, a small village in the district of Umtata. Mandelas father, GadlaHenry Mphakanyiswa, served as chief of the town of Mvezo. Gadla had four wives, withwhom he fathered thirteen children. Nelson Mandela was born to his third wife, NosekeniFanny. Rolihlahla became the first member of his family to attend a school, where his teachergave him the English name Nelson. He completed his Junior Certificate in two years insteadof the usual three and he began to study for a Bachelor of Arts at the Fort Hare University.Mandela worked as a guard at a mine, as an articled clerk at a Johannesburg law firm andmeanwhile he completed his B.A. degree at the University of South Africa viacorrespondence. He was mainly an anti-apartheid activist and the leader of Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed department of the African National Congress (ANC). He coordinatedsabotage campaigns against military and government targets, making plans for a possible civilwar if the sabotage to end apartheid failed, even though he was against violence. In 1962 hewas arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges and he was sentenced to 27 yearslife in prison, on Robben Island, where he studied for a Bachelor of Laws from the Universityof London External Programme. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widelyknown as the most significant black leader in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was finallyreleased on the 11th Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990. On that day, hemade a speech to the nation. He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation, butmade clear that the ANCs armed struggle was not yet over. Before his election, the first fully democratic multi-racial elections, Mandela led hisparty in negotiations that improved multi-racial democracy in 1994, year of his election. AsPresident, from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition fromminority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his encouragement for nationaland international reconciliation. Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind thepreviously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hostedthe 1995 Rugby World Cup (Story of the film Invictus, recently made.) After the Springbokswon an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to the captain, FrancoisPienaar, an Afrikaner, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaars own number 6 on the back.This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.
After his retirement as President, Mandela became an advocate for a variety of socialand human rights organizations, mainly for SOS Childrens Villages, the worlds largestorganization dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children. Mandela has received more than 250 South African and international awards over fourdecades, but the most significant was the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Many artists havededicated songs to Mandela and there are many published biographies about his life. NelsonMandela’s work was so important that the 18th July was adopted as his day, by the UnitedNations. In order to honor him, individuals, communities and organizations are asked todonate 67 minutes to do something for others, commemorating the 67 years that NelsonMandela gave to the struggle for social justice. During Mandela’s lifetime he has dedicated himself to the struggle of African people,fighting against white domination and also against black domination. He has loved the idea ofa democratic and free society in which everyone can live peacefully and equally. That is whathe still wants to achieve and like he said before ‘it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’.That is the reason why Nelson Mandela differs from so many other people who dreamt aboutdifferent conditions and rights. He refused to limit his action to dreams and hopes, he acted!Mandela knew that he was able to make the difference, and he did it!
conclusIonAs we were able to see with this work realization, the theme Human Rights is a very complexone. Nowadays, in developing countries, like Portugal, people are used to have their basicrights for granted, they do not even think about their practical impact. People just know theyexist and that no one can violate them, just because they are human beings. In our opinion,one of the best examples of this fact is the women’s rights situation. Today, every womanborn in a developed country is able to vote, to wear whatever she wants, to express herself, toget married freely as well as to get divorced, to go to school, to have a career…Although itwas not always like that! The world needed someone like Florence Thomas, wanting tochange, to step forward,. What we frequently forget is that though our situation is different,there are still many other women all over the world whose education is completely interdict,who are not allowed to choose their husband and who are sold like simple sexual objects. Human Rights are no longer a matter of black and white people’s rights. As oureconomic, social and cultural level is increasing, also our rights and needs are changing, butwe cannot forget about people who had the misfortune of being born in a country where theright to have a retirement is similar to our chance to go to the moon, a mirage. The world needs more Nelson Mandelas, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther Kings, in short,people aiming for a greater awareness of the abuse of the human rights. Going to school,playing with our friends, making choices of our own, etc., all these are very normal actionsfor the three of us. Still, there are many different realities among people our age throughoutthe world. What are we waiting for? Let us make the difference.