Introduction to human rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations (UN), 1948


The starting point for human rights is based on morals: human rights state that human value is associated with humanity. The purpose of human rights is to live a life worthy of a human being.

Characteristics of human rights include universality, inalienability and fundamentality.

Universality means that human rights belong to all people in the world, based on the fact that they are human. They apply to everyone regardless of age, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, culture, gender, race, disability or any other characteristic.

Inalienability refers to the fact that human rights are acquired at birth and no-one can relinquish them, for example sell themselves into slavery, even if they want to.

Fundamentality means that only very important rights are included in human rights, such as the freedom of speech, the right to life and the right not to be tortured.

When human rights are not adhered to, it is a human rights violation.

Even though human rights are universal, their realisation and promotion is in practice the responsibility of nation states.

Keep Reading:

Most important human rights documents and agreements
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This article was updated on January 20th 2020.