Human Rights: Are They Achievable?

Human rights can seem a vague concept at first. They may appear hardly achievable in practice due to the lack of clarity about their core values, origin, and enforcement. However, these points of contention can be resolved through constructive discussion. In this article, we learn that the origin of human rights can be traced to a common sentiment, their enforcement is backed by a plurality of organisations and their values can be understood in simple and universal terms. In this way, human rights appear a lot more achievable than before.


Human rights can be seen as arbitrary, because the origin of their concept is unclear. One possible explanation is that human rights emerged from shock and compassion. After the war, genocide and suffering of the 20th century, the urge to help other people was felt universally. Hence, the concept of human rights was closely connected to our idea of human dignity. This captured the universal feeling that there was something sacred about every human, which we ought to protect and respect.


Some people think that the enforcement of human rights is problematic. When the government does not act upon human rights violations, it becomes unclear who will. However, this worry could be settled if everyone was more informed. Informed about the large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to enforce human rights across Africa. For instance, the Kenya Human Rights Commission aims to support individuals and communities by holding state and non-state actors responsible for their actions. In South Africa, the Dullah Omah Institute for Human Rights continues its work on anti-apartheid. Lawyers for Human Rights provides legal support to victims of human rights violations. We should ensure that people are aware of the large network of support available.


Human rights can be opposed on the basis that their message conflicts with the values of other cultures. Some believe that the interests of an individual are never more important than those of the community. Every human is inseparable from their social webs: their family, town or nation. However, human rights do not aim to separate individuals from their communities, but to protect them from unfair treatment. A prime example is Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which states that every human has a right to freedom from torture and inhuman degrading treatment.


The vision of human rights aims for a world where all of the people are equally entitled to a minimal level of fair treatment. However, whether or not they are achievable depends on the methods of enforcement and the context of the communities where those methods are deployed. Not everyone agrees on what human rights are or should be, but the only way forward is to listen to opposing points of view and engage in constructive discussion.



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