What are human rights?

homepage profile1 What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. They are expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and through international treaties adopted since then.

Human rights deal with how people live together. In particular they set out the basis for the relationship between the governed and those who govern.

Examples of human rights include civil and political rights such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, equality before the law and the right to be free from discrimination. Social, cultural and economic rights include the right to participate in culture, the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to education.

Everyone is equally entitled to human rights without discrimination

With human rights come duties and responsibilities.

There are two main pieces of law in New Zealand that specifically promote and protect human rights. One is the Human Rights Act 1993, and the other is the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

sign What are human rights?

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The Human Rights Act sets out the primary functions of the Human Rights Commission. These are to advocate and promote respect for and appreciation of human rights in New Zealand society; and to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relations between individuals and the diverse groups in New Zealand society.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act sets out a range of civil and political rights, which arise from the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Act includes, among other things, the right to freedom of expression, the right to religious belief, and the right to freedom of movement, and the right to be free from discrimination.

New Zealand has signed up to a number of international human rights covenants, conventions and protocols. This means that New Zealand has obligations to enforce these international standards through its laws.

What is the human rights approach?

  • linking of decision-making at every level to human rights standards set out in the relevant human rights covenants and conventions
  • identification of all relevant human rights involved, and a balancing of rights, where necessary, prioritising those of the most vulnerable people, to maximise respect for all rights and rights-holders
  • an emphasis on the participation of individuals and groups in decision-making that affects them
  • non-discrimination among individuals and groups through equal enjoyment of rights and obligations by all
  • empowerment of individuals and groups by allowing them to use rights as leverage for action and to legitimise their voice in decision-making, and
  • accountability for actions and decisions, which allows individuals and groups to complain about decisions that affect them adversely.

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