Human rights refer to the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled", including civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.
A – B – C – D – E – F – G – H – I – J – K – L – M – N – O – P – Q – R – S – T – U – V – W – X – Y – Z – See also – External links
- I find our modern emphasis on 'rights' somewhat overdone and misleading … It makes people forget that the other and more important side of rights is duty. And indeed the great historic codes of our human advance emphasised duties and not rights … The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and … the Sermon on the Mount … all are silent on rights, all lay stress on duties.
- Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear, Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (July 1991)
- Liberty is not an option; it is a human right.
- Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood.
- On September 17, 1914, Erzberger, the well-known German statesman, an eminent member of the Catholic Party, wrote to the Minister of War, General von Falkenhayn, "We must not worry about committing an offence against the rights of nations nor about violating the laws of humanity. Such feelings today are of secondary importance"? A month later, on October 21, 1914, he wrote in Der Tag, "If a way was found of entirely wiping out the whole of London it would be more humane to employ it than to allow the blood of A SINGLE GERMAN SOLDIER to be shed on the battlefield!"
- Georges Clemenceau, quoting Matthias Erzberger, in Grandeur and Misery of Victory, trans. F. M. Atkinson (1930), p. 279
- In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.
- William Lloyd Garrison, "To The Public", The Liberator, January 1, 1831. Quoted in Federico Lenzerini, The Culturalization of Human Rights Law, Oxford University Press, 2014. Lenzerini states Garrison was "One of the first writers to use the expression 'human rights'". Also quoted in Hugh Tulloch, The Routledge Companion to the American Civil War Era. Routledge, 2006 (p.72)
- I have been derisively called a "Woman's Rights Man." I know no such distinction. I claim to be a HUMAN RIGHTS MAN, and wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being whatever may be the sex or complexion. .
- William Lloyd Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879 : The Story of His Life Told by His Children, Vol. iii. Page 390. (1885). Also quoted in Suzanne M. Marilley, Woman Suffrage and the Origins of Liberal Feminism in the United States, 1820-1920.Harvard University Press, 1996.
- ...it was not the fact of slavery in itself which led to the revolt, but the state of feeling and of manners which slavery bred—the hatred of democracy, the contempt for human rights, the horror of equality before the law, the proneness to violence which always results from inequality, the tone which all these things communicated to Southern manners, literature, education, religion, and society.
- E.L. Godkin, "The Danger of the Hour", in The Nation, September 21, 1865. Quoted in Joseph Harold Baccus, The Oratory of Andrew Johnson, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1941. Also quoted in Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation 1865-1990: Selections from the Independent Magazine of Politics and Culture. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press,1990.
- To affirm that humans thrive in many different ways is not to deny that there are universal human values. Nor is it to reject the claim that there should be universal human rights. It is to deny that universal values can only be fully realized in a universal regime. Human rights can be respected in a variety of regimes, liberal and otherwise. Universal human rights are not an ideal constitution for a single regime throughout the world, but a set of minimum standards for peaceful coexistence among regimes that will always remain different.
- Human rights are not just cultural or legal constructions, as fashionable western relativists are fond of claiming. They are universal values. To deny the benefits of the new regime of rights to other cultures is to patronise them in a way that is reminiscent of the colonial era. If the new regime on torture is good enough for the US, who can say that it is not good for everyone?
- John N. Gray, "A Modest Proposal," New Statesman (17 February 2003)
- I know nothing of man's rights, or woman's rights; human rights are all that I recognise.
- Sarah Grimké, Letter 15 (20 October 1837). Quoted in "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman" 1838, also quoted in David A. Hollinger, Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: 1630-1865. Oxford University Press, 1997, (p. 232).
- The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.
- Alexander Hamilton, in “The Farmer Refuted”, The Works of Alexander Hamilton (1850) edited by John C. Hamilton, vol. 2, p. 80
- The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.
- Václav Havel, Liberty Medal acceptance speech at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (4 July 1994)
- Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth. And any time any one violates your human rights, you can take them to the world court.
- Malcolm X, Speech in Cleveland, Ohio (April 3, 1964)
- One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.
- We speak here of the challenge of the dichotomies of war and peace, violence and non-violence, racism and human dignity, oppression and repression and liberty and human rights, poverty and freedom from want.
We stand here today as nothing more than a representative of the millions of our people who dared to rise up against a social system whose very essence is war, violence, racism, oppression, repression and the impoverishment of an entire people.
I am also here today as a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-apartheid movement, the governments and organisations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.
These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.
- We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind, that is the approval by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Eleanor Roosevelt, in Paris on December 10, 1948. The United Nations General Assembly was gathered in the recently built Palais Chaillot when the chairwoman of the UN Commission on Human Rights rose to give a speech.
- Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
- Eleanor Roosevelt, remarks at presentation of booklet on human rights, In Your Hands, to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, United Nations, New York, March 27, 1958. This quotation, lacking the final sentence, was used by Adlai E. Stevenson in 1963 on his Christmas card.
- My position as regards the monied interests can be put in a few words. In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded; ordinarily and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run, identical; but when it clearly appears that there is a real conflict between them, human rights must have the upper hand; for property belongs to man and not man to property.
- Theodore Roosevelt, address at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (April 23, 1910); in "Citizenship in a Republic", The Strenuous Life (vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., 1926), chapter 21, p. 515–16
Independence Day is one of the best American holidays, both for what we celebrate and how we celebrate it.
It's easy, however, to take liberty for granted, and to misconstrue just how difficult it was to gain our freedoms 239 years ago. The Revolutionary War was long and costly--arguably the second-longest conflict in American history. While the 50,000 or so casualties on the American side are roughly equal in number to the total dead and wounded in Afghanistan, this was at a time when there were fewer than three million people were living in the former British colonies.
So by all means, march in a parade, host a barbecue, have a few beers, head to the beach, light off some fireworks. My family and I will be right there with you. But take a minute or two to reflect on why we celebrate as well. Here are some of the best things ever said about freedom--some poignant, some rebellious, some even funny--to get you thinking.
(By the way, did you know that the Founding Fathers weren't just great leaders? They were also true entrepreneurs.)
1. "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."
2. "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."
3. "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
4. "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
5. "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
6. "Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance."
7. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
8. "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
9. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
10. "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
11. "[W]e look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world."
12. "Freedom lies in being bold."
13. "Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure."
--Stephen King (From "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption")
14. "Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life."
15. "Liberties aren't given, they are taken."
16. "The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty."
17. "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone!' There is all the difference."
18. "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."
19. "A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself."
20. "I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery."
21. "If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."
22. "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
--Martin Luther King Jr.
23. "I'd like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free."
24. "Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country."
--Marquis de Lafayette
25. "It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
26. "We hold our heads high, despite the price we have paid, because freedom is priceless."
27. "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."
--General John Stark
Want to read more, make suggestions, or even be featured in a future column? Follow me on Facebook, or contact me and sign up for my weekly email.