This section contains background information on general human rights, international documents and mechanisms of legal protection of human rights.

Promoting human rights and equality among young people is essential if we want to create an open, tolerant and equal society. The idea of human rights has its roots in many cultures and ancient traditions. Thus, there are two key values that lie at the core of the idea of human rights. The first is human dignity and the second is equality. Human rights can be understood as defining those basic standards which are necessary for a life of dignity; and their universality is derived from the fact that in this respect, at least, all humans are equal. We should not, and cannot, discriminate between them.

Human rights work can only be efficient if it is based on permanent dialogue with all stakeholders – governments, international organisations, civil society institutions, human rights defenders and educational establishments.

Young people all over the world and particularly across Europe have always given themselves generously to the cause of human rights and human rights education. Non-governmental youth organizations have played a crucial role in the protection of human rights throughout the world, building solidarity among young people.


General characteristics of human rights

“Human rights are universal legal guarantees protecting individuals and groups against actions which interfere with fundamental freedoms and human dignity.

Some of the most important characteristics of human rights:

:: guaranteed by international standards;
:: legally protected;
:: focusing on the dignity of the human being;
:: oblige states and state actors;
:: cannot be waived or taken away;
:: interdependent and interrelated;
:: universal.

This definition is from "The United Nations System and Human Rights: Guidelines and Information for the Resident Coordinator System" approved on behalf of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) by the Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ) at its 16th Session, Geneva, March 2000.

Human rights are inalienable. This means that you can not lose them, because they are linked to the very fact of human existence. In particular circumstances some - though not all - may be suspended or restricted.

They are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. This means that different human rights are intrinsically connected and cannot be viewed in isolation from each other. The enjoyment of one right depends on the enjoyment of many other rights and one right cannot be more important than the rest.

They are universal, which means that they apply equally to all people everywhere in the world, and with no time limit. Every individual is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, birth or other status.

Legal protection of human rights

Several regions of the world have established their own systems for protecting human rights. There are regional institutions in Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Arab states, but not yet in the Asia-Pacific region. However, most countries in this part of the world have also ratified the major UN treaties and conventions - thereby signifying their agreement with the general principles, and expressing themselves subject to international human rights law. : More


Key international documents


On international level, states have come together to draw up certain agreements on the subject of human rights. These agreements establish objective standards of behaviour for states, imposing on them certain duties towards individuals. : More




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