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. : More

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.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drawn up by the Commission on Human Rights, one of the organs of the United Nations, and was adopted by the General Assembly on the 10 December 1948. Since then, a series of key instruments to safeguard its principles have also been drawn up and agreed by the international community. The legal status of these instruments varies: declarations, principles, guidelines, standard rules and recommendations have no binding legal effect, but such instruments have an undeniable moral force and provide practical guidance to States in their conduct; covenants, statutes, protocols and conventions are legally-binding for those States that ratify or accede to them.

Some of the major international documents related to human rights protection are listed below:

:: The International Bill of Human Rights
:: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
:: The European Social Charter
:: European Convention for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR)
:: Charter of the Unated Nations
:: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)
:: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
:: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
:: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
:: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
:: Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
:: International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990)
:: Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993)
:: United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000)

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