Many of our articles at The Borgen Project examine human rights abuses around the world and how different organizations and people help to combat them. However, many people may not understand what human rights are, where our modern understanding came from and what rights everyone is granted under international law. Human rights and global poverty are at-odds concepts that must be understood.
Some of the most basic human rights are the right to life, work and a standard of living that promotes health and well-being and does not allow for global poverty. It wasn’t until 1948 and the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations that specific rights were first defined, written into international law and accepted as universal to all human beings. Ending the injustice of global poverty is tightly tied to the support and upholding of universal human rights.
What Are Human Rights?
The United Nations (U.N.) defines human rights as rights inherent to all people regardless of race, nationality, sex, color, religion, language or any other status. The principle of universal human rights that are free from discrimination and that all humans deserve is the key to international human rights law. Under these laws, human rights are broken up into three generations — first, second and third.
First generation rights are characterized as civil and political rights and were mainly fought for in the 18th and 19th centuries. Individuals struggled to free themselves from oppressive governments, and so these rights protect citizens from abuses of his/her liberties by the state. These rights include free speech, the right to vote, the right to peaceful protest and assemblies and the right to participate in government.
Second generation rights developed as a response to the creation of the UDHR and a more industrialized world with greater income inequalities. These rights are classified as social, economic and cultural rights and instead of providing protection from governments, they delineate what governments are supposed to provide their citizens.
This group of rights is crucial to fighting global poverty. Examples of second generation rights are the right to adequate levels of food and sustenance, housing, favorable work conditions, education, health and cultural identity.
Third generation rights emerged with the increased globalization and a greater awareness of similar concerns worldwide. An awareness of extreme poverty around the world has contributed to rights such as the right to development, self-determination and a healthy environment. Additionally, minority rights have received greater attention and importance in this third generation of rights.
How Are Human Rights and Global Poverty Related?
With an understanding of the human rights under international law, it is even more apparent why fighting global poverty is such a worthy cause. Millions of people around the world are deprived of work, shelter and food despite their inherent right to these needs and legal recognition of these rights. Therefore, many governments, organizations and individuals have felt a moral (and legal) responsibility to end global poverty and provide basic rights for any and all humans suffering from poverty.
By valuing second generation rights, organizations like The Hunger Project are making an impact on global poverty. The Hunger Project is working for a world where everyone is able to lead a healthy life based on self-reliance and dignity. Their programs are women-centered and work to move communities from, “I can’t,” to “I can,” to “we can” and improve clean water, education, health and the environment. They currently work in twelve countries and more than 16,000 communities, and have helped over 17 million individuals.
Some organizations fight for each generation of human rights and global poverty by providing food, shelter, water and more while also advocating for political solutions and civic engagement. One such organization is Oxfam. Oxfam fights the injustice of global poverty by saving lives with humanitarian aid, starting lasting programs to overcome poverty, campaigning for social justice and educating the public about human rights. Last year alone they helped 22.2 million people worldwide and gave 730,000 villagers access to savings and loans.
Under international human rights law, no human being should be living in poverty; all people deserve food, shelter and a healthy life. By supporting and fighting for human rights, people around the world are fighting to end global poverty.
– Alexandra Eppenauer