Find information and resources for research and interdisciplinary studies on human rights—the rights to which all people are entitled, regardless of nation, culture, race, gender, age, or social position.
The first formal international agreement on what should constitute human rights appeared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt served as the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations (UN). Her advocacy of human rights-based ethics and her key role in drafting the humanitarian guidelines of the UDHR continue to impact human rights protections and social justice movements today.
The UDHR arose as part of the post-conflict international response to atrocities committed during World War II (1939–1945), in which the German Nazi Party killed more than 11 million people, including 6 million Jewish people. The death, humiliation, torture, and other assaults on human dignity incurred during the armed conflict prompted the need for an international body to create guidelines to prevent such violations of human dignity from happening again.
Though different cultures, policymakers, and government officials may disagree on which standards and practices should constitute global human rights, the UDHR and other documentation on human rights issues generally specify that human rights should include, at a minimum, the right to life; freedom from slavery and torture; certain legal rights to equality and justice under the law (without discrimination based on gender, disability, religion, race, ethnicity, or other factors); and freedom to express political, religious, and other ideas without fear of persecution. While the UDHR is not legally binding, and member countries remain divided over how implementing UDHR principles can be accomplished without infringing upon national sovereignty, the language and cross-cultural principles of the UDHR have inspired international human rights laws and treaties and informed research, studies, and action on gender-based rights, disability rights, and other rights championed by numerous social movements for social justice.
National, regional, and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have started to demand accountability for human rights abuses and monitoring mechanisms that exist around the world, including various national and international tribunals set up to prosecute war crimes and genocide. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a group of advocates within the United Nations committed to promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. Individuals appointed as Special Rapporteurs report on the many mandates of the UNHRC. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are two well-known human rights organizations that defend human rights around the world. The International Criminal Court heard cases based on human rights violations, including war crimes.