Human rights are basic rights that allow individuals the freedom to lead a dignified life, free from fear or want, and free to express independent beliefs. These rights apply equally and universally in all countries.
The internationally agreed standard is set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proclaimed in 1948 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
Governments of all 193 member countries of the UN have endorsed the UDHR - pledging to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and universal freedoms. The UN calls on every 'organ of society' - including business - to play a part in promoting respect for the rights and freedoms contained in the UDHR. These include:
The International Bill of Human Rights forms the foundation for many laws, conventions and treaties on human rights. It has three parts:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) sets out the core human rights.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 covers civil and political rights such as the right to life, the right to body integrity, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy and the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association. (These are sometimes referred to as first generation rights.)
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 covers economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to physical and mental health. (These are sometimes referred to as second generation human rights.)
There are multilateral, regional and bilateral treaties and conventions which further the rights outlined in the International Bill of Human Rights. Some relate to particular groups (such as children, women, migrant workers or indigenous peoples and minorities). Others relate to specific rights (such as freedom from discrimination). There are also 'soft law' instruments - these include voluntary international standards and guidelines on human rights.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has identified eight core conventions covering fundamental principles and rights at work. These are part of the Framework of human rights:
The International Bill of Human Rights together with the eight ILO core conventions are the most authoritative list of internationally recognized human rights.
December 2014 United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative