On Dec. 10, 1948, The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved, ushering in a new era in world history in which all nations agreed to a set of universal principles governing the treatment of their citizens.
In the years since, many countries have engaged in gross violations of human rights, despite the declaration. Nevertheless, with exceptions, even authoritarian and totalitarian regimes have paid lip service to the ideals of the Declaration, and in some instances, adherence to certain rules governing human rights have been codified and made enforceable through treaties.
Discussions of rights often separate them into two categories. So-called negative rights include protections against others harming you through their actions. For instance, the right to life (not to be killed), to equal treatment under the law, and the right to free speech are negative rights.
Positive rights, on the other hand, are rights which create obligations on others to do more than just leave you alone. Instead, positive rights obligate others to do (presumably good) things to you. Rights to education and health care fall under the idea of positive rights.
For the most part, negative rights are uncontroversial, even when they are not enforced. Positive rights, by contrast, are often the subject of major policy debates.
- What do you believe are your most important rights?
- Do you believe positive and negative rights should have equal status? How should it be determined who pays the cost of providing for positive rights?
- How do you believe human rights should be enforced around the world? Do you believe the United States should be engaged in enforcing human rights in other countries?