Rights and Responsibilities

On the 25th April 1945, just over three months before the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, delegates from 50 countries met in San Francisco, USA. They had come together to discuss the setting up of a new international organisation – the United Nations. When we look at human rights from an historical perspective, we can see that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the associated covenants and treaties of the United Nations introduced some new ideas but we can also see that the way we now think about rights has been shaped by a number of historical developments from the Medieval period through to the 20th century.
The Declaration of Human Rights reminded ordinary people that it is not only governments who have a moral responsibility for protecting people’s rights. As Eleanor Roosevelt observed, we as individuals have a moral obligation towards other people. At a time when some politicians are complaining that people only think about their rights and not their responsibilities, it is important to remind them that in addition to our obligations and duties as citizens we also have a moral responsibility to protect and look out for the rights of others.

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