Human Rights: Towards New Challenges and Broader Definition

22 September 2541

Human Rights: Towards New Challenges and Broader Definition

The UDHR came into existence long time ago, three years after the end of the Second World War, in 1948. It was adopted by the United Nations on December 10 which coincidentally concurs with Thailand s Constitution Day.

After the UDHR was adopted in 1948, the world has progressed on and new problems have emerged, the problems that in 1948 one could not foresee, one could not realize.

One of the problems, for example, is the environmental problem. It was in 1970 that developed countries, especially the US, first felt that the problem of environmental degradation and pollution became a threat to the humankind. Such awareness had spread worldwide and resulted in the organization of the Environment World Summit in 1972, as the first Earth Summit. Thereafter, human beings have paid greater and greater attention to environmental issues. We come to recognize the necessity and the urgency that we must protect the environment.

The environmental problem can also be related to the issue of human rights. It is possible that amendment or changes on rules and regulations be made or be created for the purpose of human rights promotion and protection. For example, it might be considered that human rights should not involve only human beings, but more attention should now shift to relationship between human beings and nature as well.

In fact, such greater attention on nature aims to enable human beings to live happily. Human beings care about environment and nature because they care about themselves. To protect the environment is to protect the humankind, to enable human beings to survive and to live happily. If nature is ruined, the humankind will face disaster. For example, human beings occupied and took possession of land and other natural resources as their own and treat them as they see fit, claiming that they have rights over such natural treasures. The problem is how human beings treat their possessions and whether such treatment affects or causes damage to their country or to the world. How human beings treat their possessions can be an act of violation against the humankind.

To ponder further, some might question whether nature has its own rights. For example, some begin to feel that animals used for labour or as tools for occupation also have their rights. Can dolphins trained for performance claim the right to life or the right to freedom? One story goes: A man released two dolphins from a commercial sanctuary. A dispute erupted as a result. The man who set free the dolphins were accused of violating others’ property by stealing, while he himself insisted that his act was not for his own sake but he helped the animals to gain back their freedom, that dolphins should have the right to life and freedom.

The problem of this nature will persist and spread because it affects well-being of the humankind in the world that increasingly becomes frontierless. Human beings come to realize more and more, that something which once did not seem to be a problem can become one. Civilized and learned human beings must prepare their people. They cannot idly sit back to relax nor can they simply wait to respond to increasing problems. They must stand ready to make the world live in peace and harmony, and not committing further faults and flaws. Proper attitude and action towards human rights serve as a test for the development of human beings.

One simple case is that not too long ago, the movement for woman’s rights or the so-called “feminism” sprang up. It became expressed even in the use of words in the English language; normally when we refer to human being, we use the word “man” or use a more neutral word “one” or “everyone,” and we use the pronoun “his” or “him.” Feminists see that the use of such words reflects gender oppression and discrimination. Today in referring to human being, it is advised to refer to both sexes or use the full word “human being” and use the pronoun “his or her.”

In 1948 when the UDHR was adopted, there was no movement, no awareness on the issue, so in the UDHR, the word “his” was used. Now women might accuse that the UDHR violates human rights by not equally accrediting men and women. For example, in Article 10, the pronoun “his” was used, and in no place that it was accompanied by the pronoun “her.” This is an unforeseen and non-intentional issue.

The UDHR, however, serves as an important foundation, a primary basis for human beings to act upon in order to live together in harmony. The UDHR is a progress, a process that never ends. Therefore, we should consider about ways to improve it and work towards improving it. Most importantly, we must always bear in mind the real objective of the UDHR. For if we do not know, if we do not realize and do not pay attention to this objective, we might lose touch with it, the objective might change, and once that it has changed, its application, its use might not be what it was meant for.

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