THE BLOG

UN Human Rights Day: Why Human Rights Matter

10/12/2015 12:41 GMT | Updated 08/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Thursday 10 December is United Nations (UN) Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here I try to explain why human rights matter...

Human rights are hugely important and it's one of the reasons that, alongside my day job of teaching law, I volunteer as a Director for Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council. So, it shouldn't be a biggie to, when asked, explain why I think human rights are crucial, but I'm struggling.

When I tell my seven year old that it's bedtime, or my toddler that he can't have a bag of Wotsits before breakfast, the trembling bottom lip, the foot stamping and the screams of "it's not fair" are familiar - it's how I feel when I'm told someone earns less money, can't get a decent education or has abuse shouted at them because of the colour of their skin, their gender, sexuality or disability. If you see what I see, and you feel what I feel then you'll understand.

I'm alright, not because of anything I did, but because I was fortunate enough to be born to white middle-class parents in leafy suburbia at a point in history where life in Britain was pretty good. This isn't anything I worked hard for though, its brute luck. I don't deserve my privilege any more than my Granddad deserved to have to go to war or a child born on the same day as me but on a different continent deserved to die from an easily curable disease. So when I see hospitals bombed, children tear-gassed, or the students I teach expect to earn less because they have a different set of chromosomes from me my blood boils with incandescent rage and I want to cry and stamp my feet and scream "it's not fair".

Human rights temper this injustice, where I see fear, they represent hope, where I see hate, they represent compassion. Human rights question austerity when it causes those with disabilities to take their own lives, they challenge hatred fuelled by the fear of difference, they curb the worst of humanity and reflect the best and they apply without distinction to us all. The UN's declaration of human rights is so important because it's universal, human rights were recognised as fundamental regardless of religion or race, gender or sexuality. The UN recognised what many today fail to see, that if you start to exclude some people from enjoying the rights most of us take for granted you miss the whole point - the privileged majority don't need human rights to protect us, the most marginalised and despised do, if the majority need human rights it is to protect us from the worst of ourselves.

But if you see what I see, but you don't feel what I feel, and you're happy to shrug your shoulders and unquestioningly enjoy your comfortable and privileged existence - because if you're able to sit in the warm and read this on a computer you're one of a very, very lucky few - then I'm sorry but I don't have the words to explain to you why human rights matter.