Test Your Understanding of Human Rights



9 Questions

What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

What is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

What is the responsibility to protect?

What is the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights?

What is the principle of indivisibility of rights?

What are jus cogens?

What is the UN Sustainable Development Goal 10?

What do proponents of cultural relativism suggest?

What is the criticism of right-wing critics of human rights?


A Brief History of Human Rights

  • Human rights are moral principles or norms that apply to all humans, regardless of their status or background.

  • The concept of human rights has existed for centuries, but the modern human rights movement developed after World War II, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a non-binding declaration that asserts that human, civil, economic, and social rights are part of the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

  • The UDHR was framed by members of the Human Rights Commission, with Eleanor Roosevelt as chair, and includes both civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were adopted by the United Nations in 1966, making the rights contained in the UDHR binding on all states.

  • Numerous other treaties, known as human rights instruments, have been offered at the international level.

  • Responsibility to protect refers to a doctrine for United Nations member states to intervene to protect populations from atrocities.

  • Economic sanctions are often levied upon individuals or states who commit human rights violations.

  • Human rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments, and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Anti-Slavery International.

  • The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition.

  • The Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Declaration of Rights are examples of constitutional documents related to human rights.

  • The League of Nations, established in 1919, had a mandate to promote many of the rights which were later included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.International, regional, and national legal instruments are designed to enforce laws securing human rights. The United Nations (UN) is the only multilateral governmental agency with universally accepted international jurisdiction for universal human rights legislation. The UN has an international mandate to protect human rights, and the most senior body of the UN with regard to human rights is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Human Rights Council, created in 2005, has a mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations. In over 110 countries, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been set up to protect, promote, or monitor human rights with jurisdiction in a given country. The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of fifty-five African states, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is a quasi-judicial organ of the African Union tasked with promoting and protecting human rights. The Organisation of American States (OAS) is an international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States. The Council of Europe is the oldest organization working for European integration, and it is responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Natural law theories base human rights on a "natural" moral, religious, or even biological order that is independent of transitory human laws or traditions. Other theories hold that human rights codify moral behavior that is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution. The philosopher Zhao Tingyang proposes an alternative framework called "credit human rights," in which rights are tied to responsibilities.Indivisibility and Categorization of Rights:

  • Human rights can be categorized into civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes both types of rights, based on the principle that they can only successfully exist together.

  • Western cultures have often prioritized civil and political rights, while ex-Soviet bloc countries and Asian countries have prioritized economic, social, and cultural rights.

  • There are three generations of human rights: first-generation civil and political rights, second-generation economic, social and cultural rights, and third-generation solidarity rights.

  • The principle of indivisibility of rights is widely accepted, but prioritization of rights for pragmatic reasons is necessary.

  • In 1995, the international community reaffirmed adherence to the principle of indivisibility of rights.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes rights that apply to all humans equally, regardless of their culture.

  • Proponents of cultural relativism suggest that some human rights conflict with some cultures and threaten their survival.

  • Universalism has been described as cultural, economic, or political imperialism.

  • Relativistic arguments tend to neglect the fact that modern human rights are new to all cultures.

  • The 2005 World Summit reaffirmed the international community's adherence to the principle that human rights are universally applicable.

  • Universal jurisdiction is a controversial principle in international law whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside their boundaries.

State and Non-State Actors:

  • Non-state actors, including companies, NGOs, political parties, informal groups, and individuals, can commit human rights abuses but are not subject to human rights law other than International Humanitarian Law.
  • Multinational companies often view their primary responsibility as being to their shareholders, not to those affected by their actions.
  • No international treaties exist to specifically cover the behavior of companies with regard to human rights, and national legislation is very variable.
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 aims to substantially reduce inequality by 2030 through the promotion of appropriate legislation.

Human Rights in Emergency Situations:

  • With the exception of non-derogable human rights, the UN recognizes that human rights can be limited or even pushed aside during times of national emergency.
  • Rights that cannot be derogated for reasons of national security in any circumstances are known as peremptory norms or jus cogens.


  • Critics of the view that human rights are universal argue that human rights are a western concept that "emanate from a European, Judeo-Christian, and/or Enlightenment heritage."
  • Right-wing critics of human rights argue that they are "unrealistic and unenforceable norms and inappropriate intrusions on state sovereignty," while left-wing critics of human rights argue that they fail "to achieve – or prevents better approaches to achieving – progressive goals."


Test your knowledge on the history, principles, and controversies surrounding human rights with this informative quiz. From the development of the modern human rights movement to the role of state and non-state actors in protecting human rights, this quiz covers a range of topics related to human rights. Discover the different categories of human rights, the principle of indivisibility of rights, and the concept of cultural relativism. Explore the criticisms and debates surrounding human rights, and assess your understanding of the role of international treaties and organizations

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