Basic Principles of the Human Rights Framework

The human rights framework protects civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. But no matter what kind of right is at stake, there are basic principles that are always part of human rights standards and implementation. These principles include:


Human rights must be afforded to everyone, without exception. The entire premise of the framework is that people are entitled to these rights simply by virtue of being human.


Governments must create accountability mechanisms for the enforcement of rights. It is not enough that rights are recognized in domestic law or in policy rhetoric, there must actually be effective measures put in place so that the government can be held accountable if those rights standards are not met.


Human rights are indivisible and interdependent, which means that in order to guarantee civil and political rights, a government must also ensure economic, social and cultural rights (and vice versa). The indivisibility principle recognizes that if a government violates rights such as health, it necessarily affects people’s ability to exercise other rights such as the right to life.


Transparency means that governments must be open about all information and decision-making processes related to rights. People must be able to know and understand how major decisions affecting rights are made and how public institutions, such as hospitals and schools, which are needed to protect rights, are managed and run.


People have a right to participate in how decisions are made regarding protection of their rights. This includes but is not limited to having input on government decisions about rights. To ensure human rights, governments must engage and support the participation of civil society on these issues.


Human rights must be guaranteed without discrimination of any kind. This includes not only purposeful discrimination, but also protection from policies and practices which may have a discriminatory effect.

The entry of women into the human rights arena led to questioning the traditional interpretations of these human rights principles. Women exposed the male bias embedded in these standards, and demonstrated the need to expand international human rights law to reveal how it rests upon a false division of the world into public and private realms. Women challenged some of the basic human rights practices, and they explored mechanisms to make the state, as well as non-state actors, more accountable for human rights violations against women. Their challenges have helped redefine the practice of human rights and introduced key new concepts.


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