Human rights conversation questions
Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
Article two states: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
The convention later: guarantees life, liberty and security of person; bans slavery and torture; gives equality before the law; bans arbitrary arrest; guarantees fair trials; guarantees freedom of movement; provides for freedom of religion, speech and association; and many more things.
This is a potentially controversial subject in some societies, and consequently some teachers may want to carefully consider if they wish to use all of these questions.
- Do you think it is the UN's job to make statements about human rights or should it be the responsibility of individual governments? Why/why not?
- Is it really reasonable to try to give the same rights to everyone in the world? Why/why not?
- Which of the human rights do you personally think is the most important?
- How many human rights do you think are fully observed in your country? In the world?
- Which countries do you think have a particularly bad record on human rights?
- Some people think that they can influence another country's internal politics by boycotting its products or not visiting it as a tourist. How effective do you think this kind of action is?
- If you know that a country still applies the death penalty, would it influence you in any way regarding visiting it or buying its exports?
- Why do you think it is so difficult to apply/comply with the basic human rights?
- Do you think that a state which ignores human rights in order to, for example, fight terrorism, devalues its moral status? Can you think of any examples?
- How many Human rights do you think were violated at Guantánamo?
Objections to the existing human rights
- In the US, some have argued that there should be a provision to prevent governments collecting taxes from those who do not wish to pay. How do you react to this suggestion?
- Although article two states "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as ..... sex..."; it at no time explicitly makes any mention of gay rights. What would be the effect of adding gay rights to the Convention? What states and institutions would welcome such a change and which ones would object?
- Some states have criticized the granting of full religious freedom on the basis that their religion does not allow them to recognise other religions as equal. What do you think of the validity of this criticism?
- How would you respond to the suggestion that religion and human rights don't mix?
- Amnesty International has argued for an additional "Right to refuse to kill." What do you think would be the effect of adding such a clause?
Limits to Human rights
- Should the right to free speech be unconditional?
- What about people who say things which have the objective of reducing the human rights of others? Racist propaganda? Fascist propaganda? Attempts to get one person to kill another?
- Should the right of association be unconditional?
- What about terrorist organisations? What about political parties which explicitly support terrorist organisations?
- Animal rights conversation questions
- Corporate Social Responsibility conversation questions
- Justice conversations questions
- Terrorism conversation questions
- Torture conversation questions