What are Human Rights?

Sharing core norms and values
May 16, 2023 | Chatham House

Human rights are fundamental freedoms that every person enjoys, and that governments are obliged to respect, protect and fulfil under international law. 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Beyond its significant moral and political force, many of its provisions have come to be regarded as part of customary international law. But the world is at a critical moment in this regard as geopolitical competition intensifies, with China pushing back on human rights norms, promoting an approach that is heavily state-centric and resistant to oversight or accountability. In their article for the Chatham House, John Wallace and Ruma Mandal explain what human rights protect, where they are codified. and how they relate to new challenges. They pose the question: How can this project, born in another period of enormous social and global upheaval, act as an animating, principled map for navigating the many global and social challenges ahead?

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