Are Human Rights a National or International Issue?
We are lucky enough to live in a free society and not to have to worry about wholesale discrimination or slaughter and, when you consider the roots of our current Human Rights Movement and legislation, it is easy to think that Human Rights are an international issue. It is something that is needed ’elsewhere’, a sound-bite on the news together with horrific pictures that are designed to bring an emotional response - unless we just change the channel.
For the majority of people this is a nice, safe environment. We are able to put an emotional distance between our comfy lives and the actions of the other countries, be quietly outraged for the length of time it takes the news anchor to switch to another story.
What’s Wrong With That?Well, nothing in particular, there is no reason that anyone should leave their sofa and board a flight to a war-torn country to help in a relief effort, unless it is something you want to do.
However, there is one problem with complacency; it might just come back to bite us. The Human Rights Act, as it now stands on our law books, is not just for protection against torture or oppression. It provides additional protection from institutional discrimination; it allows us to protect ourselves from inhumane treatment and allows us to take action against companies or authorities that would exploit us.
Foreign PolicyAny sovereign nation, i.e. one that has its own system of government and makes decisions for its own people, rather then being ruled from outside its borders, has to have a foreign policy. The foreign policy is essentially a series of aims that set out how the country will deal with other countries.
It takes into account economic, political, and military factors and finds a way to interact with those other countries in a way that produces the best results for its goals, national security and interests. Sometimes, this means that one country may be unwittingly supporting an oppressive regime for the sake of their own prosperity. It can also mean that wars or aggression are promoted. As voters in a democratic society we have the right, and the responsibility, to support the policies in our country that mean the best of all possible outcomes for all countries concerned.
So, Which Is It?Human Rights are both a national and international issue. We need to think in terms of how human rights can cover every aspect of our lives, from fair working conditions in your home town to preventing genocide in a foreign country.
Whilst we enjoy the protection of those human rights which directly affect our daily lives, we also need to appreciate that these same laws protect those who do not live in a democratic society. The British government has ratified part of the European Convention on Human Rights into our law books; there are still a large number of laws that the Council Of Europe has at its disposal and, as British Citizens and members of the European Union, we have access to this protection.
When we decide who to vote for in the General Election, we start to ensure that our wishes are followed by our leaders; those leaders make decisions that affect global economics and the fate of people across the world.
Therefore, Human Rights are a global issue and a global concern.