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Universal human rights

Background: Human rights – A key prerequisite for development


A woman on a market in Yangon, Myanmar.

Millions of women, men and children in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries cannot change the circumstances in which they are living by their own efforts alone because they are being denied basic political, economic, social and cultural human rights:

Around a billion people worldwide go hungry; they are being denied the right to food.

Every year some three million women and girls undergo genital mutilation – a serious violation of the right to physical integrity and other human rights.

Sixty-seven million children – more than half of them girls – have no access to primary schooling; their right to education is being disregarded.

Some 215 million children aged between 5 and 17 have to work – in violation of the In­ter­national Labour Organization's conventions 182 and 138, and central provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In many regions of the world women are being denied the right to equality with men.

In 78 coun­tries and territories same-sex relationships between adults are a punishable offence; in five coun­tries the death penalty may even be imposed.

The death penalty is still applied in 58 states. According to the human rights organisation Amnesty In­ter­national, in 2012 at least 1,722 people in 62 states were sentenced to death, and at least 682 people in 25 coun­tries were executed (no figures available for China).

Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press are also often restricted. In many coun­tries the popu­la­tion has no access to independent media or information.

The list could go on and on…

Strengthening human rights – Promoting de­vel­op­ment

Human rights are the universal foundation for a life of liberty, dignity and equality. They guarantee that each individual is able to participate in political, economic and social life, and choose their lifestyle, culture and religion freely.

An analysis of the successes and failures in achieving the Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals shows that par­tic­u­lar­ly good progress has been made in areas where human rights are upheld, governance has been improved and public institutions have become more efficient. Where states do not possess the will or are unable to fulfil these requirements, however, or where states disintegrate as a result of violent conflict, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment becomes impossible.

To promote de­vel­op­ment we must strengthen human rights. Strengthening human rights promotes de­vel­op­ment.

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