Human rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Everyone has the right to education.

On Monday, 10 December 1948, as the world recovered from the horrors of World War Two, the United Nations (UN) came together in Paris and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). You can read the text in full here.

Now, more than 70 years later, the document is as relevant as ever. While its declarations may be recognised around the world, they are far from universally followed. The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 40 million people living as slaves around the world. Around 263 million children under 18 are not in school. UN and human rights experts have warned against rising racism and xenophobia around the world.

“The UDHR hasn’t changed,” said James Fisher of the Human Rights Watch last year. “It’s withstood the test of time. But has our commitment to its values?”

What do you think? Should the UN update the UDHR for the 21st century? And will its vision of the world ever come true?

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What are our universal human rights? An animated video explains. Is it time to update them? If so, what new rights might we need?


  1. Without reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, how many can you remember off the top of your head? Take it in turns to make suggestions as a class. When you can’t think of any more, see if you got them all right!
  2. Write down one new right that you would add to the declaration in the 21st century. Begin with either: “Everyone has the right to…” or “No one shall…”.
  3. Write a news report about a country which has recently violated the UDHR in some way. What happened? Which rights were violated? What will be done about it?