Five More Human Rights You Need To Understand

It’s time to learn about the rights listed as 20-25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can find 1-10 here, 11-15 here, and 16-20 here. Like I’ve done before, I’m quoting each right as written, putting it into simpler words, and asking you questions about how your country or region deals with that right, for further thought. At the end, as before, I’ll offer you ways to get involved in the fight for human rights where you are.

Article 21: The Right to Participation in Government

  1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

This right states that you have a right to be a member of or to choose someone to be a member of your government on your behalf. It makes it clear that real choices and fair and free elections are the basis of just government.

Further, buried in the middle, this right states that everyone in a country has a right to access to public service, which means the right to serve their country as an employee or volunteer for their government.

Does everyone get to vote in your country? Who doesn’t, and why? Does this right contradict other rights? How? Do you think that there are things that get in the way of fair and free elections in your country? What are they? What can you and the people who agree with you on this do to change this situation?

Article 22: The Right to Social Security

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

While the term “social security” is used in the United States for a specific group of payment systems that are provided to disabled adults and children and retired adults, the principle is somewhat broader than this. This right holds that every human being has the right to have their basic economic needs met to the extent that their country is able to do so. This right even includes a suggestion that if a particular country cannot meet its peoples’ needs, there is an international obligation on other countries to assist.

Is this right the same thing as the idea of Universal Basic Income? How is it alike, and how is it different? What limits are natural and inherent to this right, if any? How could social security in your country be improved? What are some injustices within your country’s social security system that could be alleviated?

Article 23: Worker’s Rights

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Here we get to one of the core activities of human life: work. This article lines up and knocks down several basic principles of the right to work. First, everyone has the right to work. Then, when work isn’t available, everyone has the right to be compensated by the government while they look for work. And that everyone should be paid the same for the same work as other people, and that their pay should be “just”. The word “just” is then explained as meaning “paid enough to support a family with some dignity”. Finally, the right to join trade unions is reiterated.

Are people in your country compensated justly for their work? What is causing problems in that area for your country? Do people from different races, genders, and other differences get paid the same for the same work in your country? What factors contribute to that, and how could it be changed? What other inequalities do you see in the employment system in your country?

Article 24: The Right to Recreation and Vacation

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

This is pretty straightforward. Everyone deserves rest and relaxation, and no employer should expect a person’s life to center around their work to the exclusion of recreation. The number of hours a person can work should be limited, and every employer should provide vacation time.

The country I live in, the United States of America, is one of the few countries in the world that does not guarantee “periodic holidays with pay”. In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee time off from work for illness with pay. This is in direct violation of this human right.

In what ways does your country honor or fail to honor the right to rest and relaxation? How can you contribute to change on this issue?

Article 25: Adequate Standard of Living

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

This again brushes up against the concept of Universal Basic Income, and comes close to enumerating that as a right. Pay special attention to the parts of this article that address people who temporarily or permanently cannot do productive work or don’t participate in the economy outside the home. This article expands on the protections of social security from earlier to make it more clear who is protected.

Do people in your country generally have everything they need to provide housing, food, clothing, medical care, and other essentials? Does this include people who aren’t able to work, whether temporarily or permanently? Do children and the parents that stay home to care for them have special protections in your country? What can you do to improve the situation?

That’s all for now

Sometime in the next few weeks (time permitting), I will finish up this series on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I would appreciate it if you commented to let me know what human rights topic you want me to tackle next.

What You Can Do Next:


First, if you live in a country with free and fair elections, vote. Every time. Spend some time in the months before an election learning about the candidates. If you’re unsure, ask questions.

Use Social Media.

Pick a topic or topics that is/are important to you and speak out about them. Learn about those topics and then educate others. Call in or call out people who are violating human rights. Build a following and have each of those people expand their influence. Build some of those contacts into political influence or power.

Run for Office.

If you are eligible and able to, run for local office. National politicians often start locally. Sometimes a local politician becomes powerful at making regional changes. Then, once you’re in office, you can band together with others to increase your power to change things.


Join a local protest group and march and protest with them. Take any classes they offer on effective protest. You can even learn how to lead protests and start planning them yourselves.

Donate to Causes.

It costs a lot of money to run for office and it costs money to run effecive protests. Whenever you can, throw a bit of money in the pot for a favorite person or cause. Every now and then, try to get friends and family to join you. You might even set up an automatic monthly debit.

Provide Material Support.

Cook meals for protesters. Paint signs. Or collect signatures. Make phone calls. Maybe even lick stamps. Perhaps file paperwork. In essence, do the unglamorous everyday jobs that keep an organization running.

Speak Up.

You can advocate anywhere, any time, with anyone. As an example, have a conversation with a beloved family member about why prison reform is important. Or you could bring up

Think Critically.

It’s very easy to get caught up in a cause and the bubble of people who support it. Sometimes that leads to being blind to problems your cause is making worse. Sometimes you need to stop and gather perspectives from others. Ultimately, your goal is to make sure your cause doesn’t interfere with another set of human rights.

Build Communities

Many human rights violations occur because humans are social animals and we are starved for human interactions. Look into organizing or joining mutual aid society (some in the US are listed here) or simply getting to know your neighbors (virtual and in person). Assist with community projects, and enjoy community support.

Thank you

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