The Past, Present and Future of Human Rights


Hello everyone! This week both of us Human Rights Interns (Matthew and Rimaz) worked together to bring to you this blog post where we are going to explain to you briefly what Human Rights are, and talk about their origins. The post will be contemplating the past, present and future of human rights.

We also produced a short video to introduce to you the 30 Human Rights presented in the declaration made by the United Nations (UN).   

Simply for being human, every person is entitled to fundamental rights. We call them ‘human rights’ because they are not a privilege: they are elements that allow you to be, to do or to have anything you wish. These rights are there for your protection against people who might want to harm or hurt you. They are also there to help us get along with each other and live in peace.

Many people know something about their rights. Generally people know they have the right to food and a safe shelter. But there are many other rights. When we are not aware or informed of our human rights, we become vulnerable to abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression and slavery.


Originally, people had rights only because they formed part of a group, such as a noble family. In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great (the founder of the Achaemenid Empire) freed all slaves. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history.

Documents regarding individual rights, such as the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the US Constitution (1787), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the US Bill of Rights (1791) are the written predecessor to many of today’s human rights documents.

Then World War II happened: 1939 to 1945. In April 1945, representatives from fifty countries met in San Francisco, full of hope. The goal of the United Nations Conference on International Organization was to construct an international law to promote peace and prevent future wars. The proposed charter of this new organisation commences as follows:

We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.

United Nations Charter, 1945.

The Charter of the new United Nations came into force on October 24, 1945.

A new beginning

Now we are going to show you the video that we created. You will see the human rights summarised from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

And today?

Human rights advocates agree that, sixty years after its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still more of a dream than a reality for a lot of countries. Violations exist in every part of the world.

Amnesty International’s 2009 World Report show that individuals are:

  • Tortured or abused in at least 81 countries
  • Face unfair trials in at least 54 countries
  • Restricted in their freedom of expression in at least 77 countries.

Unfortunately, we do not have to look far where people have their basic human rights violated. In Malta we can still see that a lot of marginalised people experience different forms of discrimination based on their sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, skin colour or ethnic origin, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.

The murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane, a 42-year-old migrant worker from the Ivory Coast, who was killed in a racially-motivated drive-by shooting in Ħal Far, is the drastic example of discrimination.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post. See you next week with their blog post! Have a great week!

The Human Rights Interns,
Matthew and Rimaz xxx

#KeepingUpWithTheInterns is part of our project Marginalised Persons as Human Rights Volunteers. If you want to follow Matthew and Rimaz as they navigate their way through Malta’s human rights landscape, subscribe to our News & Updates or follow them on our social media pages!

This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MEDE and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.