Please see below selected recent rights-related change.
- What's New? - Rights
- What's Changing? - Equality
- What's Changing? - Animals
- What's Changing? - Disability
- What's Changing? - Diversity
- What's Changing? - Gender
- What's Changing? - Law
- The Komi Memem river in was granted legal personhood, meaning it is now classed as a living entity with legal rights. This followed in the footsteps of the Whanganui river in New Zealand, Canada’s Magpie river, hundreds of rivers in Bangladesh and more, as part of the Rights of Nature movement, a legal framework designed to give vulnerable non-human entities representation in courts and help give them greater protections.
- 2023 marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a cause for celebration, according to the Financial Times, which at the same warned that now is also a time to re-evaluate the international human rights framework, which is facing novel challenges, with freedoms being weakened by populism and technology, as well as an emerging coalition of autocratic states.
- In 2022, 186 human rights activists were murdered in Colombia - nearly half of the total worldwide. Since the government’s landmark 2016 peace deal with Marxist rebels, local social leaders have been targeted as cartels and smaller armed groups take over swathes of territory that the government is still unable to control.
- Human rights are central to what it means to be human. They were drafted and agreed to define freedoms and entitlements that would allow every human being to live a life of liberty and dignity. Meanwhile AI, its systems and its processes have the potential to alter the human experience fundamentally. But many sets of AI governance principles produced by companies, governments, civil society and international organisations do not mention human rights at all. This is an error that requires urgent correction, argued Chatham House.
- The River Ouse in Sussex could be the first in England to be given legal rights, amid growing concern about pollution in Britain’s waterways. Lewes district council in East Sussex passed a rights of river motion in an effort to improve the health of local waterways, giving them similar protection to people. On the back of the motion, a charter on the river’s rights was being developed, and was likely to be similar to the Universal Declaration of River Rights.
- Human rights are central to what it means to be human. They were drafted and agreed, with worldwide popular support, to define freedoms and entitlements that would allow every human being to live a life of liberty and dignity. AI, its systems and its processes have the potential to alter the human experience fundamentally. But many sets of AI governance principles produced by companies, governments, civil society and international organisations do not mention human rights at all. This is an error that requires urgent correction, argued Chatham House.
- In 2022, the UN declared access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.
- As leaders increasingly negotiate measures to protect the natural world from the climate crisis, more nations may give rights to animals, trees and rivers. A few nations have already led the way. New Zealand, the US, Bolivia, Ecuador and Bangladesh have granted rights to elements of the natural world. In New Zealand, the Whanganui river was granted personhood in 2017, meaning it can now sue those who pollute it, and in 2019, Bangladesh declared all of its rivers should be treated as people.
- A Dutch court said it was a human rights violation to demand employees work with their webcams on. In a case involving a Dutch telemarketer hired by a US firm, the court ruled that insisting on webcams is "in conflict with the respect for the privacy of workers".
- Russia ordered the country’s oldest human rights group to close. Memorial International was dedicated to remembering the victims of the Stalinist era.
- Human rights as an area of research and teaching in business schools has expanded significantly, taking in topics as diverse as outsourcing, land rights and privacy. Academics cite a focus on migrant workers’ conditions in the Gulf, cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the responsibilities of Facebook around disinformation in social media.
- Human Rights Watch warned that the at-risk list in Afghanistan extended to all who worked for foreign-funded or domestic civil society groups, promoting democracy and women’s rights, and many journalists, writers and academics. Indeed, very large numbers - including potentially all women and girls - may be at risk of persecution.
- Shifts in geopolitical power and the rise of authoritarianism are disrupting the dynamics for making progress on human rights globally. At the same time, the relevance of the global human rights framework is being called into question by some of our most acute social challenges rapidly evolving technology, deepening inequality and the climate crisis. Chatham House’s Human Rights Pathways Initiative explored how alliances, strategies and institutions are adapting, and will need to evolve, to strengthen human rights protection in this increasingly contested and complex global environment.
- Young people tend to be more technologically literate than their predecessors and also represent the majority of internet users and social media consumers in many countries. They can therefore play a key role in innovating and imagining rights-based solutions to emerging problems for the human rights framework, such as illegitimate collection of data by governments and companies, microtargeting by online platforms, and the sharing of harmful content online. In many cases, international human rights practices have failed to keep pace with these changes and the challenges they bring, warned Chatham House.
- As the coronavirus spread around the world, governments brought in tight restrictions in a bid to halt its spread. But while those measures helped slow the pandemic, a report said they may have damaged human rights. Almost half of the world’s democracies have gone backwards in 2020 on democratic and rights standards, according to the international Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Their study says 43% of democracies - including countries like India, Poland and Argentina - brought in restrictions "that were either illegal, disproportionate, indefinite or unnecessary". Including non-democratic nations, that figure rises to 61% of countries worldwide. Restrictions on information about the virus, covering up outbreaks, indecision about holding elections and curtailing media freedoms all served to undermine people’s rights or even their faith in democracy.
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child was undermined by the pandemic. Closing schools for face-to-face teaching has an immediate impact on children’s right to education, one that is particularly severe for those who face digital exclusion or for whom online learning is neither accessible nor appropriate. During lockdown, losing access to school meals deprived many children of their right to adequate nutritious food. Children living in poor-quality housing spent extensive time in conditions inconsistent with their right to a standard of living adequate for their development. Social isolation undermined their right to the highest attainable standard of mental health, while school closures increased vulnerability to different kinds of abuse at a time of reduced child protection services, noted Prospect.
- Access to the internet is a basic human right, the United Nations declared in 2016. But, as the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted, it is a right that is still denied to billions of people at a time when connectivity has never been more important, warned the Financial Times. For professional classes in rich countries with good internet access and the ability to work from home, the crisis has been made infinitely easier thanks to Zoom video calls and Amazon deliveries. It has been a far more precarious existence for those who have manual jobs and children at home with no internet access. Across the world some 1.2bn students have been kept away from school or college. That digital divide runs between countries. In Europe, 87 per cent of households enjoy internet access, while that figure is only 18 per cent in Africa.
- The overwhelming majority of those killed by Brazilian police are black. Of the roughly 9,000 people killed by Rio police over the past decade, three quarters of them were black men, according to Human Rights Watch.
- During the coronavirus global public health emergency, governments must strike the right balance between assertive measures to slow the spread of the virus and protect lives on the one hand, and respect for human autonomy, dignity and equality on the other. International law already recognises the grave impact of pandemics and other catastrophic events on social order and provides criteria to guide states in their emergency action. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permits curbs on the right to ‘liberty of movement’ so long as restrictions are provided by law, deemed necessary to protect public health, and consistent with other rights in that treaty. Freedom of expression and association, and the rights to privacy and family life are also qualified in these terms under international and regional human rights treaties. But, as emphasised in the Siracusa Principles, any limitations must not be applied in an arbitrary or discriminatory way, and must be of limited duration and subject to review, warned Chatham House.
- Human rights are under attack, warned the Financial Times. Within the global movement, it’s widely accepted that the onslaught on the human rights agenda is more ferocious now than ever before. This is reflected in many ways. The brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrators; new laws to restrict the activities and funding of non-governmental organisations; greater difficulties in raising human rights issues at UN meetings; and harsh retaliation against those who dare to speak out. Whether murdering journalists in embassies or consulates, provoking violence against dissidents by calling them “enemies of the people” or arresting them in record numbers, the goal is the same, believes the F|T: to silence those who have called out governments, or shared information with the UN, on human rights violations.
- Human rights falter in grey areas of procurement policy, Workers are often the victims when there are gaps in legal procurement and ethical procurement, but businesses nowadays have a lot to lose as the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined. The recent history of procurement by global consumer brands is littered with what Raconteur calls the "reputational detritus of bad ethics and selective legality". Fast fashion, in particular, has struggled to keep its name out of incriminating headlines, with ethical procurement issues ranging from ongoing stories around ‘dirty’ cotton, through ‘cry for help’ labels sewn into high street clothes, to the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where 1,134 lost their lives.
- The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert warned. The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law. The report was also critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat” and concluded: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”
- The Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights institution, reinstated Russia's voting rights several years after revoking them over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine was incensed and other Western European governments may see the scot-free readmission as a blot on the integrity of an institution that defends civil liberties for more than 800 million people. But supporters of the move say it's better to give human rights activists struggling within Russia some recourse to the Council's legal protections than to risk stranding them if Russia leaves the body all together. Most Russians polled agree. And from a purely pecuniary perspective, a reinstated Russia will start paying its 10 percent share of the Council's annual budget again, noted GZEROMedia.
- The right to health care is encompassed in numerous human rights instruments. According to the World Health Organisation, Universal health coverage implementation should ensure that governments provide all individuals and communities, including migrants, adequate health services without causing financial hardship. However, the conflict between international obligations and national legislation covering health and migration is evident in the barriers, both formal and informal to health care which migrants increasingly experience, warned Chatham House.
- The Bill of Data Rights argued that we need a new paradigm which captures the ways in which an ambient blanket of data changes our relationships with one another - as family, as friends, as co-workers, as consumers, and as citizens. To do so, this paradigm must be grounded in a foundational understanding that people have data rights and that governments must safeguard those rights, argued Exponential View.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018 against a backdrop of fractured global politics and rising nationalism. Eleanor Roosevelt, who led much of the work to craft the declaration, called it a “Magna Carta for all mankind”. Chatham House examined what this means for engagement on human rights issues and asked what networks and strategies are civil society and other actors developing to address the deteriorating space for human rights work, as well as how international human rights law contributes to solutions for current global challenges such as deepening inequality, new technologies and climate change.
- Human rights law guarantees rights, including to education, healthcare and social security, that have redistributive potential and so have the potential to mitigate inequality, noted Chatham House. International human rights law has come to embody a commitment to tackling substantive inequalities which impair human dignity. This requires the state to regulate markets, and redistribute resources, in order to prevent discrimination against disadvantaged groups such as the poor.
- Quartz warned that the global female shortage is becoming a human rights issue. India and China are already feeling the crunch, and neighbouring countries are suffering from bride trafficking. The World Health Organization says the natural sex ratio at birth is about 105 boys to every 100 girls and its best to have equal numbers of men and women in a society. A few extra boys may be needed for balance, because men die earlier.
- For example, for several decades in China, the most populated country in the world, sex ratios at birth have been much higher than 105, sometimes exceeding 120 boys for every 100 girls. Many parts of India, the second most populated country, have also, for decades, had a sex ratio at birth significantly higher than 105. The consequence is that in those countries combined—which together have a population of about 2.73 billion—there are now an estimated 80 million extra men. “Nothing like this has happened in human history,” the Washington Post wrote in a 2018 article.
- Members of the UN voted to send four countries - Bahrain, Cameroon, Eritrea and the Philippines - to its Human Rights Council. All are known human-rights abusers, according to the Economist. Defenders of the council insist that it still does good, with its three sessions a year putting a spotlight on human rights abuses around the world. But the council’s reputation and effectiveness would be enhanced if the General Assembly changed the way states are elected. the newspaper believes.
- Human Rights Watch published a report offering evidence of “mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment” in Xinjiang, China.
- Nicaragua expelled a UN human rights team. The UN’s Central America human rights office was told to close after publishing a report detailing repression, torture, and abuse of protesters by the government. More than 300 people have died in violent clashes between protesters and authorities since April.
- Global Voices published stories using video, focusing on human rights violations and the steps being taken to speak out on the abuses and try to protect minorities and disadvantaged communities.
- Microsoft will collaborate with NGOs and humanitarian organisations to accelerate breakthrough solutions to help monitor, detect and prevent human rights abuses. Deep learning has created the ability to better predict, analyse and respond to critical human rights situations. Utilising AI-powered speech translation, people can connect with pro bono lawyers who are protecting people’s human rights.