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When compared with other animals humans posses greater intelligence and creativity.

This had paved way to the technological and cultural advancement of humans. During the
process of evolution and civilization people recognized the rights of others. During the
primary stages of civilization rights were based on clan membership. Members of the
clan lived collectively and they respected the members of their clan. Human rights stands
for universal rights acquired by the birth as a human. These rights are global and non
negotiable rights. Unlike the group based rights of the cave age , human rights are
common to all the people. Britannica ready reference encyclopedia defines human rights
as the “rights that belongs to an individual as consequence of being human.”

Human rights discourse was not a newly invented phenomena. It was seen under the
names of various movements , texts and religious preaching’s. For instance earliest proof
of specific rights of humans was found on ancient scriptures and religious authorities
such as hindu Vedas , Babylonian code of Haburabi , The Bible , The Quoran and the
teachings of Confucius. In addition the Buddhist teachings such as Panchaseela shows
the value of human rights. For instance the Danda Vagga of Dammapada , the words of
Buddha states

“Sabbe Thasanthi Dandassa – Sabbe San Jeewithan Piyan


Aththanam Upamankathva – Na Hanneya na ghatheya”

This means “All fear , punishment to all life is dear. Comparing oneself with others , one
should neither kill or cause to kill”. This Dammapada verse shows the right to life. Right
to refrain from torture and punishment which is accepted as a universal right under
various human rights declarations. However the history of modern human rights is said to
have classical precursor’s running back to Roman civilization. Roman law and
philosophy was based on natural rights. It was a “system of rights or justice common to
all human kind and was derived from the fundamentals of nature rather than society”.
This view was supported by intellectuals such as Cicero , St. Paul and St. Thomas
Acquinas. Modern advocates of natural law include Hugo Grotios and Thomas
Hobbs.Natural rights discourse lasted till the end of middle ages. Beginning of the human
rights movement was marked by the renaissance. The evolution of rights could be
categorized in to theree distinct stages.

 First Generation - Civil and Political rights


 Second Generation - Economic social and Cultural Rights
 Third Generation - Solidarity rights

Lets briefly discuss the development of these rights in world history.

First generation rights were born through the enlighment , which created a dramatic
change in human perception and way to life. The revolutions including French , English
and Russian revolution and the independence movement of United states contributed
immensly towards the development of human rights. Bill of rights and Magna Carta laid

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the primary foundations of human rights. Similar outcomes were resulted from the
French and English revolutions. These revolutions contributed immensely towards
development of political and civil rights. The rights won includes the right to freedom ,
speech and worship.

The second generation of rights were born as an aftermath of the industrial revolution.
Due to the invention of new technology europe moved to a production oriented society.
Large amount of peasants migrated to cities and thousands of such people including
women and children had to work in these factories. They worked under extremly poor
working conditions. Small children were employed in factories and they were deprived of
due education and nutrition. As a result of oppression and violation of basic rights people
fought against the capitalist society demanding for their rights. This struggle resulted in
the labour rights such as access to better working condition. Some people claim that these
struggles laid the foundation to the modern labour rights.

The third generation of rights evolved during the process of decolonization. During the
time of decolonization many independent states evolved in the international system. Most
of them gained independence from large colonies such as Britain and France. During the
colonial era the colony rulers exploited the resources of their colonies. In addition they
destroyed the traditional political and social structures and implemented their own
policies in these countries. Sri Lanka also underwent this process under three nations.
The rulers mercilessly crushed the independence movements and used all the resources
of the colonies for their betterment. The colonies were used as markets for the goods
created through industrial revolution. In addition colonies generated necessary riches to
continue industrial expansion. With the decolonization the newly evolved states wanted
to prevent another era of colonialism. All the nations advocated independent political
rights for all the nations. Constitutions of many such nations included these rights in to
their constitutions. Modern discourses such as right to self determination evolved during
this era.

World wars also played a key role in development of human rights. Both world wars
resulted a great loss of lives and property. World War II fought between the axis powers
and allies resulted the most shocking violations of human rights. According to literature
the carnage of World War two is so massive that still it's not properly assessed. The racial
extermination of Jews carried out by Adolph Hitler was a major concern of the allies. The
combined attacks against Axis powers was launched to free the sufferers of these attacks.
In addition bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused the deaths of thousands who did not
had any link with the world war. The international community wanted to prevent such
violations and they created United Nations in order to establish the world peace.
Protection of the human rights was a key concern of the United Nations system. This
could be proved through the preamble of the U.N charter.

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“...to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our
lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in
fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the
equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, ... “

Birth of U.N marks a milestone in human rights. United nations has large number of
measures to prevent human rights violations. U.N general assembly has passed many
legislation related to human rights. The universal declaration of Human rights , Covenant
of Civil and political rights , Covenant on economic , social and cultural rights ,
Convention against the torture and genocide , conventions of the rights of child and
convention on discrimination against women are some of the key human rights
documents published by U.N. Most of these documents enter the legislation of the
member nations after ratification by the legislative bodies of the respective nations. For
instance Sri Lanka has stopped executing the death sentence because they have signed for
the Optional protocol of the civil and political rights. U.N practically involved in the
prevention of the human rights violations through the Security Council. The security
council has the rights to deploy U.N peacekeeping troops to prevent human rights
violations in conflict conditions. Presently a U.N mission including members of the Sri
Lankan armed forces is deployed in Haiti to protect the civilians from the ongoing civil
war. The International Court of Justice acts as a international court of justice can help the
protection of human rights. In addition to prevention of deadly conflicts this court has the
right to take action against mass violations of human rights such as genocide and racial
extermination.

The general assembly also plays an important role in human rights protection. Almost all
the nations of the world are represented in United Nations. During it’s life span of nearly
fifty years it has produced a large number of declarations and covenants and charters on
human rights. Most of these documents are later ratified by the member states and is
added to the legislation of the member states. These declarations are aimed at protecting
the rights of specific groups such as children, women, displaced people, and workers.

The UN conventions and other documents are not legally binding in most of the states.
However it’s evident that these declarations have a huge impact and influence in shaping
the human rights legislation of the member states.

Some nations have accepted that UN declarations are legally binding within their states.
This could be recognized as an important trend in the human rights and fundamental
rights history. The

A large number of U.N member organizations committed to the protection of human


rights. These organizations are committed to protect the specific rights such as child
rights , labour rights and women’s rights.