The international human rights framework

The founding statement of human rights law is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its famous preamble states that:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

The idea of human rights has been around for a very long time. Many of the regional and international systems for human rights, such as the United Nations, its treaty bodies and the Council of Europe, were created in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Some of the most historic dates in the human rights timeline, including the struggle for rights in the United States, the women’s liberation movement, the independence of many African and Asian states from colonial rule and the campaign against apartheid in South Africa, are within living memory. Today’s younger generation owe the recognition of a fundamental human rights framework to the older generation.

The ‘story’ of modern human rights is part of the living, human experience of older people in Scotland. This is shown in the timeline on the next page illustrating some of the developments in human rights law and developments in Scotland over the past 100 years.