Moving from the late 20th century into the early 21st century, we have witnessed the advancement of human rights and the extension of the basis for human security as a more sophisticated concept of human rights has been embraced by more nations, and as human rights-related legal mechanisms, systems and actors have been improved. However, according to a 2006 report by Freedom House of the U.S., in terms of political rights and civil liberties, 89 out of 192 countries worldwide are in a state of freedom, whereas 58 countries are considered partly free with 45 countries not being free. In other words, the liberties of over 2.4 billion people around the world are restricted, in part or in whole. This means there still remain a number of challenges to cope with in our journey to universal and comprehensive human rights. Further, a global consensus has yet to be forged on the principles of human security which separate the safety of individuals from that of the nation itself and which puts individuals before the nation. The most urgent obstacle faced by us today in dealing with human rights issues may be the reality governed by the continuance of disruptive power politics as well as the absence of a supranational authority capable of promoting and monitoring the principles of human rights.
There’s a continuing debate over whether the pursuit of human rights is a universal right intrinsic to human nature or varies according to different cultures. Also, there’s another debate continuing over the precedence of economic development over human rights advancement or vice versa. Furthermore, some countries express reservations concerning human security, as human security focuses on the safety of individuals which is a subject not coverable via the nation-based approach. However, these arguments constitute a problem in themselves, as they often lead the debates to extremes. This is because there remains a vast middle area between these two domains of assertions.
From the perspective of the minimum requirements for human rights, the struggle for human rights is intrinsic to human nature. Human rights are desired and pursued by human beings regardless of their respective political or economic backgrounds, and the most fundamental human rights cannot be changed according to the circumstances. Also, it is difficult to justify the denial of some human rights for the sake of other rights.
Today, we are required to give our attention to two changes which are certain to serve as positive factors in dealing with the improvement of human rights and the expansion of the concept of human security. The two changes are the free flow of information and the nation states’ integration into the world order. Those days when governments controlled the flow of information among citizens have passed, and freely flowing information always works towards the protection and promotion of human rights. In this regard, a nations integration into the regional and world order does help diminish the overall chances of human rights violations.
Meanwhile, the impact of experience also cannot be ignored. The history of the 20th century testifies that only democracy and human rights can guarantee the conditions which allow individuals to achieve their potential. And these conditions have led gradually to the kind of political, societal and economic development which, in turn, allows individuals to realize their abilities to the fullest extent.
The history of humanity also testifies to the significance of views concerning human rights. The argument for the necessity of human rights and human security coming from and centering around the UN, presents the criteria for setting agendas to individual countries. Also, this argument is influential as norms to verify what is right in today’s world and what must be pursued. It is no longer easy for any country in the world to pursue anything contrary to human rights as national goals.
However, we have to keep in mind that our journey to universal human rights cannot be finished in a short period of time. We should recognize that universal human rights is a very long, hard process which must be completed concurrently with several other tasks in every corner of the world. Thus, not a single nation or region in the world has completely realized the value of universal human rights. The journey to universal human rights requires us to keep our eyes on the challenges ahead as we remember the fruits we have earned so far in our struggle for human rights.