Every person has rights simply by virtue of being human. These rights –universal legal guarantees that represent the minimum standards required for individuals to live in dignity and with equal opportunity – cannot be taken away. Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted
in 1948, human rights have become codified in international, regional and national legal systems.
Human rights law obliges States to do certain things and to refrain from doing others. For example, States have an obligation to provide every individual with the opportunity for education. At the same time, they have the duty to reject any action that may result in discrimination against a group of individuals in exercising that right on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Under international human rights law, States have the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing others’ enjoyment of their human rights through laws, policies, programmes or practices. The obligation to protect requires them to safeguard individuals and groups against human rights abuses by others. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights through the creation of relevant procedures and institutions, the adoption of laws and policies, and by ensuring enforcement and adequate funding.
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