Democracy and Human Rights


Main Idea

Throughout its history, the United States has worked to promote democracy and human rights.

Key Terms international tribunal, genocide, apartheid, sanctions, satellite, Cold War

Reading Strategy

Classifying Information As you read the section, complete a chart like the one below by describing the characteristics of these types of governments and giving an example of each.


fully Tree

Pa'tly Free

Not Free

■ Why are many nations turning to a more democratic form of government?

■ What actions are being taken to safeguard human rights?

„ Qnisrjcans m Action

On a visit to Guatemala in the late 1980s. Mark Richard saw a disabled woman crawling along a roadside. He made up his mind to bring the woman a wheelchair. When he returned to the United States, Mark contacted the local chapter of the Spinal Cord Injury Association. Together they began delivering wheelchairs. Mark and his brother, Richard, cofounded Wheels for Humanity. In a California warehouse, volunteers restore battered wheelchairs that are distributed to disabled children in Vietnam, Guatemala, Bosnia, Nicaragua, and many other countries. In four years. Wheels for Humanity distributed 4,000 wheelchairs in 26 countries. Monetary donations are Important. "We have to raise $125 per chairf David Richard says. "That is what it costs to go out, pick up a chair, refurbish It, box It, and ship It to another country."

Amputee Tun Channareth of Cambodia won the Nobel Prize for a campaign to ban land mines.

Standards for Human Rights

Human rights are the basic freedoms and rights that all people should enjoy. Human rights includc the right to safety, to food, and to shelter, among other things. In democracies like the United States, these rights lie ac the heart of the U.S. political system and enable citizens and noncitizens to worship as they please, speak freely, and read and write what they choose.

In recent decades, the issue of human rights has captured world attention. According to human rights* groups, despite democratic advances many governments still imprison and abuse people for speaking their minds. Among the countries accused of human rights violations arc China, Indonesia, and Myanmar. Other countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Cuba, and Sudan, have also been charged with sponsoring terrorist acts outside their borders.

'ITie good news is that human rights abuses arc more carefully monitored than they were. In South Africa5 Haiti, and El Salvador, for example, national commissions have investigated

622 Chapter 26

■4 caaaaa abuses of past governments, and international groups have called individuals to account for their war crimes.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1948 the United Nations adopted what has become the most important human rights document of the post-World War II years—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Addressing social and economic as well as political rights, the 30 articles of the Declaration form a statement not of the way things arc but of the way they should be.

Articles 1 and 2 proclaim that "all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights.5" Articles 3 to 21 state the civil and political rights of all human beings, including many of the same liberties and protections of the U.S. Constitution. They also include other rights, such as freedom of movement, the right co seek asylum, the right to a nationality, the right to marry and found a family, and the right to own property.

Articles 22 to 27 spell out the economic, social, and cultural rights of all people, including the right to social security, the right to work, the right to receive equal pay for equal work, the right to form and join trade unions, the right to enjoy rest and leisure, the right to have a standard of living adequate for health and well being, the right to education, and the right to participate in the cultural life of the community. Articles 28 to 30 state that all people should be free to enjoy all the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration.

Protecting Human Rights

The UN High Commissioner ibr Human Rights directs the organization's human rights activities. The Commissioner oversees programs that promote and protect human rights. For example, the UN Commission on Human Rights monitors and reports rights violations in all parts of the world. By drawing attention to these abuses, the UN hopes to bring pressure to halt them.

Ttie Political Process A citizen monitors a polling booth in Papuar New Guinea (left). Nenets people of northwest Siberia (below) and a Buddhist monk in Mongolia (bottom left) cast their ballots. In your opinion, is it important for citizens in emerging democracies to practice their right to vote? Why?

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Ttie Political Process A citizen monitors a polling booth in Papuar New Guinea (left). Nenets people of northwest Siberia (below) and a Buddhist monk in Mongolia (bottom left) cast their ballots. In your opinion, is it important for citizens in emerging democracies to practice their right to vote? Why?

The Law and You

Human Rights

Imagine you are on the staff of a member of the U.S. Congress. You have been asked Lo drafl a memo providing information and rccorn men ding a position on some key points in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fUNDHR). The focus ot the momo is the right to shelter and the right to health care. Those rights are not currently found in Lhe U.S. Constitution. While some people agree that it would be nice Lo have those rights, there is quite a lot of disagreement about those issues. The UNDHR is an international document created in 1948. Its 30 articles were intended lo be "a common sLandard ot achievement tor all peoples and all nations.' Human riglrts are rights that universally belong to people regardless of Lheir gender, race, language, national origin, age, class, religion, or political beliefs. A person has human rights simply because she or he is a human being.


Draft the memo that addresses the following questions: Why are these rights important? How much do these rights need to he protected in the United States? How would we pay for protecting these rights? What would lhe irnpacl be on taxpayers? What impact is fell right now by not having these rights protected? Do we have a moral responsibility to protect these rights?

In 199.3 the UN held the Second World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria. The 171 participating nations proclaimed that human rights arc the "concern of the international community" and that "all human rights are universal."

The Security Council has acted to punish human rights violators by establishing international tribunals. These arc courts with authority from the UK to hear cases and make judgments about violations of international human rights law. JLn 1993 a tribunal was set up to investigate and try-cases related to Che breakup of Yugoslavia. A number of military leaders and government officials, including Yugoslavia's former president, Slobodan Milosevic, have been tried. Many of them have been found guilty and punished.

During the 1990s, ethnic tensions in the liasc African nations of Rwanda and Burundi led to violent conflict. In 1994 the Hutu-led Rwandan government battled Tutsi-led guerrillas. In a genocide, or the deliberate killing of a racial or cultural group, Hutu forces killed more than 500,000 people. The International Criminal Tribunal Court for Rwanda began bringing to justice people accused of participating in the genocide.

Describing What do the UN's international tribunals do?

Spread of Democracy and Liberty

The United Nations has encouraged the spread of democracy and human rights throughout the world. So has the United States, which has made these causcs an important part of its foreign policy.

Growth of Democracy

At the beginning of the twentieth century, only about 1 2 percent of the world's people lived in a democracy. 13y 1950 there were 22 democratic nations with 31 percent of the world's population.

Over the next 50 years, democracy grew rapidly, especially after 1980. By 2001 nearly 60 percent of the world's population in 1 20 countries lived under conditions of democracy. A publication called Freedom in ihe World provides an annual evaluation of

■4 caaaaa political rights and civil liberties for more than 190 countries. At a minimum, "a democracy is a political system in which the people choose their authoritative leaders freely from among competing groups and individuals who were not choscn by the government."

Countries that go beyond this standard for democracy offer the broadest range of human rights, such as those stated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These countries are "fully free" democracies. In 200 1, there were 86 countries with free and democratic governments.

There were 58 "partly free" countries, 34 of which met die minimal standard for democracy by holding free and fair elections. None of these countries guaranteed a broad range of individual liberties beyond those political freedoms, however. Twenty-four of the upartly free" countries did not quite measure up to the minimal standard for democracy.

In 2001 about 35 pcrccnt of the world's population lived in 48 countries that were not free. These nondemocracies often practiced or permitted terrible violations of human rights.

Fight for Rights In South Africa and Afghanistan

White leaders of South Africa legalized and strengthened a policy of racial separation between blacks and whites called apartheid. Apartheid laws dictated where blacks could travel, eat, and go to school. Black people could not vote or own property, and they could be jailed indefinitely without cause.

For more than 40 years, people inside and outside South Africa protested against the practice of apartheid. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned in 1962 on charges of treason, became a symbol of the struggle for freedom in South Africa. Both the United States and the European Economic Community (now known as the European Union) ordered economic sanctions, or coercive measures, against South Africa, and U.S. businesses began to withdraw their investments. Mounting pressure from foreign countries and the anti-apartheid movement brought a gradual end to apartheid. In April 1994, South Africa held its first election open to all races, and elected Nelson Mandela as the first black president.

Conflict The cycle of violence. wars between nations, and civil wars within nations, have brought much suffering to the people of the Middle East. This poster, hanging in Jerusalem, expresses the wish of those tired of conflict. What might make people who share a language arid religion feel loyal to one another, wherever they live?

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