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Convention on the Rights of the Child

Background on human rights

© UNICEF/ HQ04-1169/LeMoyne
Human rights are inalienable: the rights of displaced persons cannot be taken away.

Human rights are standards that recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings. Human rights govern how individual human beings live in society and with each other, as well as their relationship with governments and the obligations that governments have towards them.

Human rights law obliges governments to do some things, and prevents them from doing others. Individuals also have responsibilities: in using their human rights, they must respect the rights of others. No government, group or individual person has the right to do anything that violates another’s rights. 

Inherent, inalienable and universal

Human rights are inherent; we are simply born with them and they belong to each of us as a result of our common humanity. Human rights are not owned by select people or given as a gift. They are inalienable; individuals cannot give them up and they cannot be taken away — even if governments do not recognize or protect them. They are universal; they are held by all people, everywhere – regardless of age, sex, race, religion, nationality, income level or any other status or condition in life. Human rights belong to each and every one of us equally.

Equal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent

All rights are equal and no right is superior to any other; there are no ‘small’ rights. Human rights are indivisible and interrelated, with a focus on the individual and the community as a whole. Although human rights are often divided into two categories—civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights—rights cannot be treated separately or in distinct categories because the enjoyment of one right usually depends on fulfillment of other rights. People who are denied civil and political rights, such as political participation, have no means to protect the economic, social and cultural rights covering such needs as education and health care. Similarly, where basic survival needs are not met, civil and political rights may be meaningless as people become overwhelmingly concerned with getting adequate food and shelter. Different rights therefore should not be considered in isolation.



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