Written by by Lucy Hollinrake, CNN
International Human Rights Day, commemorated on December 10 each year, is a time to celebrate the steps taken to protect human rights in recent years. Yet political leaders around the world remain divided on how to ensure these rights are upheld.
As over 100 countries around the world mark the event, CNN takes a look at some of the efforts behind the human rights revolution, and where the gains go to rest.
According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the presence of refugees and migrants in the world is now a reality. It has more than doubled in number in the last two decades, now making up almost 20% of the population in some regions.
The UN itself says these “profoundly affected” people experience a wide range of human rights problems. So many are driven from their homes by conflicts, discrimination and displacement. But they are also vulnerable, often escaping corruption, human rights abuses and terrorism themselves.
Oppression still persists
No place is immune from human rights violations, as shown by the speed at which they spread across borders. In 2016 the government of Syria was responsible for mass murder, and in 2015 ISIS forces in Iraq were responsible for murder, torture and forcible displacement. And despite Nobel Peace Laureates and subsequent national ceasefires in Syria, torture continues to be rife.
The reality remains that many people’s human rights are violated daily on the basis of race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. And nearly half of the world’s population live in countries where it is still illegal to be gay or lesbian.
Activists around the world are working to bring these discriminatory laws to an end, with organizations such as ORCA International and Rainbow Railroad among the leading forces.
The right to be left alone
Political leaders have not always been successful in ensuring these rights are respected. In countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, they have been introduced in a discriminatory fashion and still continue to spread the right to be left alone.
Legislative opinions in Turkey frequently argue for the right to be just, regardless of sexual orientation, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regularly adding fuel to the fire with his comments about LGBT rights, saying that what people may or may not do is up to the individuals, but that society would not condone this “blasphemy.”
Human rights activists and advocacy groups have played a prominent role in advancing human rights around the world. In Bangladesh , tens of thousands of garment workers protested against wage disparities. So powerful was their grassroots organization that over a million people marched in Dhaka in 2016, to protest the shutdown of garment factories.
In China , citizens have demanded an end to the use of food additives and forced sterilization. A system of labor camps is one such practice that is not mentioned in China’s constitution, yet human rights defenders are pushing to repeal it.
Countries, such as China and the US, which have been accused of suppressing human rights have been working to improve their records through investment. Still, many remain in an “abuse status”, indicating that there are still major problems with human rights in those countries.
Voluntary national ownership
Human rights governance experts suggest that countries should commit to their own individual human rights laws when signing U.N. conventions, but commit to remaining accountable for these commitments.
International rights not only apply to individuals, but also to societies that are affected by them. Taking action and demonstrating effort — is fundamental to the relationship between human rights and society. However, many governments do not recognize collective responsibility. The responsibility to respect individuals’ rights is more often considered a rights issue, which is based on the individual suffering.
The indirect approach: Legal incentives
However, while the responsibility to respect individuals’ rights is widely regarded as a rights issue, there is not always clear evidence that improving or enforcing an individual’s rights leads to a more human rights-friendly society.
While governments may adopt the rights of their citizens, developing countries are often prevented from implementing these rights because they have no legal capacity to do so.
Most governments encourage citizens to voice their own complaints about the government to their elected officials. A new legal mechanism is now being developed to offer protection for the hard-working people that are now being thrown out of work and thrown away like rubble.
The so-called “anti-discrimination laws” will offer redress