Inter-Parliamentary Alliance for Human Rights and Global Peace

History - Human Rights Introduction

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1789 - 2010 Key Events »

Human Rights Introduction

1789-2010

In August 1798, born from the tumult of the French Revolution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen took the first step towards enshrining in law the concept that the individual and collective rights of man were universal and subject to protection. Though a product of the philosophical developments of the eighteenth-century enlightenment and limited in its scope to protecting the rights of male, French citizens, the Declaration can be considered the first attempt to politically redress the denial of man?s natural freedoms. In the two centuries since the French Revolution, the attempt to expand the conception of human rights to encompass a universal standard and to protect those rights from abuse is ongoing. Internationally, we have witnessed moments of advance, but also of regression in the protection of personal freedoms and civil liberties throughout the world.

Spanning a century and the Atlantic Ocean, the fight to abolish slavery shaped the nineteenth-century. From 1815, when the Congress of Vienna condemned the international slave trade, to 1865, when the thirteenth amendment was finally passed into law in the United States of America, individuals and organisations sought to gain support for the abolition of an institution that denied the very humanity of those labelled ?slave?. In England, William Wilberforce worked tirelessly for the support of the British government in banning the slave trade in the British Empire, a motion approved by the British Parliament in 1807. In the Americas, the issue of slavery split a nation, contributing to a Civil War that found partial resolution in Lincoln?s Gettysburg Address and a reiteration of the principles of the American Revolution.

During the first decades of the twentieth-century, increasing industrialisation in the countries of Old Europe and North America marked the century with its progress. Whilst Marx and Engels had already highlighted the worker?s struggle in their 1848 Communist Manifesto, it was not until 1917, when Lenin stood up to declare, ?Peace, Bread and Land?, that the worker?s struggle was given both a revolutionary and a political voice. It was one that would reverberate throughout the rest of the twentieth-century, focusing attention not only upon the exploited of Europe, but also upon those other victims of the industrial age; the populations of Africa and Asia.

Imperialism left a contested legacy for the continents of both Africa and Asia. From 1900 to 1915 a wave of uprisings occurred amongst the colonized peoples of Africa, culminating in a move towards independence that saw Ghana achieve the right to self-rule in 1957. In India, the desire of colonised peoples to rule themselves without imperial exploitation was peacefully expressed by Ghandi when, in 1930, he led a march to Dandi to protest the salt tax imposed by the foreign British Government.

Throughout the twentieth-century, some advances have been made towards the universal protection of Human Rights and Civil Liberties. The devastation caused by the First and Second World Wars and the genocides and regional conflicts that have marred the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries have prompted the establishment of international organizations for the mitigation of violent conflict and the protection of Human Rights. The United Nations was founded in 1945 with the aim of promoting global peace and the protection of Human Rights worldwide. In 1955 Martin Luther King Jr. articulated a dream for equality in the United States that was partially realized in 1964, when the Omnibus Civil Rights Bill banned discrimination in voting, jobs and public accommodation ? the same year that Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

Whilst the 1970s saw an increasing focus upon redressing human rights abuses, with movements against apartheid in South Africa, genocide in Cambodia and the torture of political opponents in Chile, many instances of exclusion and repression remain in the world today. The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 signalled a move towards a more open world; one in which individual freedoms are not curtailed by physical, political, social or economic walls. The work of expanding this freedom to those peoples suffering exclusion, violence and denial of rights in other areas of the world, and reconciling those peoples effected by violence, oppression and ethnic division, must remain an ongoing and urgent concern of the international community.

1789 - 2010 Key Events

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1789

The French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

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1815

Committee on the International Slave Trade Issue, Congress of Vienna

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1863

Lincoln?s Emancipation Proclamation

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1902-1913

The Philippine War of Independence

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1907

The Central American Peace Conference

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1917

Two Russian Revolutions

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1919

Foundation of the International Labour Organization (ILO)

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1919

The Treaty of Versailles

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1924

The League of Nations adopts the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child

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1926

The Geneva Conference adopts Slavery Convention

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1929-1933

Soviet Imposed Ukrainian Genocide

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1930

The Civil Disobedience Movement and Ghandi?s Salt March

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1930

The ILO adopts the Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour

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1933-1945

The Holocaust

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1937

The Parsley Massacre

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1937

Nanking

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1941

FDR?s ?Four Freedoms? Speech

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1945

Establishment of the United Nations

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1945

Foundation of the International Court of Justice

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1948

A Year for Human Rights

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1949-1993

Tibet

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1955

The Civil Rights Movement, United States

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1959

Establishment of The European Court of Human Rights

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1960s-70s

Feminist Movements

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1964

The Civil Rights Act

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1970s

Global Coverage of International Human Rights Issues

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1975-1979

Khmer Rouge, Cambodia

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1979

UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

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1980s

Latin American Dictatorships end (Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay)

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1981

The Organization for African Unity adopts the African Charter of Human and People's Rights (OAU)

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1986-1989

al-Anfal Campaign, Iraq

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1989

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

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1992-1995

Bosnia-Herzegovenia

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1994

The Rwandan Genocide

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2003

Ongoing The Darfur Conflict

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2008

Australia Apologizes to ?The Stolen Generation?