The concept of human rights is as old as human history itself. Different civilizations, as far back as the second millennium A.D., have derived some measure of human rights from religious documents, considering such “natural” rights as emanating directly from a superior being. Entitlement to those rights was often limited in scope, however, with women and slaves most often excluded from the enjoyment of certain rights.
It wasn’t until after of the Second World War, in 1948, that the community of nations, as represented by the United Nations General Assembly, decided to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which sets forth, in 30 articles, the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. The recognition of this Declaration was considered “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. While not legally binding, the (UDHR) has inspired several other pieces of international legislation regulating specific aspects of human rights, such as:
- the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951)
- the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969)
- the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1981)
- the Convention against Torture (1984)
- the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
In spite of such global efforts, the recognition of the basic rights of all human beings, regardless of their “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” remains far from universal. Often cultural traditions play against full recognition of the basic rights of certain groups of the population, notably women. Widespread poverty and lack of government resources often translate into inadequate provision of basic services, such as healthcare, sanitation and education –– not to mention, of course, the many areas of the world where wars and internal strife condemn many to a life of despair.
As the leading news agency of civil society and development, IPS devotes a large part of its editorial production to human rights worldwide.
- We maintain two thematic sites (in English and Spanish) with up–to–date stories on all aspects of human rights.
- Within the EU–funded Death Penalty Abolition Project, IPS reports on the ongoing debate surrounding capital punishment and the global moratorium.
- Indigenous peoples are amongst the most discriminated against group in many countries. IPS has a thematic website and a newsletter about indigenous peoples and their struggle to assert their rights.
Within the framework of a rights–based approach, IPS has always devoted attention to the rights of women and to various forms of gender–based discrimination . As an organisation IPS is committed to representation of women at all operational levels, more than half of the editors and close to half of the global management team are female.
An important ongoing global project focusing on gender is ‘Communicating for Change: Getting Voice, Visibility and Impact for Gender Equality’ (2009-2011), with anchor funding from the Dutch MDG3 Fund and with further contributions from UNIFEM (now UN Women) and others. This project contributed 250 stories, 100 podcasts and 10 videos to the IPS Women in the News site. The gender stories attracted 354,500 page views per month.
Special gender publications included a ‘Gender and Development Glossary’ in English, with French and Spanish editions; columns from Shirin Ebadi, Emma Bonino, Wangaari Mathai and Sylvia Borren; the IPS TerraViva conference newspapers at Beijing+15, ‘Equality and Empowerment of Women’ 2010 UN Annual Ministerial Review; ‘Eight Goals through a Gender Lens’ (MDGs Summit+10), 1325+10 (10th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325).
IPS maintained and expanded its knowledge site/portal with feeds from MDG3 grantees at www.ips.org/mdg3/ and prepared communication plans with six NGOs. IPS organised the media seminar ‘Women, Work and Leadership in Nicaragua; Gender equity, a key development goal’ in collaboration with UNDP and Fundación Puntos de Encuentro. IPS also organised a media discussion on gender violence, ‘ICTs and the role of media with APC Women’ in South Africa. IPS established media partnerships with groups including the OECD’s ‘Wikigender’ and the French online magazine ‘Egalitè’.