Update > Rights



Rights give people a right to claim something from the state. They give people:

• permission to do/have something or;

• protection from something or someone or;

• an entitlement to do/have something.

There are two important kinds of rights. “Negative rights” are those rights that only require others not to interfere with a person’s freedom to do something. For example, the right to freedom of movement only requires that others do not prevent a person from moving freely. “Positive rights” are those rights that require others to do something to satisfy those rights. For example, the right to free education requires someone to provide the opportunity to be educated. This section looks at two kinds of rights: civil and political rights and social, economic, and cultural rights.


Civil and Political Rights (First Generation Rights)

Civil and political rights are based on the ideas of individual freedom and natural rights. They claim that there are things that rulers should not be allowed to do, and that people should take part in making the political decisions that affect them. Civil and political rights guarantee that each person has the same rights to take part in the politics of their community. This means that they have the right to elect — and to be elected to— political office. They also guarantee that people are free from political discrimination. Civil and political rights include the right to participate in government, the right to form or join political organisations and freedom of speech. Most civil and political rights describe what the government are not allowed to do to an individual (threaten, torture, unfairly discriminate against, etc.). They do not usually require any resources for the rights to be fulfilled. They only require that others do not interfere with our individual rights and freedoms.


Social, economic and Cultural rights (second generation rights)

These rights are related to how people live, work and gain the basic necessities of life. People started talking about them during the rise of industrialisation and the working class in the 19th century. These people claimed that human dignity required more than just civil and political rights. They claimed that people had rights to basic social and economic conditions such as adequate housing, education and employment. Social, economic and cultural rights try to guarantee that all people have access to the goods, services, and opportunities they need. The goal of these rights is to achieve greater social and economic equality. They include the right to education, health care, an adequate standard of living and housing, work, and support if you are unemployed, old or disabled. Unlike civil and political rights, most social, economic and cultural rights require other people to do something for them to be fulfilled. Examples of this include the right to education and the right to health care. Governments have a responsibility to provide the resources (e.g. schools and hospitals) and services (e.g. teaching and medical treatment) that are necessary for them to be fulfilled.