//The Generations of Human Rights

The Generations of Human Rights

The Generations of Human Rights

Throughout history, human beings have embarked on a long and steep road in defense of their rights. This has cost the effort of many human beings.

The process of human rights has been gradual, which means that they have been achieved in different eras of humanity.  Today there is already a whole legislation that addresses in depth each of these rights.

It should be noted that it is the duty of governments to guarantee and respect the provisions of the Declaration of Human Rights. However, there are countries that do not take into account the importance of these at all.

So, the three generations of these rights make us reflect but also invites us to generate questions about how much is fulfilled or not in the countries where we live.

In Europe, for example, they have the European Human Rights System. This being one of the most advanced today. It has also served as a basis for other approved institutions.

Three Dimensions of Human Rights

First-generation Human Rights

As a first step of human rights, civil and political rights were included. These being the first to be legitimately recognized ending the eighteenth century. This in the framework of the Independence of the United States and in the French Revolution.

The origin of first-generation human rights comes from the French Revolution as a rebellion against the domination of the King. It attributes to the State to continuously respect the essential rights of the human being, such as the right to life, liberty, equality, among others.

Specifically, these rights seek to guarantee people’s freedom. Its fundamental objective is to delimit the intervention of power in the private life of people. As well as certifying the intervention of all in public projects.

Among the most significant civil rights are the following:

  • The right to life, the right to ideological and religious freedom
  • Right to free expression
  • The right to property.

On the other hand, they have political rights such as:

  • The right to vote
  • Right to strike
  • The right to associate freely to form a political party or a trade union, among others.

It should be noted that with the aforementioned rights, the value of freedom is basically defended.

Freedom - One of first-generation human rights
Freedom – One of first-generation human rights

Second-Generation Human Rights

As a second phase of progress in the field of human rights, economic, social and cultural rights are achieved. These rights were gradually added to the legislation in the period between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This stage was proposed for the first time in the world in the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States in 1917.

The purpose of these rights is to promote real equality between people. In this way they offer everyone the same opportunities, so that they can develop a dignified life. It also seeks to promote state action to guarantee access for all to an appropriate living scenario.

Among the second-generation human rights, we can mention the following:

  • In principle the right to education as well as the right to health
  • Next, we have the right to work and the right to decent housing.

Depending on how the indicators of a country are reflected according to these needs. It can be deduced whether the population has the given living conditions or not.

If citizens have these rights fully, the population will in a way be satisfied. For these are the minimum conditions for a human being to develop in its entirety.

Education is one of the human rights
Education is one of the human rights

Third-Generation Human Rights or Peoples’ Rights

As a last advance that has been made in the field of human rights, we have the third-generation human rights. These rights have been added to the laws in the period between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

This last stage was born as a response to the need for cooperation between nations, as well as the different groups that make it up. Among the rights are the following: Right to self-determination, economic and political independence,

In addition to national and cultural identity, peace, peaceful coexistence, understanding and trust, international and regional cooperation, international justice, among others.

Their objectives are to promote solidarity between the peoples and citizens of the planet.  As well as the promotion of serene and profitable relationships that allow us to face the new challenges to which Humanity is challenged.

Among the third-generation rights we can highlight the following:

  • The right to peace.
  • Right to development.
  • Likewise, the right to a clean environment that we can all enjoy.

The latter is of the utmost importance since we are currently being affected by climate change.

World Peace Day - January 1st
World Peace Day – January 1st


How were the 3 generations of human rights born?

In the year 1977, the Czech citizen by birth and French by nationalization, Karel Vasak proposed the theory of the 3 generations of human rights. This theory is one of the most influential. Based on the ideals of the French Revolution liberty, equality and fraternity, this highly influential theory also has detractors.

Karel Vasak was a human rights expert who was born in Czechoslovakia and studied law in France. During his studies in France Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union and that occupation. This caused Karel Vasak to remain in France and acquire French nationality. He worked in the Council of Europe until he reached the position of first secretary of the International Institute of Human Rights in France. He was secretary of the Institute from 1969 to 1980.

This experience made him a benchmark in the field of human rights. Years later he worked at UNESCO as director of the Human Rights Section.

Thanks to his career he was later an advisor to both UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization.

In 1977 he wrote an article that exposed his idea of the 3 generations of human rights. This model was based on the “three generations” model. This model was proposed by Thomas Marshal in the fifties in his essay “Citizenship and Social Class”. Karel Vasak’s article that marked a before and after is called “The Long Struggle for Human Rights”. It was published on page 29 of the magazine called “The UNESCO Courier” in its 30th edition.

With all this journey finely in 1979 he consolidated his theory inspired by the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. He is currently a reference in all theoretical analysis related to human rights.

The horrors of the Second World War and human rights
The horrors of the Second World War and human rights

Criticisms of Vasak’s theory.

Although it is one of the greatest references of human rights, it also has some critics. This is one of the drawbacks of the first generation of human rights, freedom. For Vasak, however, human rights were the most valuable thing. He witnessed the invasion of his country and the subjugation of Czech citizens by the Soviet Union.

This marked the search for Vasak from the start. This was the inspiration for his full-throated defense of human rights. One of the great problems during the Soviet Union was the suppression of the freedom to oppose the state. This would be what we would classify as first-generation rights.

The truth is that there are countries, ideologies and like-minded people who focus their gaze on collective human rights, ignoring the human being himself. By collectivizing human rights, they cease to be “human” to be ambiguous entities. Human rights are individual, not collective, and must be upheld for every man and woman.

On this basis, authoritarian regimes suppress freedom based on collective rights. As a result, first-generation rights are abolished, for the “benefit” of second- and third-generation rights. You cannot talk about human rights without freedom. That is why many critics of Karel Vasak deny the classification because they give primacy to one or the other.

Those who wish to suppress freedom aspire to put all human rights on the same level… But we are not really human if we are not free to exercise our humanity. The opposite would be a herd of animals cordial to each other, working at the orders of tyrannies.

Karel Vasak - Creator of the theory of the three generations of human rights
Karel Vasak – Creator of the theory of the three generations of human rights

Generations of rights, a way of approaching to understand them

We can see how rights do not come out of nowhere. These have been the result of the struggle that human beings have undertaken for centuries. Today there is legislation that covers all human rights.

It should be noted that in many countries they are respected. While in others rights violations are committed daily.

There is still a long way to go, and especially in the fulfillment of these rights as such. The task carried out by institutions such as Amnesty International has been arduous in order to respect and guarantee human rights in various countries of the world.

Now, it remains from our spaces to ensure that fundamental human rights are fulfilled. Taking into account that a real change will occur from small actions, which together will form a better future for humanity.