Types of Human Rights


  1. Individual (civil) rights

life, liberty, and security of the person; privacy and freedom of movement; ownership of property; freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice; prohibition of slavery, torture, and cruel or degrading punishment.

  1. Rule of law

equal recognition before the law and equal protection of the law; effective legal remedy for violation of rights; impartial hearing and trial; presumption of innocence; and prohibition of arbitrary arrest.

  1. Rights of political expression

freedom of expression, assembly, and association; the right to take part in government; and periodic and meaningful elections with universal and equal suffrage.

  1. Economic and social rights

an adequate standard of living; free choice of employment; protection against unemployment; “just and favorable remuneration”; the right to form and join trade unions; “reasonable limitation of working hours”; free elementary education; social security; and the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

  1. Rights of communities

self-determination and protection of minority cultures.



Three Generations (Phases) of Human Rights Philosophy

  1. Enlightenment (17th-18th Century)

The first tier or “generation” consists of civil and political rights and derives primarily from the seventeenth and eighteenth-century political theories noted earlier which are associated with the English, American, and French revolutions. Think “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This approach favors limiting government by placing restrictions on state action. The rights set forth in Articles 2-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include: freedom from discrimination; freedom from slavery; freedom from torture and from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to a fair and public trial; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; and the right to participate in government through free elections.

  1. Socialist tradition (19th century)

The second generation of rights broadens the primarily political focus of of earlier views to include economic, social, and cultural rights. This view originates primarily in the socialist traditions of Marx and Lenin. According to this view, rights are conceived more in positive rather than negative terms, and thus encourage the intervention of the state. Illustrative of these rights are Articles 22-27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They include the right to social security; the right to work; the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of self and family; and the right to education.

  1. The third generation of “solidarity rights” (20th century)

These views are a product of the rise and decline of the nation-state in the last half of the twentieth century. These rights have been championed by the Third World and remain somewhat controversial and debated. The specific rights include the right to political, economic, social, and cultural self-determination; the right to economic and social development; and the right to participate in and benefit from “the common heritage of mankind.”