Human rights

Use the video clips to explore human rights issues that have been examined by Parliament recently, and their effect on global trade and politics.

Origins of human rights

Although there is not one definitive list of human rights, it is commonly accepted that they are rights and freedoms that belong to all individuals, regardless of their nationality and citizenship. They are seen as fundamentally important to creating a free and fair society.

The principles of human rights have developed at domestic, regional and International levels. This has led to international and domestic human rights laws being enforced and monitored in different ways, so differences can arise in the standards that individual countries adopt.

Human rights in the UK

In the UK, Parliament plays a central role in debating and balancing the rights of the individual against the needs of the wider community. Starting with the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the UK has signed up to a large number of human rights treaties and protocols. By signing these agreements we agree, as a country, to uphold a set of universal rights.

Everyone in the UK is covered in law by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK has also agreed to abide by international human rights agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations human rights instruments (often called conventions, covenants or treaties), which are based on the common standards set out in the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights. Parliament regularly deals with the issues surrounding human rights when creating bills and through the work of its committees. You will find some examples that are being considered by Parliament below.

Recent debates

The video interview clips above feature Simon Hughes MP, member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, talking about contemporary human rights issues.  These include:

  • Why are human rights important?
  • Should we give prisoners the right to vote?
  • Should we have relations with countries that have a poor human rights record?
  • What happens when human rights conflict with national interest?
  • Should we deport people back to countries with a poor human rights record?


Note that the article above was produced in summer 2012. More recent parliamentary debates about aid and international development and the publication of new select committee reports may have taken place since then.

Classroom resources

View lesson plans and suggestions for classroom activities on the subject of human rights, aimed at key stage 4 and 5 students:

pdf file - 459 KB

pdf file - 520 KB