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Introduction to Week 2

In this video, Educators Jos Boys and Karen Soldatic introduce Week 2 of the Working with Disability course, which looks at human rights.
MAN: FutureLearn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia. Introduction to Week 2.
JOS BOYS: Last week we talked about human rights. We just began to introduce the idea of human rights, but in a much wider sense of what counts as human, and human diversity. This week we want to focus in much more directly on humans rights themselves and on the whole history of that term, and of why they’re important. So Karen, if you tell us a little bit about that.
KAREN SOLDATIC: 2016 is an incredibly important year for persons with disabilities in the area of human rights because it marks 10 years of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities being ratified at the General Assembly at the UN, and then being ratified across a number of nations.
JOS: So tell me– just tell us a little bit more about the United Nation, the UN, and why they’ve got involved in human rights.
KAREN: Sure. So the United Nations comes out of the League of Nations, which was established almost– probably over 100 years ago now. And it was established to look at ways in which governments can protect their citizens and also allow their citizens different forms of freedom. If we think about the Second World War, we know what happened to the Jewish population in Germany and across the world. We also know from some incredible disability research that that occurred on people with disabilities who were German as well. So human rights actually develops to protect citizens and non-citizens initially from state violence, or violence from their government.
But over time, it has emerged as a way to set a moral framework to govern the way that we behave with other people, and how we begin to understand what it actually means to be human, and the kinds of things that need to be in place for that to be realised at our day-to-day level. So not just this big political idea of a human right, and to be free from state violence, and to be able to access employment, but actually what will it mean for that to occur at a day-to-day level so we can exercise our full human capabilities.
JOS: So mainly what we’ll be looking at this week is what those human rights are in more detail. And we’ll be asking you to think about what their value is, how they’re being used, and we’ll look at some examples to help you think through just what human rights are about.

In the previous step, you learned that human rights build on ideas of human diversity, as they are a set of rights afforded to all people by virtue of being human. In this video, Educators Jos Boys and Karen Soldatic provide a brief background on the development of human rights and introduce the week.

As Karen explains, human rights first emerged in response to particular acts of state violence in the mid-20th century and a need to protect citizens from discrimination and abuses by their governments. However, they have since evolved into a moral framework for understanding one another and exercising our full human capabilities.

This week, we cover the history and development of human rights from the early 20th century to the present. We explore the impact of discrimination on the lives of people with disabilities and introduce the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as an instrument for combatting disability discrimination and working towards a good life.

As Karen reminds us, 2016 marks 10 years since the UNCRPD was ratified at the UN General Assembly. Such an anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate progress, but it also reminds us of the work still to be done in translating international human rights frameworks into local policies and legislation in different communities around the world. So over the week, we move from global understandings of human rights to more local ways of working with human rights in everyday life.

Talking points

  • What do you associate with the term “human rights”?
  • Can you think of any historical or contemporary examples where you have heard about the human rights of a group of people being violated?
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