Human rights are those held by everyone by the mere fact of existing. They are formulated as rules with a strong ethical content, political consequences and legal guarantees contained in international and national legal systems.
From an ethical perspective, human rights are based on the recognition of the dignity of the person and are aimed at defending the latter. They also include the minimum cultural, economic and social conditions for people to be able to live according to that dignity. Their recognition is the outcome of a historical awareness process of the value of the person and the ensuing need to consider each person as an end in itself, while avoiding turning it into a means to achieve other purposes. The meaning of the dignity of the person has gradually been developed at each historical moment as new dimensions and specific points were recognised.
From a political perspective, human rights are an important tool to foster institutional and social changes. Acceptance of this regulatory framework means that this whole political and social reality must be subordinate to defending human dignity. That logic has led to legislation being developed to guarantee human rights and which are at the top of the legal hierarchy in our legal system.
Human rights have three fundamental characteristics. First, the rights are the same for all people, there are neither different rights for different people nor degrees in their recognition. Second, they are inalienable and people cannot be stripped of them because nobody can stop being human, even if they are behaving in an inhuman way. Third, they are universal, because they apply to all human beings in any circumstance.
Promoting human dignity has the following implications for the behaviour of individuals, the organisation of civil society and public institutions.
Human rights underpin the recognition of citizen rights. In that regard, they guarantee the respect of the dignity of each person and a platform for personal fulfilment. However, it is important to point out that the promotion of human rights mean that each person assumes duties with respect to the rights of others. On the one hand, each person is responsible for not doing anything that limits the human rights of other people. Yet beyond that ‘passive’ protection, the recognition of human rights involves the obligation to actively foster their effective compliance for everyone.
Social organisation can play a dual role in the promotion of human rights. First, they are fundamental to make private and public stakeholders respect human rights by means of their citizen education, denouncement, mentoring vulnerable groups and political pressure activities. Second, civil society organisations are capable of expanding the historical meaning of human rights and their specific political and social points by assuming the perspective of specific citizen groups. In order to be authentic defenders and promoters of human rights, social organisations need to assume the universal scope of human rights and work for their enjoyment by everyone.
The City Council, as the government of the municipality, is tasked, within its powers, with guaranteeing and fostering the fundamental rights of everyone living within their jurisdiction. The city council plays a particularly important role in ensuring that the necessary cultural and socio-economic conditions exist so that all people, regardless of their circumstances, are able to live according to their dignity.