Universal Declaration of Human Rights
by Imran A. Mohammed
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Nelson Mandela
The United Nations (UN) was established following World War II (1939–45) in June 1945 with 50 member states. The UN plays an important role across the globe in assuring security and human rights for all people. December 10, 1948, marks a very important day in history, because the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In embracing the Declaration, 48 nations asserted their strong obligation that all humans deserved to be treated with respect and dignity, and with peace in the world.
The social work profession shares a close relationship with human rights, because it adheres to values such as respect, dignity, and self-determination - values that are strongly embedded in the code of ethics for all practitioners. The client-social worker relationship has long been celebrated. The profession is highly regarded for challenging the inhumane treatment of vulnerable people, its commitment to challenge anti-oppressive practice, and most importantly, ensuring that vulnerable people are given a voice!
Human rights are particularly important for social workers when making decisions that concern the future care needs of individuals. For example, Mr. A is no longer able to live at home because of his care needs. He requires constant care throughout the night. He has been assessed as now needing 24-hour care after all other options have been exhausted. As a social worker, one has to carefully consider the following questions: Does Mr. A want to go into 24-hour care? Will Mr. A be isolated if he does go into a care home? Will Mr A.’s family and friends be able to visit him? These are just some of the key questions that a practitioner has to consider alongside making sure that the placement chosen is able to meet Mr A.’s future care needs. Social workers, on a daily basis, have to make important decisions. Having an awareness of the person’s human rights can perhaps give the practitioner confidence to challenge unfair decisions as required.
There is no one right way to practice, and our job at times can be difficult, but the rewards are great. Whenever placing someone into long-term care, my message to practitioners is that they must do all they can to promote the person’s human rights!
Imran A. Mohammed is a Ph.D. student at THE CENTRE FOR LIFE LONG LEARNING, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Imran is a former social work practitioner. He is passionate about human rights and strongly believes that conversations about people’s basic rights must never stop.