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Three generations of human rights

The division of human rights into three generations was initially proposed in 1979 by the French jurist Karel Vasak at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg. His division follows the three great watchwords of the French Revolution: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

First-generation human rights deal essentially with liberty. They are fundamentally civil and political in nature and serve to protect the individual from excesses of the state. First-generation rights include, inter alia, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. First generation rights are therefore mostly negative rights. They were first enshrined at the global level by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

See: Articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Second-generation human rights are related to equality. They are fundamentally social, economic, and cultural in nature. In social terms, they ensure different members of the citizenry equal conditions and treatment. They also grant people the right to work and to be employed, thus securing the ability of the individual to support a family. They are mostly positive rights, representing things that the State is required to provide to the people under its jurisdiction.

See: Articles 22 to 27 of the Universal Declaration, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

Third-generation human rights focus essentially on fraternity and, in generic terms, can be seen as rights of solidarity. They cover group and collective rights: the right to self-determination, to economic and social development, and to participate in the common heritage of mankind