Human rights are based on values that keep society fair, just and equal. They include the right to life, the right to health and the right to freedom from torture. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains 30 human rights that belong to everyone, everywhere – simply because they are human. So, what is the most important human right?
The quick answer: All human rights are equally important. They are all dependent on each other. The violation of one right often leads to the violation of another right. There is no hierarchy among human rights. They all must be upheld as minimum standards to live a life in dignity.
The most important human right depends on the country you live in
The status of human rights varies greatly around the world. While some countries are more likely to violate civil and political rights, others more frequently fail to protect social, cultural and economic rights. What human right is most important to you may depend on where you live, what your profession and gender is, where you are coming from, whether or not you are part of a minority, if you are a child or an elderly person, it may depend on your social status, your wealth or caste, your health or ethnicity and many other factors.
Absolute human rights can never be restricted
Most human rights can be temporarily restricted under rare and very specific circumstances. The restriction has to fulfill several criteria: It must be lawful, necessary, proportionate and legitimate. States need to prove that these criteria are fulfilled to restrict a human right. If they can’t, they commit a violation.
Some human rights that can never be restricted – not even during declared national emergencies and wars. These rights are called absolute human rights and they include the right to freedom from torture, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and the right to freedom from slavery. You may want to argue that one of these rights is most important but keep in mind that upholding all human rights is crucial to live a life in dignity. Learn more about why human rights are important.