Rights and Humanity was founded by Julia Häusermann, M.B.E., international human rights lawyer and development specialist. Ms Häusermann was convinced of the interconnectedness of all humanity and of the need for a global ethic which would shape international actions and relations.
Through her doctoral research on international aid to refugees in the Occupied Territories of the Middle East, Ms Häusermann realised her own role in defending human rights lay in building bridges of understanding, rather than in monitoring violations of human rights by either or both sides of a conflict. This conclusion shaped the philosophy of Rights and Humanity. Her research in the Horn of Africa during the conflicts and famine of the early 1980s led Ms Häusermann to conclude that rather than waiting until people were uprooted and starving, the international community should focus on addressing the root causes of such human suffering.
Ms Häusermann saw that traditional development assistance was not keeping pace with the needs and tended to focus on economic, rather than human, development. She was also concerned by the increasing marginalisation of the very poor in Europe and the rise in xenophobia which brought with it intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and even violence against foreigners.
Whilst considerable efforts were being made to relieve the immediate suffering of people in developing countries through material assistance, little attention was being paid to the actions necessary to avert these trends. Furthermore, the plight of poor and marginalised people in Europe was being largely ignored.
Ms Häusermann saw these issues clearly as human rights concerns. International law confirms the rights to a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing, work and fair wages, and social security in times of need. Everyone is entitled to enjoy all their human rights, liberties and freedoms without any form of discrimination. Yet poverty affected a fifth of the world’s population and discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia were global phenomena. These were therefore the most prevalent violations of human rights, and remain so today. Unfortunately, at that time, poverty was not generally recognised as being a human rights concern.
Our Founder realised that what was missing and urgently required was a focus on the realisation of human rights in practice. Yet it remained unclear what practical steps governments needed to take, particularly to ensure the progressive realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. It was even less clear what responsibilities members of society shared in achieving justice and building inclusive societies.
With the encouragement of senior human rights practitioners in the UN, in 1986 Ms Häusermann established the International Association of Rights and Humanity under Swiss law. The African section was launched on 1st December, 1986, and the European Section on the 10th December, 1986.
The new organisation was committed to:
- Promoting implementation by governments of their human rights obligations
- Encouraging individuals to play their part by living their lives in accordance with the principles of humanity.