Electronic Resource Centre for Human
We, the World and Human Rights.
WE, THE WORLD AND
A STUDY MATERIAL FOR COMPULSORY SCHOOLS.
A textbook for an optional subject in grade 8 of general comprehensive schools.
JAAN TONISSON INSTITUTE
This textbook has been published within the joint project of cooperation between Netherlands Helsinki Committee and Jaan Tõnisson Institute and by the financial support of Dutch Foreign Ministry.
The following people have participated in the project as authors or consultants:
Layout: Marge Robam and Toomas Mägi
Translation into English : Urve Läänemets
(c) Jaan Tõnisson Institute
Have you ever thought about what you really are? What is this that makes you similar to your deskmate, friends, parents and other people? And what makes you different from them? Do you like to be with other people and do some things together? However, sometimes people also want to be alone. But it does not mean that someone would like to live outside of a society. Could anyone manage absolutely on ones own nowadays, without other people?
Look at yourself and at the others. Think it over. What are you like and what are others like? You have many roles, to some people you are a friend, to someone else just an acquaintance. You are a student at school and you are a child to your parents at home. But first of all, you are a human being and you are living with other people being one among them. That is the reason why you cannot always live according to your own wishes or will. You have to consider the other people you are living with. The people living together in big numbers make up a society, where there are customs for behaviour and legal norms. If some would damage the welfare of others, they would find themselves in conflict with norms and customs. If those people do not understand it or do not want to follow the rules, they may be criticised or even punished. In ideal situations nobody would damage anybodys dignity. Nobody would humiliate or insult anybody.
Irrespective of what we look like, whether we have straight or curly hair, whether we are tall or short, stout or slender, young or old, whether we are men or women, religious people or atheists- we all feel hurt if nobody cares about us. Every person wants to be loved and cherished by somebody. Everybody wants to be healthy and strong and happy and to be needed by someone. In order to live a really meaningful and dignified life everybody has to remember- and you too,- that all people in this world have their rights and duties, which do not depend on their gender, race or social position. These are HUMAN RIGHTS. From these rights duties are derived, which all people - children as well as grown-ups have to do. The children also belong to people, but they are weaker and more helpless. Teenagers never like to be called children. But according to the law anybody under 18 is considered a child. So all young people like you , are children , too. In this textbook the word "children" is used to denote both, small children and teenagers. What are the human rights and duties related to them? Where can children get help, if they cannot manage with their problems ? These and other questions will be answered in this book. Read carefully and think it over what we are talking about.
Table of Contents:
Can you explain the meaning of the following words: society, habits of behaviour, legal norms, dignity, human and dignified life. These were the words you read in the introduction. You have probably come across these elsewhere as well. Are there any among these words which you cannot explain very well although you grasp the meaning?
If we do not understand the meaning of the same words in the same way, or if we do not understand some of them at all, we will not be able to find a common language. This is most often the reason why people cannot come to agreements and solutions. Reaching consensus can take a long time.
In order to understand everything we are going to discuss in this book, we must be clear about the main concepts used in this book. It will help us to present our opinions in a more understandable way and defend our points of view.
Let us make the following exercise. It should demonstrate how to reach a common understanding. Together with your teacher choose ten of the words.
I. Write the meanings of these concepts as you understand them:
II. Discuss and Compare whether you have understood them in a similar way.
There are about six billion people living on the planet Earth who differ from each other by birth of origin, gender, ethnicity and race but who all possess equal rights to live and be happy.
There are many people, but still, each of us is unique. YOU are unique, too. You will learn all your life to find out about everything surrounding you. You will meet many different people during your life. The word "man" is related to the concept "human". What does "human" mean? It is an approach to life which also considers interests and welfare of other people. If you follow the rules of human behaviour, you cannot harm or hurt other people on purpose, because they have the same rights as you do. Our feelings and wishes are human in a similar way.
Every period in history has left its mark in culture. From the Roman times have come the laws and court procedures, from the French Revolution - the ideas of equality, freedom and fraternity of and for the people. Find examples, how different times have influenced our comprehension of the world around us.
However, people have not always been equal before the law.
In old times in Egypt the slaves did not have the same rights as the slave-owners. The price of a slave was two silver coins. The price of a good horse was 30 silver coins. In Middle Ages only the landlord could hunt in the woods, not the peasant. A hundred years ago black people in America were not allowed to sit on the same park bench as white people. Even today there are cases where not all people can enjoy equal rights. For example people in wheelchairs cannot move freely in town, because there are no special tracks for them.
All examples show how deeply inequality is rooted. Only after World War II people came to an understanding that all people should have equal rights to live and to be happy. In order to achieve that an organisation uniting all people of the world was established in 1945 - the United Nations Organisation (UNO). In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It consists of 30 articles. The first article declares:
The second article declares that all people have EQUAL rights.
Equal rights mean that nobody can be discriminated against, because he or she is a male or female, young or old, Estonian or Russian, white or black, religious or atheist, rich or poor, etc.
The Republic of Estonia is a democratic country according to its constitution. 48 articles in the second part of this document have been dedicated to the principal rights, liberties and duties of the citizens. There are, for example, the following articles in our constitution:
But the laws will remain only documents, words on paper, if people have no intention of putting them into practice and follow them in reality. Comprehension of being a citizen of a state does not develop in its own accord; it presupposes respective education. People who respect values and customs recognised by the society at large, and who follow the laws and contribute to the development of welfare of all people, are considered to be good citizens.
The basic values accepted all over the world have been specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us discuss them together. It will help us to understand them better. We will analyse the first article of the Universal Declaration next:
Everybody , children as well as adults, has the capacity to develop. People need favourable conditions for that in their families and other social groups in order to develop. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all the basic ideas required for free development of all the people have been specified.
Unfortunately, people have never had, and still do not have completely favourable conditions for their development. Today almost everybody has the right to education, but in earlier times only wealthy people could afford education for their offspring. Yet there are some developing countries where children can only dream of attending school.
Every human being is unique. There is nobody exactly like you in the whole world., not even those, who have lived before you or will live after you. Uniqueness of each personality makes the world diverse and interesting.
The fact that people are different, considering their age, gender, race, appearance, health, physical and mental capacities, does not exclude the most important principle of human rights - EQUALITY.
Everybody is born free and equal in dignity with unalienable rights. These cannot be taken away or prohibited. They also cannot be given to anyone as new or additional rights. Dignity as well as human rights belong to all of us just because we all are people. We cannot even deprive a prisoner or a criminal of the right to life, to deny him/her the freedom of thought and human treatment. People must never treat other people as beings with no rights or as a means of achieving some goal.
All people are equal in their basic rights because we are all equal as human beings, as species of nature. That is the reason why we have to treat each other in the spirit of brotherhood respecting other peoples dignity as we would our own.. A person free in his mind and soul respects himself and others, he/she is aware of his/her personal value and rights.
If you want to have equal rights with other people, you must consider the rights of other people as important as your own. Dont do anything to others that you do not want done to yourself!
We may consider these ideas somewhat primitive and well- known from old times, but history has proved that they have not always been accepted easily or naturally in many cultures.
Civic education is meant to educate people so that they would respect human rights and develop societies where these rights are observed.
Mankind has always aspired to justice. If all children could go to school and have enough food. If everybody would be treated equally irrespective of their ethnicity, language or origin. In this section we are going to talk about different cases of justice and injustice:
1. There are different ways something may be divided or distributed between people. You may divide equally for everybody (subsidies for children), according to specific needs (in cases of emergency and first aid), according to peoples capacities (e.g. housework) according to merit or achievements (e.g. medals on the Olympic Games) or according to what somebody has earned (e.g. salary). Division of finances or anything else, may be considered just, if it corresponds to rules agreed before.
2. If somebody violates the law or rule, he or she has to bear the consequences and to accept the punishment. If somebody destroys somebodys property he/she has to pay damages. For instance, the driver who has caused an accident, has to pay for the treatment of the injured person. When the court decides the punishment, the grade of violation (the amount of the damage), the intentions of the accused, his previous action and possible remorse are all considered. Have you ever heard the expression: "because of extenuating circumstances the court acquitted him of the crime?" Any just punishment has to correspond to the extent of the crime and must not violate general principles of human dignity.
3. A just means for coming to a commonly agreed decision would be, if everybody had an opportunity to express his/her opinion and present arguments or if everybody had the same amount of time to present these ideas.
People may understand the term "justice" differently. Justice is usually based on rights specified in legislation. What are rights and what is justice? Lets discuss an example from real life. Today immigrants from other countries may enter various countries for different reasons. Their legal status may be different, - some may apply for a permanent residence permit and some are granted temporary or short time permits only, allowing a limited stay in the country. In the summer of 1966 the French authorities decided to deport a number of coloured immigrants, whose residence permits had expired, but who had not yet left France. Although the authorities had every right to do this the fighters for human rights considered the French authorities action unjust. The human rights activists organised big demonstrations to express their protest. Can you tell, how rights and justice came into conflict in this story. Why did the fighters for human rights support the deported? Is it really so simple to differentiate between the rights and justice?
It happens quite often that children suffer from injustice, because they cannot protect themselves as well as adults. What are the rights of children? These are more or less the same as adults human rights, but considering the special position of children in a society. The United Nations Organisation has compiled the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (in 1959) and adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (in 1989).
The Declaration of the Rights of the Child states the following:
Sachiko turned around and waited for me.
Were the human rights of that girl violated?
In your daily life you come across different people every now and then. You act more or less in the same way as they do. When walking in the streets you keep to the right, you greet your friends and acquaintances, you buy a ticket, if you want to go to a movie. You try to step aside and let other people pass. If you accidentally push or hurt someone, you apologise. You try not to leave litter behind, etc.
But nevertheless you are different from others. You have your own thought, your habits and your own understanding of truths and rights. You want other people to respect and consider your opinions and beliefs. But you will only have that only if you respect yourself. You should you never behave badly, or abuse or humiliate other people by your actions or words.
However, it may happen that you reject somebody unwillingly or violate somebodys rights. It most often happens then when other people are so different from you. They may even seem strange to you. But still, they have the same rights as you do. They have every right to be who they are. You cannot change people by violence or sheer power in order to make them more similar to yourself.
When communicating with other people everybody has the right to
You use these rights, mentioned above, every day in your communication with other people. Human rights are followed in peoples everyday activities and are usually expressed by polite and human behaviour.
Human rights are also related to governing and politics, relations between the individual and the state. There have been states in the past, and today where human rights are of no importance. Here it may happen that innocent people are put in prison or deported from their homeland, kept as slaves, treated as people with no rights, tortured or otherwise cruelly treated. The division of people into privileged groups and common people is also an example of human rights violation.
In the course of history there hasnt been a period when human rights had been followed in full scale, regarding everybodys equality. More often we come across cases when people rejected by society express protest against violation of their rights and liberties.
The understanding that people need protection started to spread in modern times. But the basic principles that the human rights have been built on - equality, justice, liberty and the laws protecting them have been developed over many centuries. The following table of historic events notes some landmarks in this progress:
In the 20th century several crimes against humanity have been committed - especially during World Wars I and II. Millions of people were deprived of their most essential right - the right to life - because of they belonged to the "wrong" race or ethnicity or manifested their beliefs. People were shocked about the results of World War II. Especially depressing was the fate of Jews and other nations, which had to endure carefully designed and practised genocide. What have you heard or read about it? After World War II majority of states agreed to establish a world order according to which conflicts between states may be solved by peaceful negotiation. Thus, the United Nations Organisation was established in 1945.
On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted. It is a detailed document, discussed for three years before it became official. In addition to the basic principles about peoples equality and freedom, it also expressed the idea that people - whoever they are or wherever they live - should be free, treated with respect and dignity, live in peace and safety, and be able to work for their normal living.
Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important document, it is not a law for all the countries. It is an appeal of the United Nations Organisation to the whole world; a piece of advice how nations, states and governments should communicate between themselves.
Human rights may be grouped as follows:
Everybody should be provided with basic human rights, everywhere and at all times. Implementation of economic, social and cultural rights depends entirely on the level of development in different countries. However, there are still many countries in the world where implementation of these rights remains a dream.
Declaration stresses the idea that all people belong to a common mankind and are mutually related. Our actions and attitudes influence other people and actions of other people also influence us. One of the basic principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is tolerance; including mutual respect between individuals and different groups of people.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on the simple truth that all people have the same basic rights everywhere and at all times. We all have human rights in theory, however, in practice some individuals and groups are not able to enjoy their full human rights.
The aim of the Declaration is to prevent abuse and discrimination of all kinds. Discrimination means making differentiation between people, restricting or broadening their rights because they belong to a particular race or ethnic group, manifest a certain religion, or support particular ideas. Discrimination can be and must be avoided first of all at the state and government level. We all can do something - both you and me.
3. Try to group the following rights according to
The majority of people live in families. When everything is OK we usually do not pay special attention to our life at home. We start thinking about our family when we are facing some serious problems or there are great changes in our lives.
Where do you belong at this moment? Find your position in this pictogram.
2. Read the following stories.
We are three in our family: me, my mother and father. My father has a job in a bank and
my mother is a fashion designer. My parents are very beautiful and they are always well
dressed. They both earn good money. I can buy whatever I wish.
I have no family. I live with my granny. My mum and dad divorced four years ago. First
I remained with my mum. Now both of my parents have remarried. My mother had a new
daughter, so I have a half-sister. I havent seen my dad for a very long time, but
sometimes he sends money to my granny. My mum lives at Rapla and her new husband
doesnt want me there. I am not going to press myself into any family.
We are just two- my mother and me. We live in a nice three room flat in Õismäe. My
granny and grandpa live in Tartu. We visit them every month. My mother is a very good
driver. She is a dentist by profession and she earns a good salary.
Which of these stories did you understand best? What problems did you detect in them? Who could help and what could be done in each case? How could the problems of these young people be solved? What are you usually praised for at home? What are your parents not satisfied with regarding your actions? What do you like best at home? Why do people need a family and its support?
When living in a family the deeds of one of its members can influence the welfare of others. When the wish of one family member will be granted, it may mean that the wishes of some other members have to wait. When living together we cannot think about our own wishes first, we also have to consider the needs of other people in our family. In order to have as few quarrels and conflicts as possible in a family, there are usually some rules which all the members of the family follow. Likewise there are laws for all people in a society to follow.
Living together does not mean just being together. We also do many activities together. Joint action requires communication between everyone involved. We have to be quite clear about what we must not do. When people follow the norms of behaviour and agreements, using the rights they have, coexistence may be successful. The way how people behave in certain situations depends on set requirements and also on punishment people may expect if they do not meet these regulations.
All families should protect their children. At the same time the family has to establish good conditions for the development of their offspring in many fields of activity. Human rights have to be respected in an ordinary life at home. Everybody should have the right to keep their personal belongings so that nobody else may take them without asking. Everybody should have the right to privacy of the correspondence or be alone if he/she wishes. The children should have the right to express their opinion in all the matters affecting them (for example, the divorce of their parents).
Children have the right to seek protection and relief, if they have to endure mental or physical abuse at home.
THE FIRST CASE
When the case was investigated it was discovered that mother was in neglect in caring for her child. The flat was extremely messy and dirty. The woman was unemployed and was drunk. She often stayed with her new acquaintances overnight and lived in different places.
The court found that such a mother was not capable of taking normal care of her child and decided to deprive her of parental rights. The girl is currently living at an orphanage.
THE SECOND CASE
The girl did not attend school. Her mother had no job. The only family income was subsidies paid by the state for single mothers. The child suffered from malnutrition. After the circumstances had been specified, the girl was taken to the support centre for under age youth.
The social workers were lucky to find the granny of the girl who lived abroad. A letter was sent to her and she learned of the situation of her daughter. Granny expressed her wish to invite her daughter and the grandchild to come and live with her. Local authorities helped to settle all the formalities at the State Migration Board and packed their belongings. They also bought the train tickets and helped them to the railway station.
In a few days granny phoned and told the authorities that her daughter and the grandchild had arrived safely.
THE THIRD CASE:
All the refugees were taken to a special camp. The authorities started to look for foster parents for orphans. Ratimir was taken to a family where there was already a small black girl. The most difficult thing for Ratimir was to understand Swedish but soon he acquired the language.
Ratimir has been a member of his new family for some years now and he does not recall as often the tragedy of the past.
For children who have been separated from their families suitable foster families or a support person were found. A contract was compiled and signed, according to which they will help to solve the problems of the child and offer him/her support. Temporary help and support can be offered to children in safety centres. In safety centres the child will not lose contact with his/her real parents and relatives. But if the parents and relatives are dangerous, the social workers have the right not to inform the parents and relatives about the new residence of the child.
The content of education at school and the way the life is organised there must also correspond to the principles of human rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the education provided by the school must guarantee all children equal rights to develop their capacities and talents. The school must help the children to develop their opinions, ethical and social responsibilities and allow them to become useful members of society. The school should teach children to respect human rights, different nations and cultures, and develop tolerance and mutual understanding for other people.
You have to communicate with your peers and teachers every day. At school too, we have to respect the human rights of everybody there.
Is your way to school safe? Have stronger or older students taken away money, or other personal items from younger, weaker students? How could such cases of violence be avoided?
If somebody attacks you with a weapon or bare hands, it is a case of physical abuse. If somebody hurts you with words or just by ignoring you, then it may be mental abuse. The case of mental abuse is also the situation when an adult shames a child , if he or she cannot do something well or properly. Can you give any specific examples of that kind of abuse?
Every child at school has:
- the right to express their opinion in all the problems affecting the children,
Violence does not only mean fighting, but also bullying, humiliating and threatening. Students and teachers should be very observative about violence at school. Everybody has to prevent violence at school.
Have you ever thought about why we need a state structure? We often hear people speak of stupid, selfish and greedy politicians. Would it be better to manage without a state? Fortunately, the state is not only the politicians.
For centuries people have dreamt of life organised without any institutionalised state. We all, without exception, should work diligently, respect other people, never steal, never drink alcohol or never kill anybody. However, dreams are not reality. People still need a state, which can establish order and laws regulating peoples behaviour.
People also need a state with its government, legislators and army for organising life and protect territory and communicating with other states. For hundreds of years the right of the stronger has been unwritten law. Many cruel and bloody wars have taken place. Many nations have been enslaved. Even today people do not feel entirely safe. That is the reason why all states today protect their state borders.
In order to avoid conflicts between states several international cooperation and security organisations have been established. You have already heard of the United Nations Organisation, which tries to solve conflicts and alleviate tensions by peaceful means and to control how the basic human rights are implemented. Estonia is a member state of the UNO and is obliged to protect human rights.
Following our everyday routines we usually do not notice the role of the state. It seems as if the power of the government is situated far away and they deal with problems that do not concern us. This impression may be explained in different ways. We do not pay attention to state functions when there are no great problems in society. Nobody notices the existence of the state when they are happy and successful in their private life. When you have your own home, a supporting family, good health and you like to attend your school, you may not notice the role of the state.
The state is good, if it considers the needs of its people. But how can the government know what people actually need? Sociological research projects help the state to determine the citizens needs.
In order to consider the needs of the people, the government must know the state population by data found at a state department of statistics. Population statistics can also tell you, how many retired people we have got, what is the urban and rural population, what is the average income per family, what are the different ethnic groups in the country and so on. Such data assist planning how many schools or textbooks will be needed during the coming years, or how many doctors should be trained for the future, or how much money will be needed for pensions. Data characterising a certain area will be collected into specific data bases, banks or registers. In Estonia there are special data banks for premises, for business enterprises, for real estates, for vehicles.
When a person is registered into a data bank he/she will get a personal code number. You have a code number which has been written into your birth certificate, passport and medical service card. When decoding the personal code number the state can determine it, whether this person is a man or woman and when he/she was born. When a person has been registered in the state population data bank the government takes over the responsibility for him or her and offers help when the need arises. The person who has been registered in the state data bank acquires certain rights, e.g. suffrage or the right to free medical services.
According to these data banks the state issues various certificates. The most important among them is the passport of a citizen and birth certificates for children. All parents have to register their new-borns during 30 days in the local registry office. The name of the child will be registered and a birth certificate will be issued. When the child comes of age they will receive a passport according to the birth certificate. A passport usually denotes citizenship of a certain state. For those people who cannot obtain citizenship of the country where they reside, the state issues another document specifying personal identity. When the local citizenship laws allow, a child born to parents of different citizenship, may choose what nationality or citizenship he/she prefers.
Many people think that these data banks, registers, certificates and activities for state accounting may limit personal freedom and allow authorities to interfere with personal privacy. In order to diminish such fears, all collection, storage and use of personal data is strictly regulated. Everybody also has the right to access to the data stored about him/her.
Each of us would like to live free from fear of violence or worries about the future. The right to life and freedom are the basic human rights. Yet, even if these rights have been specified by law, it does not necessarily mean that they will be automatically implemented.
For defence against those who abuse freedoms and liberties the states has armies, police, courts, and prisons. As you probably know these institutions have existed for centuries, long before people began to talk about human rights. Courts, prisons, and police were considered primarily institutions of punishment.
In the countries of dictatorship regimes people are executed without public court procedures even nowadays. In some countries punishments are extremely cruel and death penalty is not extraordinary there. Democratic countries always follow the principle that courts have been established for protection of each individual citizen and his/her rights. Everyone, including children, have the right to appeal to the court for help. If the decision taken by the court in Estonia is not acceptable to you, it is possible to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Seeking court assistance is not yet common in Estonia. People mistrust the court or are not aware of the legal process. Lasting injustice has a devastating effect. Everybody should know about opportunities for legal help and be able to seek protection if the need arises.
Sometimes people speak about mob law, sometimes about the court of justice. The court of justice means court procedures based on law and not on the will of people. Laws are equally compulsory for all the residents of the country, be it the president or a student.
As long as the court is hearing the case both the plaintiff and the defendant have equal rights before the jury. Until the sentence is known, both sides are equal before the law. Before the sentence, the plaintiff must not be deprived of basic human rights - the right to be free and express his/her thoughts.
Any court decision depends greatly, how skilfully both sides use their rights and defend their position. If you read the Articles 21-24 of the Estonian Constitution, you will learn about these rights.
Quite often people tend to think that children are incapable of expressing their points of view and that adults know better what is best for the child. But the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies the following principle:
Accordingly, any person under 18 years of age has the same rights as an adult. If the court declares an underage person guilty, the court usually takes into account his or her age.
What did the teacher mean by this expression, mob law? Could it have been possible to find a different solution to this situation?
Every violation of a law should be punished. For a serious crime the laws have specified arrest as a form of punishment. In democratic countries punishment may be sentenced to a person according to the legislation and by the court only. Different forms of punishment particular to each crime are specified in the penal code. The minimal age people become responsible for their deeds is also specified. An increase in juvenile delinquency rates and the cruelty of the crimes committed forced several states to make the age of responsibility for certain crimes lower. In Great Britain, for instance, several 10-12 year olds have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the intended murder of small children. Even in Estonia, every third criminal is under age. The most common crimes are thefts, burglaries, and hooliganism, but children have committed other very serious crimes and even threatened lives. That is the reason why the minimal age of criminal responsibility begins now at the age of 13 in Estonia.
In some countries the death penalty is practised for inhuman crimes. This has caused serious discussions among citizens, organisations, the clergy and state authorities. The Optional Protocol of Convention of the Council of Europe obliges all countries, who have joined this convention, to abolish death penalty. The majority of the European states no longer practice death penalty any more, but some states have not yet considered it possible to abolish. Public opinion still favours the death penalty for extraordinarily cruel crimes, although death penalty is never used for people under 18 years.
According to the idea of human rights even the person declared guilty should be treated in a human way. That is the reason why we pay attention to the living conditions of living in prisons. There should be human and sanitary conditions, normal food, opportunities to read and study, to observe religious procedures, to keep correspondence outside of prison and to receive medical treatment. The state often creates jobs in prisons so that the prisoners may work and earn money. This may help them start life again when they are released. However, forced labour is unacceptable.
When young people or children are declared guilty, the state should consider all possible extenuating circumstances. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child a childs arrest may be used "only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time". He/she has to be guaranteed the right to meet his/her family and maintain correspondence with them. Instead of arrest it is advisable to use a suspended sentence under specified supervision of authorities. Even in the case of detention the child has the right to education.
Although much has been done in democratic countries to improve prisons living conditions, nothing can abolish the difference between detention and freedom. A prisoner cannot move freely inside the prison. His time has been organised according to prison rules and he/she cannot do as he/she pleases. It is a heavy burden for the state and its citizens to finance prisons. By paying taxes loyal citizens finance the maintenance of those, who actually do not care about laws, other people, or human rights. The money, which is spent on supporting the police or financing prisons could be used for schools, youth camps, or gyms. Even crime which may be committed far away from the place you live - maybe in some other town or district, influences the welfare of you and your family. Every damaged bus stop, a phone booth or a graffiti spoilt wall will deprived us all of something. Have you ever thought about this?
In the middle of the 19th century there was a common belief that a market economy will enable everybody to achieve a good standard of living. The only task the state was supposed to create and maintain laws, punish criminals and keep the country intact from enemies. Some time later it became clear that free enterprise did not make everybody automatically rich and happy. Inequality between people still continued to exist. Another idea began to develop according to which the state should take care of their citizens in certain fields of life. It has become one of the basic foundations for designing social policy in developed countries. The countries where the greater part of common riches is spent on education, development of health care system, and raising the living standard, are called welfare states. Such examples are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France etc.
Unfortunately not all countries of the world provide so well for their citizens. Some poorer countries do not have the money for establishing a good health care system, for paying pensions and subsidies, building schoolhouses or controlling the quality and quantity of food. The people there may only dream of welfare in the future.
The source of wealth for individuals and the state is work. So it is important to have many jobs available all over the country. The government should develop the economy in such a way that everybody may find a job according to qualification and skills. Unfortunately the majority of states has not mastered this task. Even in the developed countries of Europe every tenth person is unemployed. Secondary school drop-outs and graduates of general comprehensive schools, with no qualification or work experience, have the greatest difficulties at finding a job.
In Estonia, too, there are not enough jobs for everybody. Unemployment is the greatest problem in small towns and in the north-east of Estonia. There is not enough money to start new businesses and all the old Soviet plants have lost their former markets and gone bankrupt. Considering human rights, the government should not take a passive role. Subsidies are usually paid for the unemployed. The state could also pay for their requalification and other courses of training, thereby providing better opportunities in the future. Subsidies for unemployed may be vary per country. An unemployed qualified worker in Norway or Sweden may receive up to 3/4ths of his/her former salary. But there are many countries in the world where no subsidies are paid. for the poor and the unemployed, even if their numbers are considerable.
The task of the government is to protect the rights of the working people. Governments implement certain regulations to guarantee safety at working places, specify working time and paid holidays, minimal salaries and wages, and the rights to strike. Underage youth have stricter work regulations. It may seem that these have been established to prevent you from finding a job. But these requirements have been specified to protect the welfare of young people. The convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits work, which would disturb attending school or is detrimental to the health of a child. These requirements should be observed in all the countries. These are of particular significance in underdeveloped countries, where cheap labour power of children is still badly exploited.
There are periods in everybodys life when he/she cannot earn a living, e.g. youth or retired people. There are about 80 children and retired people out of 100 inhabitants of Estonia. Actually a person may not be able to work due to an illness, or handicap or taking care of babies. The majority of young people cannot study and work at the same time. Systems of social maintenance have been specially designed to help those people who cannot work. This means first of all pensions for the retired, finances for medical treatment and sick-leaves, scholarships and subsidies for children and students. These are social subsidies, because government pays these sums from tax money. Governments also establish relevant institutions to pay pensions and other subsidies.
Social maintenance also includes the right to receive medical treatment and education for free in some countries. In this way the state helps people solve problems which otherwise might be beyond their powers. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the opportunity to attend school also is a human right.
You too enjoy the right of free education. Only very few families in Estonia could pay for schooling of their children in full scale. All over the world education is expensive. General comprehensive education has been considered so important for the future and safety of every country that these costs are usually covered by the government. But the state cannot provide everything. There is also a need for voluntary insurance.
The rights discussed above have been mostly provided by the state and government. But a great deal depends on individual responsibility and action. Democratic policies and state organisation are helpless, if its citizens do not care what is going on in their country or what kind of laws are passed. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it has been stressed that human rights are and can only be mutual in their character. It means that people cannot make their own laws and legalise their rights at the expense of others. The protection of human rights should not neglect generally acknowledged ethical norms and public order. Human rights are best implemented in those countries where people respects themselves, their fellow citizens, and their homeland.
One of the basic characteristics of a democratic society is the existence of free press. In Estonia you also have the opportunity to read different newspapers and books, to watch different TV channels, study the pages of Internet. You have the right to store and send information, create pictures or photos, and write letters. Public information must carefully consider the "facts" of any story. If wrong facts or slanderish text is disseminated, it may be a reason for a court case or legal punishment regarding the author or the owner of the newspaper. Every picture or text characterises its author best. Think about the content before you send letters via Internet or make a phone call to the open radio or TV programs. In this way you also can foster implementation of human rights in our everyday life.
Even in conditions of free press the state has to protect children against development damage due to the influence of such films and journals, which depict violence or inhuman behaviour.
Wise use of freedom of expression will help us to manage more easily with those duties which all the citizens have in democratic societies When we talk about suffrage, we also have to think that voting is a big responsibility - it is one of the duties of all citizens. In order to make a correct decision everybody has to be reasonably well informed about problems we have in the Estonian state and political views of the candidates.
The use of suffrage is the opportunity for every citizen to participate in governing the state. At the same time we have to understand that it is not the only way to express views. According to human rights the children as well as adults have the right to organise meetings and to establish organisations. But nobody can be forced to join organisations, or to deny his or her convictions or religion.
The same is valid regarding the children. The children have also the right of expression and the right to participate in the discussions, concerning the problems related to them. Unfortunately, the majority of state leaders do not take childrens proposals seriously. In some democratic states there are special children organisations established for representing the rights of children there is a special state official in Norway, called ombudsman for children, who listens to proposals made by the children and parents and represents their interests in politics. As a result of such activities many sports grounds and playgrounds have been built, some small towns have changed their general plans for construction and some amendments have been made.
The right to disseminate information and to establish organisations for influencing public life may bring along total chaos, if the members of a society forget about the main requirement of democracy - all kind of activities must be in accordance with existing legislation. It is the duty of all citizens to know the laws and to follow them. The fact that you may not know about some of the articles of particular laws does not free anybody from responsibility. You cannot declare the driver, who has caused an accident NOT guilty, if he claims never to have read the highway code!
The task of the state is to control that all the laws would be obeyed. You have to know that everybody can do something for the good of legislation to become obeyed by all people. Let us have three examples, which might even concern you.
In Republic of Estonia all people have to acquire 9 class compulsory education. Accordingly, when somebody misses the lessons without reason, he or she violates the law. Are there any among your peers who do that? What could be done in such cases?
Everybody has a right to property, nobody should take away anything from anybody by force. Will you interfere or not, when you see that money is taken from younger students or that somebody steals something from a classmate?
You know that selling drugs is prohibited by law. But at the same time you know about some of your peers being involved in it. What will you do? Will you really not say anything to anybody?
It may seem at the first glance that all these things happening to other people or in some far away places do not directly concern us. Although we personally cannot prevent wars all over the world, we still can do a lot to make things better in our everyday lives. Each of us can offer help to the person in need, to support the weaker or to object violence. If you do not have enough strength or courage alone, it is always possible to find other people who share your views and do something together. Many young people from different countries have joined into unions with the aim to protect human rights.
Even our everyday communication could be more human. We must always remember that everybody - me, you or anybody else are equal and that we all have the same human rights and if we do that, so it would be easier to communicate and keep good relations. In addition to that we also need knowledge and skills, how to behave in a wise way. When communicating with other people we also have to know the so-called unwritten rules and norms. And we must also know, how to defend our own rights and those of other people and how to solve conflicts. Any controversy usually means a problem, which demands a solution.
What does a problem mean regarding human relations? It is a situation where there is a controversy between interests, values, rights and responsibilities of different people. This is a controversy between the desired state of things and the reality. The problems between people are always very complicated. There are usually two participants in a conflict, who have their own visions of the situation. In order to find a solution the different views of two or more people have to become adjusted to each other. We also have to consider emotions people may have in those cases.
Several problems between the people may develop into a quarrel or even a conflict. But you must also know that conflicts can be solved in a wise and peaceful way. Another problem is, whether we want and can solve these in a peaceful way. In order to solve a conflict it is necessary to:
But how well can we listen to other people or to express ourselves and make us understood and negotiate? When people communicate, they always influence one another.
Read the following text and discuss it with your peers, who actually was abused.
Discuss with the whole class:
Read the newspapers of the current week and watch the news. Discuss the collected
impressions with your family and peers. Write into your exercisebooks the following:
We often come across complicated situations in our everyday life when it is very difficult to decide, what could be the best way of acting.
Let us imagine that you are with your mom and dad spending a holiday on the island of Isaria. There are very few foreigners in the country at the moment as the season has not yet started. Everything is just splendid, the water is warm and the sun is hot. Especially good are the southern fruits. You have already found some friends among the people of Isaria. At the same time there are peaceful demonstrations taking place: the people demand withdrawal of foreign troops from the island. The demonstrations have been taking place for about a week already. All of a sudden the authorities of Isaria decide to use power as people are carrying slogans with texts which are contra present powers. The demonstrates are attacked at night. The army people use weapons and sapper spades. Four people are killed.
The demonstrates are forced to leave the main square of the local town. A state of emergency is announced. Tanks are moving in the streets of the town. The situation is getting more and more dangerous.
TASK: What would be the best action under the circumstances?
Compare these three explanations. Find all the weak and strong points in them. In each way of acting there are some correct and some dangerous proposals. Discuss other possible ways of action.
The case of Isaria is not entirely imaginary. In April 1989 there was an American family spending their holidays in Georgia: a 15 year old Jim, his father Sam and mother Cheryl. At the time people started demanding independence in Georgia.
How do you think the Americans acted. The Americans behaved according to the action in the third example. Sam went to the town centre of Tbilisi in order to find a representative of global info agencies. He was lucky to meet a CNN reporter who informed the world about the events there.
Why did Sam risk his life for dissemination of the information about these events?
Sam risked his life because information disseminated may have stopped further bloodshed. Inadequate info or silence, would have allowed the authorities to commit new crimes.
Information exchange will increase the probability of good decisions. A well informed citizen would act in a more correct way than an uninformed person. Everybodys attitudes are expressed by the decisions people take. Sam had an opportunity to choose between three possible ways of action: to leave the country quickest possible, to wait for the better times, or to interfere in the events immediately. People often make decisions according to their personal interests. What characterises a good choice? Any good choice presupposes human approach to other human beings, i.e. the feeling of human belonging to each other. Killing any person means killing yourself as a human being. Accordingly, all egotistic choices will be bad decisions in the long perspective, because humanity will suffer. Humanity will unite people. Exchange of information may help us to remain human.
Sometimes we try not to know too much in order to avoid responsibility. Quite often we have to overcome our personal fears. Sam too had to overcome his fears. Good action can always create good and diminish evil. Have you ever thought about the positive effects your own behaviour may cause? Your positive acting will be reflected in other peoples behaviour towards you.
You have studied your rights and learnt that rights and duties go hand in hand with each other. Just as all other people you must not restrict anybodys rights or liberties. Although you are still very young, you are already responsible for your own action.. Attend school, take care of your health, help the weak, and offer support to your family. These tasks have been given to you by the laws of Republic of Estonia, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. If you want to study some laws more precisely, you may go to a library and study "Riigi Teataja"(" The Courier of the State") and other collections of legal acts. In spite of not being an adult person, you may observe yourself and evaluate your action. Think about it whether you have always been tolerant to other people and tried to understand them. Are you usually good or have you sometimes caused pain and problems to other people? When you have discovered mistakes in your own behaviour, it is always possible to get rid of them. Everything is based on learning. It is important to learn about your own person. Your own capability to understand other people will also depend on it. You have to know your rights and learn, how to defend them. If the problem is beyond your powers, find a person who could help you. Learn, how to look for and find help in case of real need. You have to remember that it will be possible to help yourself even in the most difficult situations. Take your time, design a plan of action, dont interrupt your daily routines. Speak to people closest to you, to your friends or to a psychologist or a consultant, because any support from another human being is important in a difficult situation. Dont keep all your worries to yourself. You too should offer support and help people around you. If everything is OK with you personally, try to be very observative about how your friends and peers are getting on. If the support offered by you happens to be insufficient, try to find help from adults. The fate of some other person may depend on your decision and action taken. Everything does not always go just the way you wish in your life. You may come across problems and even sorrows. You may feel frightened, helpless, sad, guilty, or lonely. However, it is good to know, how to act in complicated situations and how it is possible to help yourself and others. Use the help offered to you by the people around you and try to be of some help for them, too.
Good luck to you!
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