Human Rights

Human Rights icons

We call ourselves and others to embody gospel values and
to live the social teachings of the church.

Working toward the enablement of persons and the promotion of human dignity,
we contribute to positive systemic change in society.

(You Are Sent, General Directory 33a)

Eleanor Roosevelt looks at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, November 1, 1949. UN Photo.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” These opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  established the foundation of international human rights law. The Declaration, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, sets out a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms for all.

The rights, freedoms, and obligations outlined in the Declaration include civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and collective rights. Human rights by their nature are indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent. The improvement of one right helps advance the others.

Unfortunately, various forms of discrimination continue to hinder the realization of these human rights. Human rights can only be achieved through persistent effort and constant vigilance by informed and caring people. Each of us has the duty to uphold our own rights and those of others. We all share the responsibility for creating a just society in which the rights and dignity of all persons are valued and respected.

“… there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person . . . whose rights and duties are universal and inviolable. They ought, therefore, to have ready access to all that is necessary to living a life that is truly human life,  such as, food, clothing, and shelter… the right to education, to employment….”
(Gaudium et Spes, 26)


Flags outside United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

  • The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 508 languages.
  • The United Nations website (English, Español) gives access to commissions, agencies, and programs on human
  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (English, Español) coordinates and provides information on events and documentation on human rights.
  • The UN Human Rights Treaty System fact sheet (English, pdf), which gives a general introduction to the core human rights treaties and the treaty bodies that monitor their implementation by States parties.
  • United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (English, Español) has an important role in setting frameworks and guidelines for human rights education and disseminating good practices in the field.
  • UNICEF, United Nations Children’s Fund (English, Español), provides the text and background on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Child Rights Information Network (English, Español), a global network for child’s rights which provides information on issues impacting children and their
  • Human Rights Education Associates (Deutsch, English, Español, Italiano, Português), an international organization that supports human rights
  • Education for Justice (English, Español), a project of the Center of Concern, and Faith Doing Justice offer resources which foster greater understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and current social justice and human rights
  • The World Council of Churches (Deutsch, English, Español) works to defend human dignity by addressing human rights from an ethical and theological
  • The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, offer their collective influence and experience to promote peace and human rights.
  • Business and Human Rights Resource Center tracks the positive and negative impact and human rights record of over 5,000 businesses in 180 countries. (Deutsch, English, Español, Português)
  • The German Institute for Human Rights – Das Deutsche Institut für Menschenrechte (Deutsch, English) offers information on human rights, contributes to the prevention of human rights violations, and promotes the protection of human
  • Terre Des Femmes (Deutsch, English) is a German non-profit women’s rights organization committed to ensuring that girls and women can live a free, safe, and self-determined life.Click edit button to change this text.


  • Join the SSND family around the world to commemorate Human Rights Day on December 10.
  • Educate for justice by promoting the values of Shalom, Catholic Social Teaching, human rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals. (Multiple Languages)
  • Study Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Deutsch, English, Español, Italiano, Polski, Português) and Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio (English, Español, Italiano, Português) to further understand integral human development
  • Join a human rights organization or network, such as Human Rights Watch (Multiple Languages), to keep informed of current human rights concerns.
  • Stand in solidarity with someone who has experienced some form of discrimination or limitation of their human rights.


Child eating lunch at the Juba Orphange, Juba. UN Photo/Arpan Munier

God of Justice,
You have given all of your children human dignity and human rights.
Help us recognize the dignity and the rights of all of human kind.

Open our hearts to hear your teachings;
open our eyes to the suffering of those
who are denied their basic economic, social, and political rights.

Let our voices join in declaring,
“all humanity is sacred, all human rights must be respected.”

(Center of Concern)