Describe first generation rights, second generation rights, third generation rights, and why all three are important.

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Human rights, both natural and legal, are rights to which all humans are entitled to, no matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, social status or any other social concept or category, and they are extremely important. When it comes to the evolution of human rights, one of the most basic ways to classify them is into three generations; thus, we have first, second, and third generation human rights.

First generation rights regard civil and political rights and liberties. As political power grew, many philosophers and prominent figures began to write about the importance of freedom and liberty, and the fact that politicians should not be given absolute power and that the people should be allowed to influence the choice on who will rule and govern their state. Thus, documents such as the Magna Carta (1927), The Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Rights (1689), The American Declaration of Independence (1776), and the Declaration of Human and Citizens Rights (1789) were written with the intention of limiting the political power and establishing the fundamental human rights.

The first generation rights include the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, voting rights, equality before the law, as well as equal access to public, citizen control over the administration and other civil and political rights. First generation human rights are also known as blue rights.

Second generation rights are sometimes called red rights and regard socioeconomic and cultural rights and liberties. They are included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Unlike the first generation rights, which can and should be exercised freely, the second generation rights require the state or the government to respect and fulfill them. Second generation human rights include the right to work, the right to education, the right to privacy, health care, food, social security, and other socioeconomic rights.

Third generation rights, also known as green rights, are relatively recent (the 1972 Stockholm Declaration and the 1992 Rio Declaration) and they are based on the principle of solidarity; they can only be exerted collectively. These include the right to peace, development, healthy environment, self-determination, and others. The third generation human rights are often a subject of debate, as some argue that human rights should only be exerted individually and not collectively.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 3, 2019
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