When you think about basic human rights, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The right to life? The right to liberty? The right to WiFi?
If that last one wasn’t on your list it may be a sign that you’re old. As Maryland governor Martin O’Malley recently told CNN, young people today believe that “WiFi is a human right.” O’Malley apparently agrees, adding that, “There is an opportunity there for us as a nation to embrace that new perspective.”
While I’ll concede that WiFi may be a basic human need (it’s certainly on the list of my own hierarchy of needs), it’s hard to see why it would be a human right. A human right is generally considered a right that is inalienable and fundamental and to which a person is inherently entitled simply because they are a human being. Are we really entitled to WiFi simply because we’re human?
While it’s easy to mock O’Malley’s claim, it does raise the question of just what exactly does qualify as a human right.
In a world where few people can agree on anything, it’s not surprising that there is no clear consensus on what constitutes a human right. About the closest the world has ever come to unanimity on the issue is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
Below I’ve individually broken out each of the rights listed by the UN as fundamental to all humanity. Before looking at the list, though, take a guess at how many of rights you expect to see on the list.
According to the UDHR, all humans have the right,