All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
--Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1 (United Nations, 1948)
Human rights are defined as "the rights one has simply because one is a human being" (Donnelly, 1989, p. 9). Embedded in the concept of human rights are notions of basic entitlements to freedom--by virtue of birth--to live without persecution, to express oneself, and to have opportunities to develop (such as through education, health care, and basic economic security). Social workers, thus, are called to protect and promote human rights in the course of their professional duties.
One of the most widely recognized types of human rights is termed "integrity of the body and security of the person." Included in this category are the rights to be free from torture, arbitrary detention (detention based on some arbitrary element, such as race, ethnicity, country of origin, or religion), and extrajudicial killing (execution without prior judicial review) (Vincent, 1986). Although the NASW Code of Ethics does not explicitly address integrity of the body and security of the person, it does state that "social workers should respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person" and should "seek to resolve conflicts between clients' interests and the broader society's interests in a socially responsible manner consistent with the values, ethical principles, and ethical standards of the profession" (NASW, 2000, pp. 4-5).
Human rights also include political rights and civil liberties. These rights are commonly associated with democracies and include voting, protest, and freedom of expression (Donnelly, 1989). The NASW Code of Ethics calls on us to support political rights and civil liberties by facilitating "informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions" (NASW, 2000, Section 6.02, p. 27).
Social and economic rights are also human rights, although they are rarely presented as such in Western democracies. The notion is that all human beings have the right to social and economic fundamentals, such as education, employment, basic subsistence, and health care (Donnelly, 1989). The Code of Ethics asks us to "engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully" (NASW, 2000, Section 6.04(a), p. 27).
HISTORICAL INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS
In the United States, social work began with a strong grounding in human rights. Jane Addams (1860-1935), one of the founders of U.S. social work, was an advocate for the full range of human rights. Through both her actions and her writings, Addams sought to promote peace and end violence in both domestic and international arenas. She worked for the protection of African Americans who were the victims of lynching and mob violence (National Negro Committee, 1909a). As a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Moon, 1969; National Negro Committee, 1909b), she signed the famous 1909 "Call" for a national conference to discuss the lack of protections for the rights of African Americans. Part of the focus of the Call was the "lawless attacks upon the negro ... often accompanied by revolting brutalities" (National Negro Committee, 1909a, p. 3). In addition, Addams vigorously protested against the use of war in international disputes. As president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and 1931 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (Stroup, 1986), Addams believed that "we are not obliged to choose between violence and passive acceptance of unjust conditions for ourselves of others ... on the contrary, that courage, determination, moral power, generous indignation, active good-will, can achieve their ends without violence" (Addams, 1945/1972, p. 254).
Addams was also a strong supporter of political rights and civil liberties. An officer and leader in the National American Woman's Suffrage Association, she spoke fondly of the day she represented the United States at the International Suffrage Alliance conference and met delegates from around the world who were seeking women's voting rights (Addams, 1930/2002a). She also played a role in the movement for civil liberties, which evolved in response to the oppression of war objectors. Addams and her fellow Women's Peace Party founders created the Civil Liberties Bureau (later renamed the American Civil Liberties Union) (Cook, 1972; Gale & Strossen, 1989; Witt, 2004). Addams took this stance despite the social costs. She found that her work on behalf of jailed friends, "the experience of securing bail for them, of presiding at a meeting of protest against such violation of constitutional rights, of identification with the vigorous Civil Liberties Union in New York and its Chicago branch, did not add to my respectability in the eyes of my fellow citizens" (Addams, 1945/1972, pp. 186-187). However history judges her differently; this work only added to her respectability and her reputation throughout the profession and the country.
She is probably most well known for her work in the area of social and economic rights. She spent a great deal of her life in Hull House working with impoverished families. Hull House Maps and Papers illustrated the conditions Addams and other Hull House residents witnessed, including sweatshop labor and child labor (Hull House Residents, 1970). Addams did not stand idly by these violations of economic rights. She assisted with the development of the National Women's Trade Union League (Amsterdam, 1982). She believed that labor unions had a vital role to play in defending worker rights and that Hull House should support these efforts. Hull House served as a home for several trade unions, particularly those that organized women workers (Addams, 1893/2002b, 1895/2002c).
CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS
Contemporary human rights issues are very similar to those witnessed by Jane Addams in her time. Much like Addams, we live in a time of war. Violations of the integrity of the body (such as the torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq) have been captured on the pages of U.S. magazines and newspapers (Hersh, 2004) and published throughout the world (Paterson, 2004). The Bush Administration has sought to weaken the definition of torture and limit the application of torture prohibitions to narrow circumstances (Allen & Priest, 2004). In 2002 Congress passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (P.L. 107-206), which resists the efforts of the International Criminal Court. This act provides protection from extradition to the International Criminal Court for U.S. citizens who are accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In the implementation of this law, the Bush Administration has sought agreements with other countries, in which the country agrees not to extradite U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court should the citizen be in the jurisdiction of the other country. Countries resisting this agreement have been threatened with the withdrawal of U.S. aid (Faulhaber, 2003).
Many believe where political rights and civil liberties were once taken for granted, they are now receding. Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Congress adopted the Patriot Act allowing the government to engage in many activities that trample on some of the most basic civil liberties of U.S. citizens (Rackow, 2002). Just as in the time of Jane Addams, antiwar groups have recently been the victims of civil liberties violations. In a Department of Defense surveillance database, a group that protests military recruitment was classified as a national security threat (Deutsch, 2005). More spying scandals evolved in late 2005 when it came to light that the National Security Agency was going beyond its previous realm of power by spying on U.S. citizens without obtaining judicial approval first (Risen & Lichtblau, 2005).
Economic rights have also received increased attention in the United States. Products sold by Nike, Wal-Mart, and The Gap have been reportedly made with sweatshop labor. Protests have developed against this type of abuse, including the use of sweatshop labor to produce university clothing (Mandle, 2000). Although the federal government has made little effort to combat the production and purchase of goods made with sweatshop labor, some state and local governments have prohibited the purchase of these goods with state or local government dollars (Collier, 2005). Some universities have also responded to sweatshop labor by signing the Collegiate Code of Conduct, which outlines standards for the production of university clothing (Mandle, 2000). In a similar but more extreme circumstance, human trafficking (in which people are trafficked across borders and forced to work without pay) has surfaced in the United States. The Bush Administration has supported efforts to rescue the victims of this crime and prosecute the offenders (Miller, 2004).
CALL TO ACTION
All social workers can make contributions to support human rights. We should not assume that all contributions must involve large sums of money, a great deal of time, or a sacrifice of safety. Many small steps combine to support human rights through education, political advocacy, community organizing, and service.
Social work educators can:
* integrate human rights content into social work courses. Human rights topics can easily be integrated into Introduction to Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Diversity, and Social Welfare Policy courses. (For case examples and class exercises, see Human Rights and Social Work: A Manual for Schools of Social Work and the Social Work Profession (Centre for Human Rights, 1994)
* choose textbooks that have a human rights focus. (See Reichart's (2003) text Social Work and Human Rights: A Foundation for Policy and Practice.)
* make human rights internships available to social work students. (See http://www. humanrightsjobs.com for a list of current internship and employment opportunities.)
Social work researchers can:
* use human rights language when writing articles. Almost all of the topics discussed in social work journals can be presented within a human rights framework. Human rights are integral to the topics of domestic violence, child maltreatment, mental health, HIV/ AIDS, homelessness, disabilities, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered health and well-being. For example, domestic violence articles can include the terms "human rights violations" and "the human right to be free from violence."
* locate human rights centers at local universities and participate in interdisciplinary human rights research. Many universities have human rights centers or programs, including Columbia University, Florida State University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Northwestern University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, University of California, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, University of Denver, University of Minnesota, and University of Notre Dame.
* add human rights tracks to social work conferences. Researchers and practitioners interested in human rights need a space within the field of social work to communicate and link with one another. Social work conferences can provide this opportunity to nurture human rights research.
* volunteer to validate psychological measures with refugee populations. Refugee service agencies provide care to those seeking protection from human rights violations. In seeking to evaluate their services, refugee service centers are often forced to use measures that have not been validated on the population being served. Help is needed to ensure the measures are valid.
Social work students can:
* join the Amnesty International group at the local university. If the local university does not have an Amnesty International group, one can be started. (See http://www.amnestyusa. org/join/for information on membership.)
* write letters of advocacy on behalf of political prisoners. (See http://takeaction. amnestyusa.org for a list of urgent issues and instructions on letter writing.)
* send cards of well wishes to political prisoners during the holiday season. (See http:// www.amnestyusa.org/action/holiday/for a list of political prisoners and instructions.)
* become trained in community organizing. Community organizers are vital in the fight for human rights. (See http://www. thedartcenter.org for information on training and job opportunities in the field of community organizing.)
Social work practitioners can:
* volunteer to write grants or sponsor fundraisers for refugee service centers and torture survivor centers. Nonprofit agencies that serve refugees are vital in healing the damage done by human rights violations. Help is needed in maintaining these services.
* volunteer to translate for refugees at legal advocacy centers where possible. Many lawyers volunteer their time to advocate for refugees seeking protections. However, translation services are often needed to aid in communication between the refugee and the legal staff.
* volunteer for grassroots organizing groups. There are many groups that focus on human rights issues. Some focus on rights for a particular racial or ethnic group, population (such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people), or occupation (such as migrant farmworkers). Guidance on how to navigate through a variety of governmental systems can be very helpful to these groups.
* volunteer for voting groups. Get involved with voter education, voter registration drives, and voter assistance on Election Day. Support political participation by contacting one of the many political organizations and volunteering to support their efforts.
In addition, all of us can lend greater support to the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), which advocates for social workers who have been detained and imprisoned across the world for their human rights work. The IFSW is the international organization that represents national associations of social work. The National Association of Social Workers is the American organizational member of this federation. See http:// www.ifsw.org for information on individual support through the Friends Program and current human rights cases.
Last, support the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (http://www. naacp.org), and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (http://www.wilpf.org). Jane Addams was a founding member of all of these organizations (Alonso, 1989; Davis, 1964; Gale & Strossen, 1989; Masland, 1940). Social work leadership in these organizations should not end with Addams.
All professions have a role to play in supporting human rights. Social work was one of the professions that served as an early contributor to human rights causes. Today, social workers should take their place at the table with other professions and carry on Jane Addams's legacy.
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Julie A. Steen, PhD, MSW, is assistant professor, School of Social Work, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, 875 South Normal Avenue, Carbondale, IL 62901; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.…