Article 29: Duty to Your Community

  • Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  • In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  • These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we not only find the rights that we are entitled to as human beings, but also the duties that we have. The UDHR gives each and every human being a set of basic rights that ensures our individual safety and freedom. However, humans cannot only be seen as individuals. We interact with each other every day and therefore this article states how the rights of the individual also obligate the duty to protect the rights of others. This establishes a ‘social contract’ between the individual and the community. It is not ‘every man for himself’ but rather ‘all for each other.’ This philosophy of humans as social and responsible beings refers back to the last part of the first article of the declaration. “They [people] are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” This ties the human rights nicely together while balancing the interconnection of individuality and community.

The second part of the article states that human rights are not in fact unlimited. However, the only acceptable limitations to all human rights, are if the limitations are in order to ensure the human rights of others. These limitations are needed so that everyone can enjoy their rights. Put in simpler words, this means that when a person is exercising or claiming their own human rights, it must not be at the expense of other people’s rights.  “A person’s right to freely move their arm, doesn’t excuse them from hitting the nose of someone else.” 

To understand the third part of the article, we must understand what the purpose and principles of the UN are. In the UN Charter, it states their purpose is; “[…] achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” However, the principles of the United Nations are decided by all the member states and evolve over time. This is included in the UDHR because some of the articles are absolute, meaning under no circumstances may they be violated or regulated. Other articles are not absolute, which means that they can be restricted, limited, etc. by the law of a country. But rights may only be restricted or limited by law on sufficient grounds. Furthermore, these limitations may never contradict the purpose of the principles of the UN. This ensures that no state can exploit this possibility to restrict rights, as a way to oppress or mistreat its citizens. But rather only limit or restrict certain rights to serve a greater good, benefitting both the individuals and the community.

Written by Nanna Orloff Mortensen and Natalia Colmenar

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