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Human Rights and Basic Human Needs

f you want to begin your journey to understanding Human Rights, this year's CISV peace education focus, I feel you can't go wrong by starting with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN).  To state "Humans have needs" is totally unnecessary. Years ago Abraham Maslow added some usefulness to the statement by proposing that human needs form a hierarchy, where each need has a status. 
MHoN was an attempt to explain what motivates people to act (versus rest). In MHoN, Basic needs (food, water, warmth, rest; and then safety and security) are to be fulfilled before Psychological needs (intimacy, friends, prestige and accomplishment) can be addressed. When you consider that most of us believe our Basic Human Rights - Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness - do not exist without the ability to successfully meet our basic needs, concluding that needs and rights are co-dependent is logical.
In countries of the world where Basic Human Rights are guaranteed and stability reigns, the failure of citizens to meet their Basic needs is rare. Once Basic needs are met, humans will strive to fulfill their Psychological needs. This is where Peace begins, since it is through relationships that understanding and empathy grow and the differences between people are minimized. However, the opposite is true, too. When the citizens of a country cannot meet Basic needs, fighting over resources often develops. This also leads to a desire to take resources from neighbors, which is how wars begin.
Through history, as humans have increased their ability to meet Basic needs, Peace breaks out. People are less likely to fight over Basic needs resources today, than ever before. So why do the wars continue? Next month we look at the role of Education in furthering Human Rights.


~  Mark Shryock