First Principles on Human Rights Series

United Nations Building

First Principles on Human Rights Series

America did not invent the idea of human rights, but no nation more closely incorporates those ideals into its founding and character. The notion that all men are created equal and are endowed by God with inherent, natural rights separate from government was present at the very birth of our nation. One of the most lasting and valuable gifts that America has provided the world is leadership that led to universal consensus that all human beings possess unalienable rights. By returning to the first principles of universal human rights, the United States can restore clarity to a domestic and global conversation that has become politicized and muddled. 


Introduction: Returning to First Principles on Human Rights

Full Report: First Principles on Human Rights


Heritage Foundation’s 'First Principles on Human Rights' Foreword

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Dec 2, 2020 6 min read


Human Dignity and the Foundations of Human Rights

Paolo G. Carozza

Dec 31, 2020 41 min read


Equality and Non-Discrimination in International Human Rights Law

Li-ann Thio

Dec 31, 2020 Over an hour read


First Principles on Human Rights: Freedom of Speech

Jul 17, 2020 About an hour read


How “Collective Human Rights” Undermine Individual Human Rights

Dr. Aaron Rhodes

Jun 25, 2020 About an hour read


Human Rights: In Our Own Hands

Jeremy Rabkin

Jun 25, 2020 About an hour read


Religious Freedom in International Human Rights Law

Daniel Philpott

Sep 1, 2020 About an hour read


The Right to Life in International Human Rights Law

Tom Finegan, PhD

Jan 24, 2020 Over an hour read

After the staggering human toll of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, world leaders began a remarkable project in 1948 to identify and protect universal human rights. Eleanor Roosevelt served as chairwoman of the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). She forged a consensus among representatives from diverse countries, political systems, cultures, languages, and religions.

Over the ensuing decades, however, this remarkable consensus has been challenged by a powerful new movement of sovereign and non-sovereign entities, including lawyers, academics, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), activists, and U.N. officials who seek to “improve” on what was accomplished in 1948. To meet perceived new challenges, many of which are attributed to globalization, this movement asserts new rights and new interpretations of legally recognized rights. However, efforts to promote the “evolution” of rights threaten to undermine the great and noble project in fundamental ways.

Other Resources

The Natural Law Foundations of International Human Rights and Religious Freedom

Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights 

Combatting Hate with Freedom, Not Censorship: The Example of Anti-Semitism 

Can Human Rights Be Rescued From Human Rights Activists’ Overreach? 

Pompeo’s Panel Offers Needed Clarity, Guidance on Human Rights 

The U.S. Must Protect Human Rights of All Individuals Based on Human Dignity—Not on Membership in Identity Groups 

The Origins of Hate Speech


Getting Human Rights Back on Track

The Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights: Why the Controversy? 

The Debasement of Human Rights: How Politics Sabotage the Ideal of Freedom 

HEARING: International Human Rights and the Closing Civic Space