While human rights are often discussed as international standards, they are realized first and foremost at home. Respect for human rights is a domestic endeavor — the promotion, protection and fulfillment of these rights falls to national and local governments, not to international bodies. Because the front line of human rights is domestic, full realization of these rights requires coordination and dialogue between civil society, national policy-making bodies and local institutions.
U.S. human rights advocates have continually emphasized that “human rights begin at home,” and it is only when the full spectrum of rights are recognized and protected in local communities that we can claim equality, dignity and fairness for all. Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized this in his 1941 Four Freedoms speech, stressing that “[f ]reedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” A. Philip Randolph, one of the founders of The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, highlighted this in 1942 when he stated that “[a] community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess” and that engaging in a domestic “fight for economic, political, and social equality, thus becomes part of the global war for freedom.” The idea of fundamental, inalienable rights has permeated our history and serves as a foundational principle upon which U.S. democracy is built.
Leadership Conference Education Fund & Human Rights Institute,
The Road to Rights: Establishing a Domestic Human Rights Institution in the United States,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/human_rights_institute/61