Internal policy statement to be used by IHEU’s representatives with the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe
Humanism takes human beings as the only starting point for the development of ethical standards and values. It is a life stance which is undogmatic and non-theistic. Humanism views human beings, and consequently humankind, as being capable of shaping their own destiny. Humanism is therefore committed to enabling each person to achieve the most complete realisation of her or his potential for self-determination through the fundamental capacities of reason, feeling and judgement.
Although humanism regards human beings as individually distinct, it considers them to be equal members of society with regard to social rights and duties. Hence, humanism defend the rights of individuals while encouraging their responsibility for their own well-being as well as that of others.
Humanism is non-authoritarian in spirit and is sceptical of absolutism. Hence, humanists are committed to an open, democratic society. In particular, they affirm that human beings are born to be and should remain free. This means that they:
- Should be accorded civil liberties, including freedom of conscience, the right of dissent from prevailing social and political policies, freedom of speech, assembly and press, and freedom to express alternative religious, political, moral, scientific and philosophical points of view;
- Should be treated as equals without reference to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;
- Should be free of exploitation whether individual or collective, social, political or economic;
- Need social relations to help develop compassion, socio-economic solidarity and a sense of responsibility;
- Are required to understand and respect human rights and the freedom of others;
are entitled to an education which helps develop capacities for reason, feeling and judgement;
- Are obliged to preserve the environment from abuse or destruction in order to leave a healthful world to future generations;
- Have a duty to observe such laws that are or have been democratically established as well as to participate in the process of changing inadequate laws and rules through democratic procedures, employing civil disobedience as a last resort.
Humanists affirm the following social objectives which issue from the principles enumerated above:
- The right of every person to food, shelter and clothing. To make this possible, humanists advocate humane methods to control population growth such as family planning on a voluntary basis, and a just sharing of world resources.
- The right of every person to be secure in her or his physical being. Hence, humanists tend to support the abolition of warfare and death penalties.
- The right of every person to an education which is free from social privilege.
- The abolition of slavery in all its forms: the sale of human beings; cruel treatment, torture and terrorism.
- The complete separation of church and state.
- Equality with regard to socio-economic status.
- The right of every person to self-determination with regard to sexual relations, sexual orientation, abortion and euthanasia. Humanists advocate access to birth control equipment and to adequate help for those who are suffering and wish to terminate their lives.
- The right of every person to privacy. Humanists support limits on governmental, institutional and commercial access to personal information. They advocate freedom from arbitrary police intrusion and oppose increasing tendencies toward the collection of confidential data by public, semi-public and private institutions. They also defend the right of every person to information pertaining to her or his own person.
- The right of every person to work that she or he considers to be meaningful. Humanists support programs that encourage participation in the political and economic life of the community while at the same time defending the right to refuse to participate on grounds of conscientious objection.
- The responsibility of persons, industry and government for protecting the environment by ensuring the safe disposal or recycling of waste, including nuclear and chemical waste. Humanists also advocate programs which protect living beings from environmental dangers and help insure the safe survival of life on earth.
- The right of every person to free access to information, including news, intellectual and scientific discoveries, as well as alternative political viewpoints. Humanists affirm the free flow of information as a vehicle for limiting the potential abuse of scientific discovery by political, commercial and military agencies.
To help insure these rights and objectives, the International Humanist and Ethical Union has established the International Humanist Ombudsman. In particular, the Ombudsman will seek to protect the rights of persons unprotected by other organisations.
Board of Directors 1985
Suggested academic reference
'Principles and Objectives of the IHEU', Humanists International, Board of Directors, 1985