Tallinn, 10 December. Almost a third of Estonians do not know what human rights are, new report from the Instituteof Human Rightsshows – wholly 30% of the respondents said that the term “human rights” means nothing to them.


“Compared to some other country, Estonians’ awareness of human rights is not the lowest, but it is definitely not satisfactory,” said parliamentarian Mart Nutt, member of theInstituteofHuman Rightssupervisory council. “The low level of awareness alludes to a fact that people often do not know how to identify violations in human rights and therefore to stand up for their rights. They also do not know how to differentiate human rights violations from other social problems, and therefore, do not know on what bases the human rights situation inEstoniacan be assessed,” Nutt said, commenting on the results of the survey.


Based on the Estonian Human Rights Report for 2012, the rights that are best known include the right to life (92%), followed by the rights to education (87%) and equality before the law (86%). At the same time, the awareness of ethnic Estonians is considerably higher than that of non-Estonians.

According to Nutt, there are several reasons for this low awareness. “People primarily perceive those problems that touch them most directly,” Nutt said. As an example, he mentioned socio-economic problems, which are caused by insufficient income and living standards. Among non-Estonians, additional problems are caused by limited proficiency in the official language.


The majority of the Estonian population believes that there are no violations of human rights in Estonia, the survey confirms. 54% of the Estonian population believes that everything related to human rights is in good order in our country, but 29% believe that this is not true. 17% did not know how to answer the questions.


“These indicators do not differ significantly from those in other democratic countries. Unfortunately, the answers to additional questions reveal that a large portion of those who think that everything is not fine with human rights in Estonia, do not know what human rights are and consider their difficult economic situations to be violations of human rights (23% of respondents),” Nutt explained.


Some of the local non-Estonian-speaking population also considers the requirement for Estonian language proficiency to be a violation of their human rights, along with the requirement that 60% of the curricula in upper secondary schools be taught in Estonian. This is generally not a violation of human rights, but people’s insufficient proficiency in the official language, which creates a feeling of alienation,” Nutt explained.


According to the residents of Estonia, the main human rights problems are related to the issue of women’s rights, i.e. the pay gap (8%) and inequality (8%).

A relatively small portion of the population identify problems with the freedom of speech (5%), adherence to the laws and unjust punishment (5%), as well as discrimination in the workplace (5%), lack of citizenship and the lack of the possibility to vote (5%), children’s rights (3%), age-related discrimination (3%), poor treatment of disabled people (2%).
For the 2012 Estonian Human Rights Report, the Institute of Human Rights commissioned the Turu-uuringute AS to conduct a survey of 15- to 74-year-old Estonian residents. The survey was carried out using the omnibus method in August of this year and there were 1,001 respondents.


The 10th of December is International Human Rights Day, which is dedicated to the passage of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948.
The day is celebrated around the world with specific events related to human rights as well as broader cultural events. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on the same day in the Oslo City Hall.


The Institute of Human Rights is celebrating Human Rights Day with a two-day representational conference in Tallinn on 9 and 10 December.


The survey materials are available here:


More information:
Aet Kukk