Appendix J: (Un)Fairness

The John Humphrey Centre Rights in Play Guide provides the following background information on the topic, (Un)Fairness:


Human rights ensure that everyone can live with dignity and grow to their full potential. The concept of fairness is an integral theme in human rights. Fairness is sometimes expressed in human rights literature as justice or equality and is based on respect for humanity and the acceptance of social responsibility. The activities in this section explore the topic of fairness between individuals and groups as well as the fairness of policies and laws. The connections between fairness and human rights are discussed and evaluated.

In order for human dignity to be honoured, the fair treatment of people by institutions and by each other is necessary. Personal and social circumstances such as socio-economic status, gender, or nationality should not interfere with meeting potential.

The UDHR [see Appendix A] does not explicitly refer to ‘fairness’; however, the wording of several individual articles promotes and necessitates fairness. For example, Article 7 of the UDHR states: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. This article forwards the notion of fair treatment.



Equal: The same in importance and deserving the same treatment.[1]

Equitable: fair and reasonable; treating everyone in the same way.[2]

Fairness: when actions or decisions are marked by impartiality and honesty, and are free from self-interest, prejudice or favouritism:[3] when people are treated equally or in a way that is right and/or reasonable.[4]

Justice: fairness in the way people are treated.

Understanding the Concept:

‘Fairness’ is a broad term that encompasses many ideas such as justice, equality, equity, dignity, and non-discrimination. Fairness is closely related to human rights and helps people to live lives of dignity and respect each other. The UDHR states that everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human rights promote fairness and equality.

DID YOU KNOW? [This information can be expanded and amended.]

  • In Canada, we have public servants, called ombudsmen, who champion fairness and administrative justice. They act as a liaison between the people and the government. The term “ombudsman” comes from Danish, Norwegian and Swedish and originally meant “representative”.

  • One study suggests that the human brain treats fairness in the same way as it treats money and chocolate – as a reward.[5]