20 Rights and obligations of citizens

The rights are the freedoms and guarantees of the citizens. These rights generally have to be secured by the state.

Les obligations are the commitments or responsibilities which citizens acquire in the exercise of their rights. This means that there are no rights without responsibilities, and vice versa.

Rights and obligations are a set of rules created to promote social coexistence and relations between citizens and institutions. The difference between rights and obligations is that the rights must be guaranteed by the state to the citizens, while the obligations lay down the responsibilities of the citizens towards the state and the laws.

Rights Obligations
Definition These are provisions that allow citizens to have citizen participation, through principles, rights, freedoms and guaranteed guarantees. These are the responsibilities that citizens have with the state.
  • Human rights.
  • Citizens’ rights.
  • Fundamental duties.
  • Citizen duties.
Legal instruments
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The constitution of each country.
  • Legal order.
  • The constitution of each country.
  1. Right to life.
  2. Right to freedom of expression.
  3. Right to free association.
  4. Right to education.
  5. Right to health.
  6. Right to vote.
  7. Right to free movement.
  8. Right to work.
  9. Right to housing.
  10. Right to private property.
  1. Defend the constitution and the laws.
  2. Defend the territory.
  3. Provide civil service.
  4. Pay taxes.
  5. To work
  6. Electoral vote.
  7. Protect the heritage.
  8. Promoting peace.
  9. Active participation in the community.
  10. Pursue basic education.

What are rights?

Rights are the provisions or guarantees that people have to be able to enjoy a number of freedoms provided by the state.

The rights of citizens are enshrined in the constitution of each country and may therefore vary.

However, a key international instrument for defining these rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a set of universal postulates established by the United Nations in 1948.

Here are the most important rights:

1. Right to life

All citizens have the right to life, and this right will materialize in different ways according to the laws of each country. However, in general terms, States are obliged to provide all necessary mechanisms for the protection of this right.

Some of these mechanisms are:

  • Legal mechanisms.
  • Disease protection through public health mechanisms.
  • Medical care for pregnant women.
  • Social measures to protect vulnerable people.

2. Right to freedom of expression

Everyone has the right to express their opinions and ideas freely. The exercise of this right may not infringe the rights of other individuals by defaming or exposing their privacy.

In countries with authoritarian regimes, this right is not only not enforced, but citizens are coerced to avoid freely expressing their ideas.

3. Right to free association

Every citizen has the right to freely associate with third parties, provided that this is done legally, respecting the rules established by each country for such cases.

This right is especially useful in economic activities, as it can have a positive impact on the local, regional or global economy, directly or indirectly benefiting other people.

4. Right to education

Everyone has the right to have access to the education system and the state must seek the appropriate means to do so.

This right is expressed in the incorporation of citizens into free and compulsory primary education, accessible secondary education and equitable higher education.

5. Right to health

Through this right, states guarantee a free and quality public health system to which citizens can have access without discrimination.

The right to health must be of a preventive nature in the first instance; this helps to ensure better living conditions and a lower incidence of disease in the population.

6. Right to vote

Caregivers have the right to a universal and secret ballot to choose their rulers, whether in local or national courts.

However, this right remains limited for many women in various countries around the world, which poses a major challenge to social development.

7. Right to free movement

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

Each state is free to establish mechanisms to limit free traffic in situations that require it (disturbing public order, natural disasters, etc.).

8. Right to work

States must promote measures that stimulate the activation of the economy by creating jobs.

Measures that serve as protection for workers, that guarantee their access to the economic system through employment and fair treatment that allows them to carry out their work and contribute to society.

9. Right to housing

Everyone has the right to decent housing that provides the basic conditions for personal development.

States must guarantee this right through measures that allow citizens to have access to housing, whether through public, private or mixed initiatives (housing of social interest, microcredit, etc.).

10. Right to private property

Citizens have the right to acquire property in their own name, whether as natural or legal persons, as long as it is done within the legal framework of each country.

What are the obligations?

Obligations are a series of responsibilities that must be respected by citizens, and the non-fulfillment of which can lead to legal sanctions.

As with rights, citizens’ obligations vary according to the constitution of each country; however, these are some of the most common in many current laws:

11. Defend the constitution and the laws

All citizens must respect and defend the constitution of their country and contribute to social coexistence by complying with the relevant laws.

12. Defend the territory in case of armed conflict

In some countries, military service is required. Also citizen participation in cases where military action is required, such as assaults on sovereignty or national territory, with the prior call of the relevant authorities.

13. Provide civil service

This obligation refers to the participation of citizens in civil or military activities in the event of a natural disaster or social shock.

14. Pay taxes

The payment of taxes by citizens is used to finance public spending, so in many laws it is an obligation whose non-compliance is severely punished.

To pay taxes, each country sets its own requirements, but in general it is necessary to be larger, engage in economic activity and generate a minimum monthly or annual income.

15. Work

Work, in addition to a right, is an obligation that must be fulfilled by citizens, always in the terms established by law and preserving the safety and dignity of the person.

16. Exercise the electoral vote

In countries with democratic regimes, electoral participation is not only a right, it is also a duty that the citizen must assume. It is the duty and responsibility of individuals to choose their representatives.

17. Protect the heritage

It is the duty of citizens to protect the elements that make up the cultural identity of their country or region, that is, their language, traditions, monuments, natural environment, etc.

18. To promote peace and social coexistence

Citizens have an obligation to promote harmonious social coexistence by complying with laws, actions and regulations that contribute to the peace of the people.

In everyday practice, non-discrimination and social inclusion are two ways to do this.

19. Participate actively in the community

Citizens are expected to be actively involved in building peace and social progress through multiple pathways established by each country.

In many cases, this obligation consists of participating as observers or witnesses in electoral processes, or as a jury in a court, with the prior fulfillment of the corresponding requirements.

20. Pursue basic education.

Education is a right, but also a responsibility that the individual must assume to acquire the basic knowledge and skills that allow him to develop a full personal development.

Rights and obligations of children

Boys and girls also have rights and obligations. In this sense, their rights are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, published in 1989 by the United Nations.

For its part, its responsibilities are broadly drawn from a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, released by Unicef.

Among the most important principles are the right to identity and the right to be protected by the state from any form of economic exploitation.

Among the obligations of children we can highlight the obligation to respect other children.

They also have a responsibility to share the knowledge gained at school with other peers, especially if they have some form of disability or physical or mental condition.

See also:


  • Spanish Constitution (BOE no. 311, of December 29, 1978).

  • Political constitution of Colombia. 1991. Constitutional Gazette No. 116 of July 20, 1991.

  • Political Constitution of the United Mexican States [México]February 5, 1917.

  • González, PEG (2016). Duties of the person and the citizen. Journal of Free Legal Criteria, 13 (2), 102-111.

  • United Nations General Assembly. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 217 (III) A. Paris, 1948. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
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