Human Rights Day

There is a UN Inspired Human Rights project trying to get folks to blog, discuss, and reflect on Human Rights today so I thought I should reprint the excellent declaration of human rights document (below).    Here is the Human Rights Day Websiterights

Some sixty years ago, on December 10, 1948, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.    It’s an excellent document and should continue to guide our thinking about human rights around the world.     I’m sorry that so many critics of US policy miss the forest for the trees with respect to the US role in the human rights equation.    Despite some glaring abuses in our country the USA remains a bastion of free speech, liberty, judicial stability, and personal freedom.      Sure we can improve, but it is critical to recognize that the major abuses of our time are overwhelmingly a product of circumstances in the developing world, combined with our tendency to leave those parts of the world out of our sphere of economic and social influences.    Zimbabwe comes to mind as one of many current examples of the deadly challenges of a nation with too little respect for human rights and too little attention from the rest of the world.

We tend to focus so much on things we disagree about rather than the majority of things where we almost universally agree.    I can’t help but think it would be a lot more productive if we devoted as much attention to solving the problems we all agree about rather than  arguing over those we don’t.

For me “life and liberty” is the key part, though even here you see how we need some clarification, e.g. in the case of criminals we can’t allow them their liberty:

Article 1.

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

    (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

    (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

    (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

    (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

    (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

    (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

    (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

    (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

    (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

    (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

    (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

    (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

    Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

    (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

    (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

    (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

    (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

    Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

    (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

    (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

    (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

12 thoughts on “Human Rights Day

  1. Impressive. Now the UN only needs to sell it to military dictatorships, theocratic states (whether monotheistic, or otherwise), and various monarchies and despotic govts, including the Grand Duchy of the Silicon Valley.

  2. (1) Too bad this isn’t accepted by raging left loons…this would make too much sense and they would have to become tolerant.

    Nice to see these points in writing it is a shame that the sheeple of the world just don’t seem to get it.

  3. It’s interesting to me how most of us can pretty much agree that these are legitimate rights and guidelines, but all hell breaks loose when we start to discuss where, when, how to implement them.

  4. Article 30?
    I’m reminded of Talleyrand’s comment about President Wilson’s Fourteen Points during the formulation of the League of Nations: The Good Lord only had ten!

  5. Thanks for posting this, Joe. It may be an imperfect document–just as the UN is an imperfect organization–but it should remind us all that there are things more important than oil, gold, and timber.
    As far as Zimbabwe goes, my expectation is that it will implode sometime in the next year. Then and only then will neighboring states step in to stabilize it and prevent an even greater catastrophe.

  6. Dave thanks for checking in here. I know you have very extensive expertise in African issues. Some time I hope we get to meet – I’d like to pick your brain on how Africa so consistently suffers under the worst conditions the world has to offer. When I see how often sociopathic leadership takes root I wonder why Africans can’t seem to escape the violence / bad leaders / poverty (and cycle that series again).

  7. The usual explanation is that Africa is really a bunch of tribes laboring under national boundaries that were drawn by Europeans in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Most wars in Africa are tribal genocides sporadically mediated by European do-gooders.

    Consider Nigeria. At the height of the boom in fax machines here in the US, Fax Fraud was reported to be the third largest industry in Nigeria with many top government officials being involved in it.

    One African country had an absentee government wherein the leader lived in Switzerland and his public relations machine ran the country and promptly eliminated any would-be dissidents.

    The real problem with Africa is that the rate of exchange varies: the foreign aid grants, the donated food, … all these things can be changed into dollars and bullets but the rate of exchange is not stable. An AK 47 is now considerably less than fifty dollars, but the twelve year old lugging it around in an “Army” platoon is far more expensive to obtain and maintain.

  8. (6) Joe what the world has allowed to happen in Africa is nothing short of appalling and just plain criminal.

    Even the UN has performed criminally within the country.

    It is amazing that the world sits back and watches and does nothing – especially the media.

    Ironically this is one of Bush’s major accomplishments – he has put more effort and money into the continent of Africa than any other President in our history and yet NO ONE knows anything about it.

  9. Hi Joe,
    Hope to meet you someday as well.
    One thing to keep in mind when looking for “the problem” with Africa: It’s a big place. There are failed states like the Central African Republic and Somalia, ruined dictatorships like Zimbabwe’s, and sink holes of despair like the Democratic Republic of Congo–all of which have different root problems. There are also tentative successes like Botswana, Ghana, and Zambia, where governments change without bloodshed and people are building lives in fairly well-ordered societies.
    We forget, too, that most nations in Africa have been independent for less than 50 years, a wink in the grand eye of the universe. What was the US like in 1826? We were still evolving our institutions–and getting ready for a whopping big civil war.
    As you know, I’m fascinated by Africa, which is why I wrote Heart of Diamonds. (Had to get that book plug in, Joe)

  10. AC Grayling blogging the UDHR:

    “””It is easy now, as it always has been, to think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a fine-sounding efflation of rhetoric, or, conversely, to think that it is a piece of Eurocentric Enlightenment imperialism whose highminded pronouncements – for example, about the equality of men and women – do not please all members of all cultures. Even those who agree that its principles are the right ones, and that if they were fully applied, they would make the world a vastly better place than it has even been, are sceptical about their utility because of the seeming near-impossibility of enforcing them.

    But, in fact, the UDHR has already made a real difference to this turbulent world of ours, and in itself is an extraordinary and challenging document, something too often overlooked because people either do not read it all the way through, despite its brevity, or because they do not meditate on its full import, especially from the point of view of social and political dispensations around the world not naturally adapted by history or political choice to be receptive to the assumptions underlying it. In this respect, indeed, the UDHR is a revolutionary document: and the revolution it inspires has been occurring – in fits and starts, and with funereal slowness, in most respects; but these are early days in the long view of history – ever since it was drafted.”””

    • AS the monotheistic religious holidays approach—actually, a religious holiday of some sort is nearly always approaching under judeo-christianity, and islam— rational humans could do worse than to ponder the political meaning of the UDHR.

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