by Abdullahi Warfa, MA , Peace and Conflict Studies , firstname.lastname@example.org
FEATURE | Undoubtedly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was western-made. Moreover, all but two of its initial drafts were written in English.
The Human Rights Movement has reflected and even led to the expansion of human rights in the use of the idea of rights within moral and political discourse. First, the bill of rights, and then children’s rights, woman’s rights, rights of the peoples to self determination and many other rights were introduced.
Many political movements would like to have their main demands recognized as rights, what about the animal rights movements, what about the amnesty international calling for rejection of death panels rights, all of these vertical expansion in the concept of human rights led many theorists to call for quality and serious evaluation. Maurice Cranston worried that imposing many rights will eventually cause to rights inflation, to devaluation of the currency of the rights.
Therefore, Maurice Cranston
(What are Human rights.1973.)
these worries of proliferation of rights led many to challenge most of the rights introduced in last century, including many rights proclaimed by Human rights declaration on 1948 to advocate only for first generation of rights (Civil and political rights).
In light of the heated argument about expansion of human rights, I will shed light on philosophical analysis of the concept of rights and the debate on expansion of human rights.I will argue in line with other Human rights writer’s likes of John Rawls that it is desirable to keep the list of human rights at minimal standard. This is to say so, to keep the face of human rights tidy.
Philosophy of Rights
Human rights are rights that attach to human beings and function as moral guaranteed in support of our claims towards the enjoyment of minimally good life. In conceptual terms, human rights themselves are product of the concept of rights.
In order to gain a broad understanding of foundations of philosophical human rights we will consider the distinctions of MORAL RIGHTS AND LEGAL RIGHTS
To draw a line between moral and legal rights as two separate classes of rights is of fundamental importance to understand the basis and application of human rights.
Legal rights are simply rights protected by law. A questions related to its existences can be referred to relevant legal system.
The utilitarian or legal positivists argue that the only rights that can legitimately exist are LEGAL RIGHTS.
Therefore, as they argue, the moral rights are nonsense. But are better thought of as moral Claim, which may or may not eventually be assimilated within national and international law. For utilitarian, such as Jeremy Bentham, there can be no such thing as human rights existing prior to, or independly from legal codification.
On the other hand, Moral rights are that, exist prior to and independtly from their counterparts, its validity and independtly is immune from actions of legislators. see also (
Universal declaration of human rights versa minimal human rights
In the early articles, the language human rights declaration has used is that of the natural rights traditions in the age of reason such as the rights to life, liberty, property equality, justice, however, the declaration of 1948 includes a further family of rights which are rights of another kind.
In the record of the commission, the rights named in the first twenty articles are called “political and civil rights” and the new rights are called “economic and social rights.
The economic and social rights were not known to John Lock and the other rights theorists of the past; Maurice Cranston(What are Human rights.1973) rejects the idea of including economic and social rights both philosophically and politically. The philosophical objection is that the new theory of human rights does not make sense and the political objection is that the circulation of a confused notion of human rights hinders the effective protection of what are correctly seen as human rights.
He continues that saying “there is nothing essentially difficult about transforming political and civil rights into positive rights. All that is needed is an international court with real power of enforcement, but economic and social rights cannot be positively transformed”.It cannot be morally justified, for example, the right to holiday with pay, it is a right that is limited to those persons who are paid any case , this is to say to employee class. Since not everyone enjoys to this class , the right cannot be universal a rights which , in the terminology of the Universal declaration. “Everyone has”
Rawlins Ultra minimalism
John Bordley Rawls (February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an
and a leading figure in
Before he passed away, he published his book (The law of people) in which he agrees with other theorists in viewing human rights as high priority norms that are universal.
He also points that human rights set out minimal rather than optimal standards for how countries should treat people. He thinks that human rights are more feasible internationally if they are kept to a ultra minimal list (only security rights alone).
John argue that the reason for keeping the list minimal is to accommodate decent people. Countries which reflect many liberal rights, but which are not so oppressive and dangerous to be considered OUT-LAW states. He says the list of human rights declaration is too much liberal, democratic and egalitarian to find world acceptance. He only endorses following rights:
Right to life
Right to form a equity
Right of emigration
Right to property
There is strong reason to support Rawls for his call to human rights be minimal standards .James nickel says that : By insisting that human rights address very severe problems that we ensure their high priority and universality. If we may deal with problems such a smoking , this may undermine the claim of human rights to have a great importance.
Secondly: to leave ample room for democratic decision making at the national level.
Thirdly: it helps make them accepted countries who prize their independence and self determination .
Fourthly: by limiting human rights to minimal standards we make them likely to be feasible in the vast majority of world’ countries.
Glendon Glong with other thinking also argued that we have given far too much attention to individual rights and have neglected both the needs and the larger community and the importance of individual responsibilities.
Glendon’ argument was not abandonment of Human rights but to renewal of our strong rights tradition
Dworkin (R. (1993) agrees with her by saying that “ The language of rights now dominates political debate”
In her words ( M. A. (1991) , Rights talk “)
for refining our deliberations concerning such matters as whether a particular issue is best conceptualized as involving a right ; the relation a given rights should have to other rights and interests ; The responsibilities , if any that should be correlative with a given right ; social cost of rights ; and what effects a given right can be expected to have on the setting of conditions for the durable protection of freedom and human dignity
Samuel Walker (S.(1998), respects her as a leader figure in the current of American thought which has been given the name of communitarianism.
Contemporary human rights
James Nickel (1987 :8-10) indentifies three specific ways in which the contemporary of human rights differs from and goes that of natural rights .First he argue that contemporary human rights are far more concerned to view the realization of equally as requiring positive action by state , via the provision of welfare assistance , for example . Advocates of natural rights, he argues, were far more inclined to review equality in formalistic term, as principally requiring the state to refrain from interfering in individuals’ lives. Secondly, he argues that , whereas advocates of natural rights tended to conceive of human beings as mere individuals , veritable islands unto themselves , advocates of contemporary human rights are far more willing to recognize the importance of family and community in individuals’ lives . Third Nickel views human rights as being far more internationalist in scope and orientation than was typically found within arguments in support of natural rights.
This is to say, the protection and promotion of human rights are increasingly seen as requiring international action and concern. This clarification by Nickel between the contemporary human rights and those of natural rights will give go head to many human rights writers. I found through my readings that many writers on this subject agree with Nickel this distinction and the identification of three generation of human rights. First generation rights consist primary rights to security, property, and political participation .These are most typically associated with the French and America declaration. Second generation rights seen as socio-economic rights, rights to welfare, education, leisure and these rights are largely found in Universal human rights declaration.
The third generation of rights is associated with such rights as rights to national self determination, a clean environment and the rights of minorities.
Generally speaking this generation of human rights is of significant within human rights doctrine and it’s developing.
We emphasized on the above papers the debate and discussion of Human rights for being interpreted in different context and as being more proliferative.
In part support of my position to minimal human rights, I agreed with profoundly thinkers likes of Rawlins Ultra minimalism and others who are in line with him.
On the other side of the debate, there is strong foundation of their argument for including more families of Human rights to the existing ones. James Nickel proposed as we have seen three classes of Human rights and also open for more families of new human rights.
, we have seen
the argument of cultural relativism which focused on traditional culture is sufficient to protect human dignity, and therefore universal human rights are unnecessary. We highlighted on one possible way to reconcile them.
The Idea of universalism is tainted by the historical and present practice of its major proponents. Undoubtedly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was western-made. Moreover, all but two of its initial drafts were written in English.
by Abdullahi Warfa, MA , Peace and Conflict Studies, email@example.com