Human Rights and Gender Equality II

Major UN Covenants and Declarations

Values underpin sustainable development, and one kind of value approach is the human rights approach. The idea that every human being on the planet within any political system has human rights, and human rights of five sorts as I have mentioned. Civil rights as citizens. Political rights to participate in governance.

721Economic rights that define the right of individuals to meet basic needs. Social rights the right to live in secure families and communities. And cultural rights, the right to participate in one’s culture. And that human rights approach while not universally subscribed to by each person on the planet, has been found compelling across the world by individuals, by activists, by many different kinds of groups, by most governments. And it has become enshrined in a very important way in international law and in the norms of the international political and diplomatic system under the United Nations. When the United Nations was formed at the end of World War Two, one of the first great steps of the United Nations a few years after its founding in 1948 at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady of the United States and a great champion of human rights, was the adoption by the member states of the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a wonderful, remarkable document. A very powerful one that was adopted in the wake of World War Two at a time of hope and also remembrance of the devastation of World War Two and the idea that by meeting the basic rights and needs of all people in the world one would not only ensure their dignity improve their economic well being, but also help to prevent another global war and global disaster. The Universal Declaration is in essence the moral charter of the United Nations. The UN has it’s legal charter which defines it’s institutions, it’s functioning, the selection of the Secretary General, the operations of the security counsel and the General Assembly. It is itself an extremely important document of international law and practice. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the moral s, heart and soul of the United Nations. And when the UN takes actions in the area of economic development or protecting the environment, or protecting refugees or addressing natural disasters almost always it’s to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the eyes are drawn and that the attention is placed. Because that provides an inspiration and a guidance that continues more than half a century later. Well over half a century after the adoption of the Universal Declaration. Coming out of the Universal Declaration were two more detailed international covenants that also helped to implement The Universal Declaration. One is the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, the other is the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. So between those two covenants, one covers the five main areas of human rights. Most of the governments subscribed to both of those covenants. Interestingly, the United States did not subscribe to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political rights and it’s interesting to know why. While many, many Americans including myself certainly agree with the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the libertarian streak in the United States which goes back to the founding of the U.S. as it broke away from from Great Britain. The libertarian streak which takes the view that government’s main role is to provide defense, security and and private property, but not to do more than that because of the risks to liberty. That libertarian streak in part of American politics we don’t want to guarantee or to underpin or to encourage the idea of economic rights because economic rights means economic responsibilities to, especially for the rich. And the libertarians say, don’t go there, let markets, let individuals transact. It’s not the role of the state in their view to implement an ethical framework beyond that of the protection of the individual and, and private property. So the US did not sign that, though most of the world’s governments did. Later on, that was in 1966 when those two international covenants were adopted the UN has adopted many more specific ambitious goals around meeting the basic needs. The most important by far we’ve noted have been the Millennium Development Goals adopted in the year 2000. And I’ll note in just a few minutes that those two took their inspiration from the Universal Declaration and from the international covenants, because the Millennium Development Goals were taken from the start as a way to implement, in essence, the human rights to a decent economic life helping the poor to break free at the poverty trap. Let’s go back to the 1948 Universal Declaration that is so important and it is a very moving document which I hope will continue to be honored, respected, read embraced and improved upon in the 21st century. So in 1948 the governments of the world agreed to the following. They said the General Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, the progressive realization of the rights, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. So that is the preamble more or less to the Universal  Declaration. Saying that all of the Member States should strive to teach, advocate and honour and progressively achieve all of the rights of the Declaration itself. Well there are many rights and it’s a a document that bears study. But I wanted to highlight just a few of them. Article 22 calls for the right to social security. In other words, to a guaranteed base so that human dignity and the most basic needs of water, shelter, clothing and so forth can be met. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration calls for the right to work, to a livelihood, to be able for individuals to support themselves and their families. Article 24 calls for the right to rest and leisure so that one can’t demand work of around the clock and in burdensome and crushing ways. Article 25 says that there is universal right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the individual 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, widow, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. What a remarkable bold statement. How unmet that remains today we know with more than one billion people still living in extreme poverty. These goals even according to the founders of the Universal Declaration would not be achieved instantly. They would only be realized progressively. But progressive might mean time is time is up. Time to meet these needs and we know as we’ve discussed, that meeting the basic needs of all is within reach. The end of poverty in its extreme form is itself within reach in our generation. Article 26 says that everyone has a right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. A merit good should apply to everyone in the world. And Article 28 I find very, very interesting, it says that everyone is entitled to a social

and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. In other words, this is not just an empty statement of wishes. This is a call for a political order and a social order in which these rights can be progressively realized. And I think that this is a key point. One could still by cynical and say, doesn’t matter, it’s just words on a page. Governments don’t have to do this. But it really does say more than that, and the effects are more powerful than, just the cynical view that they can easily be discarded. What the document is saying is that only do individuals have rights, but individuals in our collectivity in our nations,and in a grouping of nations at the United Nations, also has the right to a system of government, a system of taxation and spending and delivery of services in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized. To implement this Universal Declaration, of course, is mainly the responsibilities of each society, but the international covenants which came in 1966 are more detailed documents that describe more specifically the various rights and more specifically how they are to be realized.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights focuses naturally on the rights of citizenship and the protection from abuses of the state. And let me just mention a few of the key points of the civil and political rights that are defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 6, for example, says that the right to life is protected by law. Government cannot willfully end without a due process, take a life. And of course, in many countries of the world capital punishment has been made illegal and has been eliminated long ago. Yet we do know that governments continue to kill their people that is not realizing the rights of this covenant. Article 7 says that no one can be subjected to torture. Here again we know that governments have violated this willfully. The United States itself engaged in water boarding so called after 9/11 until that was discontinued by the Obama Administration. Or at least we hope and and it was said by the administration that it has been discontinued. But torture, of course, remains a terrible scourge practiced in many parts of the world. Article 8 says that nobody can be held in slavery. And while slavery is illegal throughout the world, we know that there is human trafficking and that people are held in slavery though illegally. Governments have the responsibility to fight to resist that and to free people that are held against their will. Article 9 says that there’s a right to liberty and security of individuals, that government cannot violate the liberty and security of their citizens. Article 16 says there’s a right of citizenship defined as the recognition of all persons before the law. Article 18 declares the freedom of thought. Article 24, the protection of children. And Article 26, the equal protection of the law from discriminatory application. So you can see that these are rights that are not realized to the extent that they need to be. But our rights that are widely accepted, widely regarded, at least on paper, that’s a start and in application, but to be realized and to, to to be struggled for.

Now the companion to the civil and political rights, are the economic, social and cultural rights adopted at the same time in the complimentary international covenant. And let me mention some of those economic and social and cultural rights. And again, as in the Universal Declaration[2], Article 6 calls for the right to work. Article 7 for just and favorable conditions of work decent remuneration and safe working environment. Article 8 declares the right of individuals to form and to join trade unions. Article 9 as in the Universal Declaration, the right to social security. Article 11, the right to an adequate standard of living, to be able to meet basic needs. Article 12, very interesting and very important, very relevant for the Millennium Development Goals and for the sustainable development goals that will follow is the highest attainable, the right to I should say, the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Very interesting. At first one can’t grant the right to health, per se. People are ill they may suffer from conditions that are not preventable or treatable. So the standard is the highest attainable level of health. Importantly, physical health and mental health, because we know that mental illness is a terrible scourge for individuals and quantitatively a very heavy burden on societies around the world. Article 13, the right to education. And Article 15, the right to take part in cultural lives. And again as in the original Universal Declaration the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights realizes this isn’t all at once. This is a framework, it’s a moral and ethical framework, it is a commitment. And the way that it is defined, is that each state party to this covenant undertakes steps individually, and through international assistance and cooperation, and to the maximum extent of its available resources to, to honor these rights and then quote, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in this covenant. So, this is a call on us. It’s to turn values into practice. And while cynics may say, so what, practice shows differently. These values do reach the heart. They do move governments. They can make a big difference, and I think this has been nowhere more clear than in the Millennium Development Goal effort. Initiated in September 2000, you’ll recall, by the world leaders gathered at the United Nations, and providing a motivation to meet these basic needs in health, in education, in gender equality, in at least a minimum standard of living. And when the MBG’s were launched in September 2000 in the Millennium Declaration which framed them and which looked to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the government said, we will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone, and to freeing the entire human race from want. Human rights at the core of this development agenda, a motivation, a set of legal agreements and a moral heart of the United Nations, and of the sustainable development efforts in the years ahead.

[1]

Values underpin sustainable development, and one kind of value approach is the human rights approach. The idea that every human being on the planet within any political system has human rights, and human rights of five sorts as I have mentioned. Civil rights as citizens. Political rights to participate in governance. Economic rights that define the right of individuals to meet basic needs. Social rights the right to live in secure families and communities. And cultural rights, the right to participate in one’s culture. And that human rights approach while not universally subscribed to by each person on the planet, has been found compelling across the world by individuals, by activists, by many different kinds of groups, by most governments. And it has become enshrined in a very important way in international law and in the norms of the international political and diplomatic system under the United Nations. When the United Nations was formed at the end of World War Two, one of the first great steps of the United Nations a few years after its founding in 1948 at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady of the United States and a great champion of human rights, was the adoption by the member states of the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a wonderful, remarkable document. A very powerful one that was adopted in the wake of World War Two at a time of hope and also remembrance of the devastation of World War Two and the idea that by meeting the basic rights and needs of all people in the world one would not only ensure their dignity improve their economic well being, but also help to prevent another global war and global disaster. The Universal Declaration is in essence the moral charter of the United Nations. The UN has it’s legal charter which defines it’s institutions, it’s functioning, the selection of the Secretary General, the operations of the security counsel and the General Assembly. It is itself an extremely important document of international law and practice. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the moral s, heart and soul of the United Nations. And when the UN takes actions in the area of economic development or protecting the environment, or protecting refugees or addressing natural disasters almost always it’s to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the eyes are drawn and that the attention is placed. Because that provides an inspiration and a guidance that continues more than half a century later. Well over half a century after the adoption of the Universal Declaration. Coming out of the Universal Declaration were two more detailed international covenants that also helped to implement The Universal Declaration. One is the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, the other is the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. So between those two covenants, one covers the five main areas of human rights. Most of the governments subscribed to both of those covenants. Interestingly, the United States did not subscribe to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political rights and it’s interesting to know why. While many, many Americans including myself certainly agree with the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the libertarian streak in the United States which goes back to the founding of the U.S. as it broke away from from Great Britain. The libertarian streak which takes the view that government’s main role is to provide defense, security and and private property, but not to do more than that because of the risks to liberty. That libertarian streak in part of American politics we don’t want to guarantee or to underpin or to encourage the idea of economic rights because economic rights means economic responsibilities to, especially for the rich. And the libertarians say, don’t go there, let markets, let individuals transact. It’s not the role of the state in their view to implement an ethical framework beyond that of the protection of the individual and, and private property. So the US did not sign that, though most of the world’s governments did. Later on, that was in 1966 when those two international covenants were adopted the UN has adopted many more specific ambitious goals around meeting the basic needs. The most important by far we’ve noted have been the Millennium Development Goals adopted in the year 2000. And I’ll note in just a few minutes that those two took their inspiration from the Universal Declaration and from the international covenants, because the Millennium Development Goals were taken from the start as a way to implement, in essence, the human rights to a decent economic life helping the poor to break free at the poverty trap. Let’s go back to the 1948 Universal Declaration that is so important and it is a very moving document which I hope will continue to be honored, respected, read embraced and improved upon in the 21st century. So in 1948 the governments of the world agreed to the following. They said the General Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, the progressive realization of the rights, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. So that is the preamble more or less to the Universal  Declaration. Saying that all of the Member States should strive to teach, advocate and honour and progressively achieve all of the rights of the Declaration itself. Well there are many rights and it’s a a document that bears study. But I wanted to highlight just a few of them. Article 22 calls for the right to social security. In other words, to a guaranteed base so that human dignity and the most basic needs of water, shelter, clothing and so forth can be met. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration calls for the right to work, to a livelihood, to be able for individuals to support themselves and their families. Article 24 calls for the right to rest and leisure so that one can’t demand work of around the clock and in burdensome and crushing ways. Article 25 says that there is universal right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the individual 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, widow, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. What a remarkable bold statement. How unmet that remains today we know with more than one billion people still living in extreme poverty. These goals even according to the founders of the Universal Declaration would not be achieved instantly. They would only be realized progressively. But progressive might mean time is time is up. Time to meet these needs and we know as we’ve discussed, that meeting the basic needs of all is within reach. The end of poverty in its extreme form is itself within reach in our generation. Article 26 says that everyone has a right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. A merit good should apply to everyone in the world. And Article 28 I find very, very interesting, it says that everyone is entitled to a social

and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. In other words, this is not just an empty statement of wishes. This is a call for a political order and a social order in which these rights can be progressively realized. And I think that this is a key point. One could still by cynical and say, doesn’t matter, it’s just words on a page. Governments don’t have to do this. But it really does say more than that, and the effects are more powerful than, just the cynical view that they can easily be discarded. What the document is saying is that only do individuals have rights, but individuals in our collectivity in our nations,and in a grouping of nations at the United Nations, also has the right to a system of government, a system of taxation and spending and delivery of services in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized. To implement this Universal Declaration, of course, is mainly the responsibilities of each society, but the international covenants which came in 1966 are more detailed documents that describe more specifically the various rights and more specifically how they are to be realized.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights focuses naturally on the rights of citizenship and the protection from abuses of the state. And let me just mention a few of the key points of the civil and political rights that are defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 6, for example, says that the right to life is protected by law. Government cannot willfully end without a due process, take a life. And of course, in many countries of the world capital punishment has been made illegal and has been eliminated long ago. Yet we do know that governments continue to kill their people that is not realizing the rights of this covenant. Article 7 says that no one can be subjected to torture. Here again we know that governments have violated this willfully. The United States itself engaged in water boarding so called after 9/11 until that was discontinued by the Obama Administration. Or at least we hope and and it was said by the administration that it has been discontinued. But torture, of course, remains a terrible scourge practiced in many parts of the world. Article 8 says that nobody can be held in slavery. And while slavery is illegal throughout the world, we know that there is human trafficking and that people are held in slavery though illegally. Governments have the responsibility to fight to resist that and to free people that are held against their will. Article 9 says that there’s a right to liberty and security of individuals, that government cannot violate the liberty and security of their citizens. Article 16 says there’s a right of citizenship defined as the recognition of all persons before the law. Article 18 declares the freedom of thought. Article 24, the protection of children. And Article 26, the equal protection of the law from discriminatory application. So you can see that these are rights that are not realized to the extent that they need to be. But our rights that are widely accepted, widely regarded, at least on paper, that’s a start and in application, but to be realized and to, to to be struggled for.

Now the companion to the civil and political rights, are the economic, social and cultural rights adopted at the same time in the complimentary international covenant. And let me mention some of those economic and social and cultural rights. And again, as in the Universal Declaration, Article 6 calls for the right to work. Article 7 for just and favorable conditions of work decent remuneration and safe working environment. Article 8 declares the right of individuals to form and to join trade unions. Article 9 as in the Universal Declaration, the right to social security. Article 11, the right to an adequate standard of living, to be able to meet basic needs. Article 12, very interesting and very important, very relevant for the Millennium Development Goals and for the sustainable development goals that will follow is the highest attainable, the right to I should say, the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Very interesting. At first one can’t grant the right to health, per se. People are ill they may suffer from conditions that are not preventable or treatable. So the standard is the highest attainable level of health. Importantly, physical health and mental health, because we know that mental illness is a terrible scourge for individuals and quantitatively a very heavy burden on societies around the world. Article 13, the right to education. And Article 15, the right to take part in cultural lives. And again as in the original Universal Declaration the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights realizes this isn’t all at once. This is a framework, it’s a moral and ethical framework, it is a commitment. And the way that it is defined, is that each state party to this covenant undertakes steps individually, and through international assistance and cooperation, and to the maximum extent of its available resources to, to honor these rights and then quote, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in this covenant. So, this is a call on us. It’s to turn values into practice. And while cynics may say, so what, practice shows differently. These values do reach the heart. They do move governments. They can make a big difference, and I think this has been nowhere more clear than in the Millennium Development Goal effort. Initiated in September 2000, you’ll recall, by the world leaders gathered at the United Nations, and providing a motivation to meet these basic needs in health, in education, in gender equality, in at least a minimum standard of living. And when the MBG’s were launched in September 2000 in the Millennium Declaration which framed them and which looked to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the government said, we will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone, and to freeing the entire human race from want. Human rights at the core of this development agenda, a motivation, a set of legal agreements and a moral heart of the United Nations, and of the sustainable development efforts in the years ahead.

 

Pedro Pereira Leite

Researcher and professor. He had his PhD. on museology in 2011, with the title “Muss-amb-ike Homeland: The commitment on musicological process”, that was published in 2011. In 2012 he finishes a Post-PhD Research on "Biographical Glances: The intersubjectivity poetry on museology, at Lusófona University (Lisbon). Presently he is working in his Post PhD. Research about: “Global Heritages" with the aims to build a network on local cognizance and memory manager has a tool to build the will of action in 3 different communities, linked by past communed heritages.” He works at CES. He participates on different Research network, presented papers in national and international conferences, and had published books on research subjects.

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