The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique

By David Kairys | Go to book overview

RHONDA COPELON


9
THE INDIVISIBLE FRAMEWORK OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS: BRINGING IT HOME

THE year 1998 marks the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), drafted when the capitalist world was constrained by the Soviet Union, and when want and war and the industrialized hatred of the Nazi Holocaust were recent memories.1 The UDHR was designed to elaborate the commitment, inaugurated in the UN Charter, to promote human rights as indispensable to international as well as domestic peace and security. As a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations," the UDHR prohibits all forms of discrimination and is the foundation of an indivisible concept of rights. In contrast to the negative approach of the U.S. Bill of Rights, it recognizes as inseparable and interdependent--indivisible--political and civil rights and social, economic, and cultural rights.

In other words, the promise of the UDHR cannot be met by simply protecting liberty or simply providing food. These are inseparable and interdependent in that the opportunity to exercise liberty will influence the production and distribution of food, at the same time as hunger is antithetical to the enjoyment of liberty and full participation in society. Threatening to resign over U.S. opposition to the economic and social rights aspect of indivisibility, Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the Human Rights Commission from 1946 to 1952 and was instrumental in negotiating the UDHR, put it succinctly: "You can't talk civil rights to people who are hungry."2

Notwithstanding Eleanor Roosevelt's contribution and the broad acceptance of the UDHR among nations today, its indivisible platform

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