Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Stemming the Bias of Civil and Political Rights over Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Stemming the Bias of Civil and Political Rights over Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Article excerpt


To comprehend the true meaning of economic, social, and cultural rights as human rights, first it is important to understand that all human rights are consistently interconnected with seemingly distant moral values, political narratives, and legal technicalities. (1) Throughout history, people have struggled to preserve human dignity, and in essence human rights are all about respecting the core of this human dignity. (2) As a natural instinct, human beings resist and react inwardly and outwardly when they feel that their dignity is abrogated by any means; (3) human dignity is both a feeling and a vision. (4) Through a certain set of rules humans have tried to protect these intuitions. (5) These rules are called human rights. However, the concept of human dignity--which is the core of human rights--has evolved. (6) Therefore, it is very much possible that a feeling that was never historically associated with human dignity is, here and now, seen as a vital core of human dignity. (7) Furthermore, the evolution of human rights has a lot to do with the consensus built among humankind. (8) The determination of human rights basically contests that humankind has consensus upon "what sort of practices violate human dignity." (9) These consensuses have developed over human history to shape human rights. (10) For example, over the last couple of centuries, (11) humanity as a whole has agreed that torture (12) and slavery (13) violate human dignity. (14) As a result, the right not to be tortured and the right not to be enslaved are both now basic human rights. (15)

Even within a small nation, it is quite challenging to attain consensus on developing any particular human right because doing so requires deliberations and debates within societies, groups, and parliaments. (16) Further, to progress consensus, fact-finding commissions are established to gather facts and present them to the general public to highlight issues and general practices that violate human dignity. (17) If a society is convinced that a certain practice genuinely abuses human dignity, it provides its collective weight to push for legislation to embed this conviction into its national law. (18) In this way, laws protect human dignity through human rights.

This societal conviction to protect human rights is even reflected in the wording of the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, (19) which states that:

"... the Peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." (20)

Clearly, there are definite shared tenets of human rights that can be seen as an embodiment of the mutual characteristics of human dignity. These tenets can be categorized into four groups. First, all human rights are inherent in nature, which means that human rights arc a matter of human privilege by birth. This is why they are referred to as human rights. (21) Second, human rights and human needs are two distinct features; a government is obliged to safeguard human rights but not to fulfill any human needs. (22) Third, human rights can be claimed against governments through ascribed procedures, which means that a government has to provide a prescribed channel for the enforcement of human rights. (23) Fourth, human rights are universal. (24) In other words every human being is entitled to human rights regardless of his/her race, skin color, or religion. (25)

In addition to these groups, there are certain kinds of other divisions among human rights that have been carved out by the international and regional legal instruments that devised them. (26) Major legal instruments that form the overall legal framework of human rights include international and regional instruments, such as treaties and agreements, and domestic frameworks, such as constitutions and legislation. …

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