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The 10th of December is Human Rights Day. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that very same day. This historic document through its 30 articles sought to establish a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” This goal has not been met. To a great degree, this undoing has come about by the culpability of the very institution that sponsored this virtuous Declaration: the United Nations. Human rights, if they are to mean anything, must be safeguarded and kept credible. Here are some quick highlights of the problem.
The UN is manipulated by Undemocratic Regimes
The UN Human Rights Council is a case in point. This institutional body is principally responsible for the monitoring of global human rights. Yet it is saturated by the world’s most notorious violators of these basic precepts. China, Cuba, Russia, Bolivia, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, currently sit on the Council. These regimes are all culpable of heinous acts of terror, some in greater proportion, but all inconsistent with the Declaration.
The pseudo “democratic” nature of the UN’s composition, which denaturalizes the essence of what a democracy is, establishes false equivalencies. The idea that functional democratic states can sit alongside crude barbaric tyrannies undermines the Declaration’s objectives and moral underpinnings. After the resolution to intervene in Korea to stop the onslaught of communism in the peninsula in 1950, it has been all downhill for the UN.
The post-World War II folly that somehow by negotiations and global commerce liberticidal regimes can be made decent is absurd. Had the UN existed in Hitler’s time, the Nazi dictator would have loved it and attempted to control it, as have his other socialist brethren.
Generational divide of “human rights” obscures its purpose
The Declaration’s 30 articles are divided into “generational” content. Political and civil rights are considered of the first generation. These focus on political and civil freedoms. By placing freedom as the most important factor, the human rights of this group are a secularized version of natural rights. This is the foundational principle of both the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and Bill of Rights (1791) and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789). Articles 3 through 21 of the UN’s Declaration are of the first generation. It is in the second and third-generation human rights groupings where the confusion begins and lends itself to manipulation by socialist and Islamist regimes.
Articles 23 through 27 deal with socio-economic rights. This second-generation group stresses abstract standards of “basic needs” such as in healthcare and nutritional minimums, and economic considerations as in “fair” wages and standardized living conditions. The overarching problem with including notions of socio-economic factors into the realm of human rights is that it muddles notions of freedom and annuls the principle of self-government and national sovereignty.
In a republican system where society freely elects a government, those elected are responsible for implementing policies to meet those “basic needs” and elevate living standards by charting economic courses believed to be the most appropriate. If the politicians fail to achieve results, in a free society, the governed can change those who govern. Therefore, the primacy lies in upholding free spaces in the political and civil realm above all else. Human rights overall are best protected, even socio-economic ones, by stressing political and civil rights. Communist regimes commit human rights atrocities and hide behind the shield that these second-generation rights often lend them.
Third-generation classifications are in the field of class and identity group-based rights. Here, extensive assaults on liberty and equality are generated by establishing variant systems of justice and applications of the law. If a particular group or class were to require legal favoritism to achieve “equity,” then equality before the law is annulled. Neo-Marxist strategies feed on identarian interpretations of “rights.” This conspires against the essence of democracy. Human rights must focus on where its primary objective lies. That is defending freedom and equality before the law. All other notions of “rights” are bestowed from these.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.