Thursday, 31 May 2007

Economic, social and cultural rights are human rights

The Economist magazine asked a very important question on 22 March 2007: "Are not access to jobs, housing, health care and food basic rights too?" According to The Economist, such rights are not human rights: "...few rights are truly universal, and letting them multiply weakens them."

Amnesty International disagrees. The right to adequate food, the highest attainable standard of health and education are as much human rights as are freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial. Nearly sixty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted recognising the principle that human rights are universal and indivisible -- that all human rights should be enjoyed by all people. This is at the heart of AI's mission.

Although Amnesty International disagrees with the views expressed in The Economist, we encourage debate on this issue. It is widely recognised that nobody can enjoy their civil and political rights unless their economic, social and cultural rights are also respected, protected and fulfilled. Similarly, people cannot enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights unless their civil and political rights are also respected.

But, don't take our word for it, here's your chance to make up your own mind:

Read the original articles in The Economist:
Leader: Stand up for your rights
Many rights, some wrong

Then read the responses from (sent to Economist and also to AI):

Independent polls (see Edelman's Public Trust Barometer) show AI consistently tracking above most commercial and NGO brands in Western Europe and significantly increasing its support in the US. " -- Lilian Goncalves, the Chair of Amnesty International's International Executive Committee

There is growing recognition of the vision that moved the drafters of the Universal Declaration, that it is impossible to enjoy one set of rights without the other. " -- Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (also published on the Economist site)

Human rights organizations like Amnesty have ample evidence to show how greater attention to economic, social and cultural rights supports development efforts by focusing attention on the disadvantaged and providing the standard against which governments can be held accountable for lack of progress on health indicators over time." -- Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; former President of Ireland; current President of Realizing Rights - the Ethical Globalization Initiative (also published on the Economist site)

There is nowadays a broad international understanding about a holistic approach to human rights, and a close inter-relationship between civil, political, economic and social rights. " -- Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

... I commend Amnesty International for lending support for social and economic rights that are in no way a “distraction” and which complement the traditional rights which The Economist has always championed." -- Justice Richard Goldstone, former Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa, and former Chief Prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (also published on the Economist site)

Amnesty were human rights pioneers in the 1960s. Today, by taking economic, social and cultural rights seriously, they remain in the human rights vanguard." -- Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to the highest attainable standard of health (also published on the Economist site)

Almost 60 years ago -- during the Cold War -- the whole world agreed in consecrating economic, social and cultural rights as fundamental human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. " -- Catarina de Albuquerque, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and includes both civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights, as do international human rights treaties adopted 40 years ago." -- Nicholas Howen, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists

When western powers drew up the UDHR post-World War Two they deliberately framed rights as universal, inalienable and indivisible (i.e. for everyone, can't be taken away, can't be separated) " -- Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International (also published on the Economist site)

Economic and social rights bring a much needed focus on accountability to development discussions, underscoring the legal as well as moral obligation to guide public policy towards the fulfilment of all dimensions of human well-being. " -- Eitan Felner, Executive Director, Center for Economic and Social Rights

Since their inclusion in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 - which was greatly inspired by FDR's Four Freedoms speech in 1944 in which freedom from want figured with great prominence - economic and social rights have been enshrined in scores of national constitutions. " -- Scott Leckie, Founder and Executive Director of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)

Pursuing economic and social rights is not about fad or political vogue. It is about something altogether more old-fashioned: justice. " -- David Geer, Executive Director, INTERIGHTS, the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights

Ultimately, the attempt to separate out economic rights from civil rights is a fool's errand: you cannot protect one without the other. " -- Dr Eric Metcalfe, Barrister and Director of Human Rights Policy, JUSTICE

It is unacceptable that more than 850 million human beings continue to go hungry everyday despite repeated – and repeatedly breached - commitments of governments and intergovernmental organizations." -- Flavio Valente, Secretary General, FIAN International, International Human Rights Organisation for the Right to Food

The distinction between civil and political rights and economic and social rights is fallacious; it ignores the complexity of human life and the fact that both categories of rights are integral to a life of dignity and freedom. " -- Julieta Rossi and Suad ElĂ­as of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Amnesty's concern is to ensure that all political systems respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To imply otherwise is ignorant or malicious. "-- Chip Pitts, Lecturer, Stanford Law School; President, Bill of Rights Defense Committee; Immediate Past Chair, Amnesty International USA; Former Chief Legal Officer, Nokia Inc. (also published on the Economist site)

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