Emerging Human Rights

Nelson Mandela, Human Rights Day, global education magazine


Over the past decades, massive changes have taken place in the world. Without going any further, 65 years have passed since The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Member States of the United Nations have realized the necessity of a binding document (considering that UDHR is no legally binding) due to weight reasons, such as providing welfare to their citizens and protecting them before the law. Since then, many documents have been written, adopted and ratified, trying to make the world a better place to live for all human beings. Hence, the two Covenants were born: the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ (ICCPR) and the ‘International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights’ (ICESCR). The most relevant rights of first and second generation are included in both Covenants including their respective Optional Protocols.
With regards to the celebration of the Human Rights Day, one could think that it would be interesting to analyse a new document related to human rights. The issue in question is a text named The Universal Declaration of Emerging Human Rights (UDEHR) written by Human Rights Institute of Catalonia, from Spain (IHRC). The IHRC was created more than twenty years ago. The Institute, leading centre on the field of human rights (more than 100) and above everything, the Writing Committee, made this project possible. In Previous years, there was a provisional version written by the Scientific Committee. But, what is the UDEHR?
As the website of the Institute describes, the UDEHR is an instrument of the international civil society, addressed to state actors and other kind of institutions for the crystallisation of human rights in the new millennium. It surfaced from a discussion which took place during the dialogue organised by the Institute as part of the Universal Forum of Cultures Barcelona in 2004, entitled “Human Rights, Emerging Necessities and New Compromises”. The document is available in four languages: Catalonian, Spanish, English and French.
This Declaration was born from the need of improving current societies; after the monumental social, technological and political changes that globalisation has posed to our contemporary society, and after more than 5 decades of the UDHR, it seems is necessary to update the law. It is clear by the context that this new declaration is not designed to challenge or replace existing instruments which protect human rights. Instead, it complements the already existing documents, and addresses the human rights issue from a different perspective. It gives the chance to NGO’s and other national and international groups to speak up, since traditionally they lacked the opportunity and instruments to raise their voices for human rights.
The Declaration is divided in two parts. The first one starts with an explanation of the necessity for such a text. It continues with a branch denominated “values”. This one explains some core values enshrined in the UDHR such as freedom, equality and fraternity, as well as justice, peace and dignity. It puts peace in a historical context in which people around the world have found themselves involved in wars, terroristic attacks and globalization without equality for everyone. It enumerates and describes in depth a list of remarkable values: dignity, life, equality, solidarity, coexistence, peace, liberty, and knowledge. To conclude, there is a checklist with main “principles” with which the UDEHR compromises: the principle of human security, the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of social inclusion, the principle of coherence, the principle of horizontality, the principle of interdependence, the principle of multiculturality, the principle of political participation, the principle of gender, the principle of demandability, and the principle of common responsibility. Some of those principles are also present in the UDHR, but most of them are new additions.
The second part of the declaration is based on rights. It starts with a description and explanation of The Universal Declaration of Emerging Human Rights and finishes with a section divided in six groups where the main theme is ‘democracy’. These groups are compound with a total of forty articles. Succinctly, these are the main groups: the right to egalitarian democracy, the right to pluralistic, the right to parity, the right to participatory, the right to solidarity, and the right to guarantees in democracy.
Some articles deserve a special attention. Perhaps, the most remarkable one is the article 1 ‘the right to egalitarian democracy’ which entails “the right of all human beings and communities, to their survival, to water and sanitation, to energy and adequate basic food, and to not suffer starvation. All individuals have the right to a continuous and sufficient supply of electricity and to free access to drinking water in order to satisfy their basic needs of life” (UDEHR, page 84). It should not be necessary to remark it, but unfortunately people around the world keep fighting against hunger. Besides, the third paragraph of art. 1 talks about the right to basic income, which has never been mentioned in existing declarations.
Article 6, right to parity democracy, is significantly important; it defines the equality between men and women in societies. The rest of articles enumerate the basic principles of democracy, such as respect for rule of law (‘all human beings should respect International Law’), fair trial, right and duty to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, and many others.
The aim of this new declaration is to proclaim new rights besides those which are already in the UDHR. Why is it called “Emerging Human Rights”? With the passing of the time, law became outdated. It is indispensable to update it so that it will serve the needs of the societies. Nowadays, the definition of freedom is not the same as it was fifty years ago. Five decades ago, people strove for freedoms and rights and it is thank to their struggle that societies can enjoy them today. At this moment, nations fight for rights that they still do not have. This declaration tries to fill that lack of rights that other important documents do not cover.
There is no doubt that all rights brought together in this declaration constitute an update in the field of human rights. It takes into account the new social realities, and the implementation of a qualified democracy through an exhaustive set of articles. However, it is concerning the fact that it has been named as emerging human rights, which may eroded the nature of the human rights as basic of minimum standard.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

Nelson Mandela



ruth marjalizo gonzalez, global education magazine

by Ruth Marjalizo González

Refugees, Women and Human Rights Section Manager



This article was published on 10th December: Human Rights Day, in Global Education Magazine.


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