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Chapter 14: Human Rights and Dignity
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Chapter 14: Human Rights and Dignity

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  1. Chapter 14: Human Rights and Dignity PS130 World Politics Michael R. Baysdell Saginaw Valley State University

  2. The Nature of Human Rights • Proscriptive Rights/Negative Rights • Freedom from specific abuses, restrictions, or discrimination • Things that the government cannot do to groups, such as discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, or other inherent demographic characteristics • Prescriptive Rights/Positive Rights • Basic necessities that a society and its government are arguably prescribed (obligated) to try diligently to assure; certain qualitative standards of life for everyone in the community • Life, Liberty, Property in the United States for sure • Include adequate education, nutrition, housing, sanitation, health care? • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs more expansive • Galtung: don’t forget well-being needs (sleep, sex, other biological wants) or identity needs (self-expression, establish and maintain emotional bonds with others, preserve cultural heritage) • Galtung a bit questionable—Washington, DC annihilation

  3. Universalists Human rights are derived from sources external to society, God-given. Belief in a single prevailing set of standards that are immutable Sources include theological or ideological doctrine Slavery was ALWAYS wrong Relativists Positivist approach claiming that rights are a product of a society’s contemporary values Belief that no single standard of human rights exists Rights are not timeless; they reflect changes in social norms Slavery OK in past, not now The Nature of Human Rights:Universal vs. Culturally Based Rights

  4. Applying Universalism and Relativism • EX: Universal Declaration of Human Rights • Non-Western position (cultural relativism) criticizes the UDHR for promoting values, such as individualism and democracy, that are not a part of other cultures. Sees UDHR as cultural imperialism • Disputes among countries of similar heritage and even within countries • Death penalty issues • Abortion

  5. Human Rights: Problems and Progress • Many countries are still highly oppressive, especially towards women or minorities • Abuse in Iraq by U.S. forces shows even EDCs not immune • Freedom House ratings the “gold standard”

  6. Freedom House Ratings • 1-14, 1= free 14= oppressive (Political Rights, Civil Liberties) • 2= US, Canada, Britain, France (two 1s) • 3=Japan • 4=Mexico (Chiapas) • 5=India • 9=Nigeria (Ken Saro-Wiwa) • 10=Russia (Chechnya) • 11=Jordan • 13=China (Uighers) • 14=Cuba

  7. Progress Made on Human Rights • Globalization has increased concern for and application of principles of human rights • United Nations has created OHCHR, UNCHR, ECOSOC • UDHR: not binding treaty, but creates norms • Important work done by NGOs • The Global Program Against Trafficking of Human Beings (GPAT) • Treaties: Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel , Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment • Domestic courts

  8. Barriers to Progress on Human Rights • State claims to sovereignty • Varying cultural standards • Political selectivity • Concern for human rights a low priority for most countries

  9. Women’s Rights • Women are an economic-political-social minority • Women are the largest of all minority groups • Women's issues becoming more prominent • Compared with men, there are disparities in jobs, professional status, literacy, poverty rates • Abuses sanctioned by law or ignored (de facto slavery, prostitution, genital mutilation) • Religious justifications in some Muslim societies (cultural relativism)

  10. Women: Political, Economic, and Social Discrimination • Politically, women make up only about 16% of national legislatures • Economically, women constitute approximately 70% of all those living below the poverty line in their respective countries • Socially, women are less likely to be literate or to go on to secondary education

  11. Women, Armed Conflict, and Abuse • Women experience war much differently and sometimes more violently than do men • Women’s bodies are often a battleground • Women and children make up a substantial majority of refugees

  12. Women, Society, and Abuse • Prevalence of domestic violence in most societies • Sex-selective abortions and the neglect of infant girls • Female genital mutilation (FGM) • Sex slaves and trafficking; abuse of domestic servants • Pervasive economic, social, and political discrimination

  13. Women’s Rights: Progress • High priority at UN • International Decade for Women 1975–1985 • UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) • Fourth World Conference on Women (WCW), Beijing 1995, Beijing+5 meeting in 2000 in New York • International Criminal Court charter: pledges to stop crimes against humanity and includes a number of women's issues

  14. Children’s Rights • No political or economic power • Suffer from a range of abuses (inadequate nutrition and schooling, sexual exploitation) • 8.4 million children involved in “unconditional worst forms of child labor” • Includes internationally trafficked children, forced and bonded labor, armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities, such as drug sales • Other child labor more relative (older children, sweatshops, working alongside parents)

  15. Children’s Rights: Progress • International efforts have only recently begun • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) • World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children • Nationalism and parochialism impede international efforts

  16. Rights of Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Groups • Oppression is pervasive • Examples: South Africa, Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Darfur • Ethnic and racial identification are the key components of the tensions and conflict that make nationalism one of, in not the most, divisive elements of human politics • “We-they complex” • Racism, anti-Semitism

  17. Group Rights: Progress • Case of South Africa—elimination of apartheid • Series of international conferences • World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR), 2001 • Specific international agreements • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination • Rights are also included in major human rights documents

  18. The Rights of Indigenous Peoples • Problems • The world’s 370 million indigenous people live in socioeconomic circumstances that are below those of the nonnative population of their country (for example, Mayas in Mexico) • Progress • 1993, International Year of the Indigenous Peoples • 1995–2004, International Decade of the Indigenous Peoples • UN Economic and Social Council established the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

  19. Refugee and Migrant Workers’ Rights • Problems • Driven from home by war, famine economic deprivation, or other disaster • 8.4 million refugees in 2006 according to UNHCR • Prejudice and anti-immigration sentiment • Progress • Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) • Least widely ratified UN human rights treaty • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) • International Organization for Migration (IOM)

  20. Prescriptive Human Rights • Often less recognized or enumerated in the legal structure of countries or in international law • Involves preserving and enhancing human dignity by protecting and improving the physical condition of humans • Right to adequate nutrition • Right to a reasonable standard of health • Right to a basic education

  21. Adequate Nutrition • Thomas Malthus • World’s population will eventually outpace the world’s agricultural carrying capacity • Two basic food problems • Short-term food supply • Long-term adequacy of food supply • Crop yields (green revolution)

  22. Causes of the Food Problem • Population growth • Maldistribution • Inadequate nutritional content • Political strife

  23. International Response to the Food Problem • Emergency food aid • UN's World Food Programme (WFP) • Specific nutritional needs • Agricultural development • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) • World food conferences • 1974 World Food Conference • 1996 World Food Summit

  24. Adequate Health Standards • Issues of inadequate medical care in LDCs and LLDCs • High rates of infant mortality and disease among children • World Health Organization (WHO) • Successes of WHO (smallpox) • Problems and new threats: TB, Plague, SARs, West Nile, avian and swine flu • The speed of global spread of disease—accelerated by globalization

  25. HIV/AIDS: Greatest Current Threat to Global Health • Number of children and adults living with AIDS worldwide: 40 million (2005) • Number of children and adults dying from AIDS worldwide: 3 million (2005) • Number of people infected with HIV continues to grow each year. U.S.-fastest growing group: people OVER 50! • ½ of Zambia’s copper miners HIV-positive • Global spending on AIDS approaches $8.5 million • Joint UN Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) $320 million budget to slow new HIV infections

  26. Basic Education • Primarily a national responsibility • UNESCO programs • Gender gap in education • Children receiving only a few years of primary school in developing countries

  27. In the end, how do you feel about rights? Think about the box: Is a Global Bill of Rights possible? Is it even desirable?

  28. Chapter Objectives: Checklist After reading this chapter, students should be able to: • 1. Discuss the basic idea of proscriptive and prescriptive human rights. • 2. Analyze the claims of universalists and relativists and discuss the concepts of individualism and communitarianism. • 3. Understand the problems and progress of proscriptive human rights. • 4. Discuss the problems and progress of women’s rights. • 5. Discuss the problems and progress of children’s rights. • 6. Discuss the problems and progress of group rights. • 7. Discuss the problems and progress of the rights of indigenous peoples. • 8. Discuss the problems and progress of the rights of refugees and migrant workers. • 9. Examine adequate nutrition as a prescriptive right. • 10. Examine adequate health standards as a prescriptive right. • 11. Examine basic education as a prescriptive right.