Human rights are about social equality and social justice
- What is social equality?
- It involves questions about "the distribution of social goods and burdens
such as income, wealth, opportunity, education and health care..."
- ... "in order for a society to consider itself a bastion of social equality, it will
mean that there are no legally enforced social class boundaries, and that there is
no unfair discrimination motivated by personal characteristics
- Equal opportunity? (not necessarily the same treatment)
- About social tolerance (idea that everyone should be accepted for who
they are) AND economic opportunity
Human Rights - The United Nations
- Four main purposes:
- To keep peace throughout the world;
- To develop friendly relations among nations;
- To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations relative to these
- To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people to
conquer hunger, disease and literacy
Canadian Human Rights Contributors
- John P. Humphrey - original drafter of UDHR - first director of the UN Human
- Lester B Pearson - peace-keeping forces
- Stephen Lewis - Canadian Ambassador to UN and WHO (world health
- Louise Arbour - first Chief Prosecutor for International War Crimes Tribunal -
UN high commissioner for HRs
Background for the Creation of Human Rights
- Prior to WW2 human rights were not the focus of international concern, they
were treated as being exclusively within the jurisdiction of each nation state.
- Realization of WW2 atrocities - genocide
- HRs are moral principles
- A moral is a set of ideas about right and wrong. They help us to make very
general statements of what we should/should not do.
- HRs are universal
- They apply to all human beings and they apply to us no matter what our
presenting characteristics are.
- UDHR is the first piece known as international bill of human rights
International Bill of Human Rights
- Core documents that comprise the Bull of Human Rights are:
- International Covenant on economic, Social and Cultural Rights
("ICESCR", 1966) - International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR", 1966).
- Includes two optional protocols: access to UN Tribunals, and
attempting to abolish the death penalty
- When we think about analyzing rights in 1210 we have t include all of
these documents in our analysis. And,
- There are a series of subsequent documents that refer to specific populations
(disabled, women children, racialized populations, ethno-cultural or religious
minorities, refugees...). These must be included as well
- Our understanding of HRs continues to evolve. It is not static (it is changing all
- It is a body of ideas that continues to evolve
- HR instruments are a declaration of norms and standards that should apply to
all individuals, which every nation should obey and incorporate into the "law of
- Big course argument: just because we have a law about something, does
not mean it will be respected, does not mean it will work the way it was intended
to work...Nor does it mean that laws will be interpreted by the judiciary in the
spirit of international covenants.
- 1210 is a critical study of law, and its effects.
Human Rights at the International Level
- There are 3 main types of rights:
2. Collective (association with culture)
- Rights of Aboriginal peoples
- Human rights are inalienable. They are not earned, we don't have to achieve
them, it means they can be claimed by all persons, not matter their
status/ability/political & religious ideas might be.
- Individual Rights are INDIVISIBLE and INTERDEPENDENT (cant be
separated, and must be together)
- We will not view rights are generational...
- We will move beyond the (artificial) distinction