People are part of groups and communities that shape and determine their actions.
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A second instrumental reason for respecting human rights is an expectation of retaliation or benefit from a community to which one belongs. For obvious reasons, peer pressure is a complex and indirect reason for human rights. Individuals do not belong to only one group. But the closeness and participation of individuals in groups suggests that peer pressure has considerable influence. We impart to others the rights that we wish for them to impart to us.
Reciprocity is theoretically friendly to difference. It gives us a reason to expect that necessarily different people should be treated as we would like to be treated. We listen, thus, because we want to be heard and we respect property because we want to hold on to our own property. Reciprocity does not assert any transcendental quality of good and evil.
It does not imply that murder, torture, starvation, illiteracy and preventable illness are bad in themselves. What it does assert is that I cannot accept these things for others unless I accept them also for myself. It neither affirms nor denies the existence of a deeper moral framework. Beyond this, it has little to say about situations of unequal worth. Reciprocity as a reason to respect human rights is unstable. Starting from a structure of mutual advantage, individuals have an incentive to cheat, that is "what is in my interest is that everybody else cooperates and I defect.
Moral reasons. People respect rights because they believe humans are endowed with equal moral value.
Rights make no sense unless we accept a moral, fundamental human dignity and that every human deserves to be treated as an end and not a means. This is the Kantian argument to respect rights. Morality is easy to grasp but is resistant to reductionism. A moral reason to respect rights can be framed from a more procedural perspective; we have to respect other people's rights because, by democratic consensus, we agree that humans are endowed with them, regardless of status, social condition, race or whatever other differences exist.
As we have witnessed in the last decade in Rwanda, Kosovo, Colombia and Myanmar, to take only a few examples, we are still far from realizing these protections. Without such, millions of people will continue to fall victim to unbridled power and ambition. In summary, we propose key elements of explaining respect for rights include: knowing what they are and reflecting upon them; symmetry and consonance with instrumental logic; and the belief in the equal, moral dignity of all humans.
Practically, these three conditions imply that human rights norms themselves are dynamic, and arise out of social processes. Thus, we see ongoing social discourse as the process that creates the logical conditions for the respect of human rights. Why do people not respect other people's rights? One of the most pressing issues for those who would promote human rights today is social and economic inequality. Actual inequality is staggering and growing. As an illustration, we consider economic inequality measured by access to financial resources we could just as well discuss persistent inequalities arising from religious, social, class, gender, race or sexual preferences.
About one in five people in the world live on less than one dollar a day. In countries like Brazil, the richest one percent controls the same amount of resources as the poorest 50 percent. As the Human Development Reports published by the United Nations Development Programme show, lack of resources means also lack of proper education, health conditions, housing, water and other sanitary conditions.
The absence of these basic conditions for the majority creates a situation of disparity and inferiority between those with access and those without.
Law of Reflection
The same circumstances can be found in both central and peripheral nations. Both economic and social inequality trigger moral exclusion. They reduce the perception of equal worth of every human being, destroying the conditions for the respect of human rights. In the Brazilian presidential campaign, a key candidate declared, he would "defend human rights, but would also defend right law-abiding human beings.
It is still all too easy to secure our own good by focusing on an easy enemy. Rights under such circumstances can often appear a farce, an issue of power for those who are among the lucky few negotiating the terms for those excluded. Moral exclusion manifests itself through two distinct characteristics:.
Invisibility of those who are devalued. Their actual pain and suffering is not shared by those who are valued. While they exist as a collective force economically as a means to production, politically as a subject of governance they have little voice and few direct means to move or constrain those who are on top. Their opaque and silent submission to highly hierarchical realities makes them invisible. This invisibility is strengthened over time by a cultural reinforcement that is often accepted and even deepened with the collusion of members of the invisible groups.
Negative perceptions of capacity and inequality become the statu quo and are, thus, imbedded in all levels of action and impervious to change. Demonization of those who are being devalued and who would challenge the statu quo. In this way, the efforts of the devalued appear as the problem that needs to be eliminated. Violence is often the instrument used to deal with those who challenge injustice.
Policies, social practices and even laws that deny equal worth to those in vulnerable groups are still commonplace. In order to make them viable, they are always justified in terms of a social priority or as economic imperatives. The fear engendered in the United States, for example, after the September 11, attack on the World Trade Center allowed the US government to ignore the rights of Afghani soldiers captured in the subsequent retributive war against that country and to wage a global campaign against demonized enemies whether or not it could be justified by international law.
In the developing world, minimum social rights are being disregarded in the name of orthodox economic principles. To some extent, fear for national and international security trumps human rights. But a strong social base in which human rights are understood, consistent with systems of reward and benefit and part of the moral language, will provide minimalist limits. Those on the bottom of the social pyramid, whose rights should be protected, are treated as objects or enemies. At the same time, the impunity and privilege of those on the top is reinforced. This would be a cosmopolitanism in which human rights are well integrated into curricula cognitive reason , promoted through enforcement and reward systems instrumental reason and made obvious through a shared norm of the dignity of humanity moral reason.
Following on the Habermas quote above, we emphasize the notion that the realization of human rights has both moral and political dynamics realized through social discourse. This discourse ethics necessitates actual dialogue and structures for enabling ongoing exchange in order for a norm to be seen from all perspectives. It requires symmetry, impartiality and openness that must be driven by voluntary association, which maximizes the choice and the full participation of the individual. We turn to civil society as the natural environment in which such diverse perspectives and the dialogue about norms is an ongoing process.
The logic of civil society is the action of individuals and groups to express and realize the valid and diverse desires and needs of society. The next sections of this paper will reflect on the role of civil society in constructing a global ethical cosmopolitanism for the realization of human rights.
Civil society and human rights. What do we understand by civil society and why do we think a strong civil society is important for ensuring respect of human rights? The expression "civil society" has been appropriated by different and sometimes opposite intellectual and political traditions. From a normative perspective, we define civil society as the sphere of life that has not been colonized by the instrumental ethos of the state and the market. In the machiavellian tradition, the struggle for power between and within states is based on a strategic way of acting, where the legitimacy of the means is measured by the results.
This instrumental ethos collides with the morality of rights in which people are an end in themselves and cannot morally be used for the achievement of other objectives. In the market, this instrumental ethos also prevails since the logic of the economy is the maximization of benefits economic benefits with minimal resources, where people workers are a means for producing profits.
In a world dominated by the market and states, the ongoing social, political and economic discourse that takes place within civil society is critical for creating and strengthening the conditions necessary for the respect of human rights. This is not to diminish the strategic importance of developing good, democratic governance and corporate social responsibility.
But more responsive human rights models will only emerge through the catalyst of a healthy civil society. The definition of civil society proposed by Jan Aart Scholte is a useful starting point: "Civil society is the political space where voluntary associations explicitly seek to shape the rules in terms of specific policies, wider norms and deeper social structures that govern one or the other aspect of social life".
Organizations and associations of civil society assume different forms with one common feature: they amplify the voices of particular interests and are natural advocates for devalued or invisible groups.
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Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato suggest four features of civil society that we take as a framework for understanding the breadth of potential impact of the human rights discourse that takes place in civil society: publicity institutions of culture and communication , plurality differentiation of interest and form , privacy an environment supportive to the development and expression of the individual and legality the structure of basic laws and rights that enable publicity, plurality and privacy.
Associations seeking human rights often emerged as a response to governmental abuse, generalized or specific restrictions on human rights or other adverse circumstances. The movement includes a range of organizations that formulate a discourse of emancipation and social justice in terms of rights. Human rights-oriented associations have made a strategic decision to promote human rights discourse as opposed to other political forms of action.
The divisions within these associations reflect the development of these concepts in United Nations treaties along these divisions: civil and political rights participation in government, protection of individual security, association and expression, access to justice , social and economic rights income, employment, education and training, health services, access to information and cultural rights.
How is civil society a critical human rights actor? Progress in human rights requires the establishment of conditions conducive to their respect. These conditions create norms that take on cognitive, instrumental and moral aspects, which arise from an ongoing dialogue that engages diverse perspectives and constantly recreates these norms as dynamic and universal principles. If one is seeking justice, it is impossible to skip this process, because the dialogue itself is a component of justice.
The realization of rights is a process and cannot be effected solely through incorporation of rights in national and international legal structures. Civil society creates and recreates the conditions for validating and realizing human rights.
We emphasize five aspects of this action: 1 providing a sphere of action for all social groups; 2 making injustice public; 3 protecting private spaces from state and market incursion; 4 intervening and interacting directly with legal and political systems; and 5 driving social innovation.
Providing a discourse of plurality. Human rights discourse must be practical, responsive and accessible to a plurality of perspectives.