Are human rights natural
Dr., is a historian and runs a high school in the city of Hof. For years he worked as a textbook author and had a teaching position for history didactics at the universities in Bamberg and Bayreuth. As a long-standing member of Amnesty International, he deals intensively with human rights issues and is particularly committed to the prohibition of torture.
Contact: [email protected]
introductionMany states are still a long way from complying with the principles set out in the declarations and conventions to which they have committed themselves. This is made easier by the different weightings and interpretations of human rights as well as the struggle of powerful states for their influence on a globalized world.
For quite a few, a relatively simple world order applied until 1989, which for decades was shaped by the Cold War and the East-West conflict. This world order also dominated international human rights policy. In the states that were close to their own camp or were courted for strategic and economic reasons, they deliberately overlooked human rights violations, even when they contradicted their own principles. At best, they were denounced by states that were attributable to the opposing side; in politically insignificant countries little attention was paid to the human rights issue.
Third generation human rightsAfter the fronts of the East-West conflict quickly dissolved after 1989, the "age of human rights" was initially thought on the horizon. The World Human Rights Conference in Vienna in 1993 was supposed to prepare the ground for this age. But soon new, interstate and intra-state conflicts emerged that had previously been suppressed. Latent tensions between North and South on human rights issues also became apparent.
Since the mid-1960s of the 20th century, the countries of the third world had a clear majority in the organs of the UN and began to increasingly influence the shaping of human rights policy. Human rights concepts of their own developed in the Third World, which differed from those of the West and indicated a growing self-confidence in developing countries. These rights, for which the rank of a "third generation of human rights" has been claimed, are based very heavily on social claims which - if they were realized - would of course benefit every individual. However, it can only be implemented on a global scale. Its advocates therefore also refer to Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to this, every person has "the right to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms expressed in this declaration can be fully realized".
The main beneficiaries of such an international order are the people in developing countries; For this reason, forced demands come from there. But since securing world peace or global environmental protection benefits everyone, committed citizens from highly developed countries also stand up for collective human rights. The key points of such a catalog are the right to peace and development, to water and food, to access to medicines and health care, to an intact environment and a fair share of the treasures of nature and culture - resources and services that are available in the developed industrial countries of the Population are mostly accessible, but often not in developing and emerging countries. All of these demands found their way into the UN Millennium Declaration.
How justified but also problematic such legal claims can be is shown using the example of drinking water. 1.2 billion people have no access to clean water; that is around 18.2 percent of the world's population. Although water is considered a common good, its treatment and household supply are not. In developing countries, too, these services are increasingly falling into the hands of large private utilities of Western origin. For them, however, the market is only lucrative where there are wealthy customers. In Bombay, for example, people queue up in front of water tank trucks, while in Saudi Arabia the desert is cultivated with complex irrigation technology for agricultural exports.
Christina Deckwirth: It would mean that more and more private companies and foreign corporations would penetrate an area that was previously subject to strong state regulations and thus also to a certain public control. The water sector was still enhanced by [the international service agreement General Agreement on Trade in Services, which came into force in 1995. Ed.] GATS has not been directly liberalized, but besides private corporations there are also international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, which promote the liberalization of water in developing countries. In most cases this leads to privatization, which means that a water supply that was previously in public hands is bought up by private companies.
Women's Council: How far has this process progressed?
Deckwirth: In some developing countries, in Latin America for example, it has already gone quite a way, including in the EU, albeit to different degrees. In Great Britain, that is in England and Wales, the entire water supply is privatized. Not in Scotland and Northern Ireland, however. And in Germany, too, privatization has come a long way. [...]
Women's Council: If consumers notice so little of the privatization or partial privatization of their water supplier, the consequences are obviously not as dramatic as they are often shown.
Deckwirth: That depends entirely on the country or region. In developing countries, negative consequences are felt much more clearly. There the prices often rise massively, and sometimes the water quality also drops. That is why the protests are stronger there. The best known example is the "water war in Cochabamba", a city in Bolivia. There the Bolivian government sold the local waterworks to the US-American Bechtel group in 1999. The monthly water price for the population rose to thirty percent of the average income. In addition, the rainwater was no longer allowed to be used as drinking water because it had just passed into private ownership. As a result, the residents founded the "Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life" in 2000. After months of protests, fighting, general strikes, arrests and the murder of activists, the government was forced to reverse water privatization. [...]
Women's Council: What is fundamentally bad about privatization or these partnerships? [...]
Deckwirth: With privatization, a different logic is introduced. The focus is not on supplying everyone with a vital good, but on profit. This tends to increase prices. Above all, the rich areas or districts are supplied. Poor people in slums or rural areas lose out. Less investments are made. Even ecological concerns tend not to be taken into account. And when the water supply goes to private companies, there is even less democratic control. [...]
"Commercialization is in full swing". Interview by Ulrike Herwerth with political scientist Christina Deckwirth, in: FrauenRat No. 5 from October 2007
Thus, the right to clean water appears to us only at first glance as a social human right that the respective national government is responsible for fulfilling. The global water crisis is so advanced that it affects the collective rights to peace and development and can only be resolved through international, partnership-based cooperation. In order to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals by 2015, around 275,000 people would have to be connected to a water supply every day and sanitary facilities created for 375,000 people.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals
- The number of people living on less than one US dollar a day should be cut in half
- The proportion of people who suffer from hunger should be reduced by half
Goal 2: Ensure primary education for all children
- All boys and girls should have a full primary education
Goal 3: Promote equality and greater influence for women
- In primary and secondary school education, any difference in treatment of the sexes should be eliminated by 2005 and at all levels of education by 2015
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
- The under-five mortality rate is to be reduced by two thirds
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
- Maternal mortality is to be reduced by three quarters
Goal 6: Fight HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- The spread of HIV / AIDS should be stopped and forced to withdraw
- The outbreak of malaria and other serious diseases should be stopped and their occurrence forced to withdraw
Goal 7: Ensure a sustainable environment
- The principles of sustainable development should be incorporated into national policies; the loss of environmental resources should be stopped
- The number of people who do not have sustainable access to healthy drinking water is to be reduced by half
- Significant improvements in the living conditions of at least 100 million slum dwellers are to be achieved by 2020
Goal 8: Create a global partnership for development
- An open trading and financial system that is based on fixed rules, is predictable and does not have a discriminatory effect is to be expanded further. This includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty eradication at both national and international levels
- The special needs of the least developed countries need to be addressed accordingly. These include duty-free and quota-free market access for exports from these countries; increased debt relief for the heavily indebted poor countries; the cancellation of all bilateral public debts of these countries; and more generous development aid to countries making real efforts to reduce poverty
- The special needs of the landlocked states and the small island developing countries must be addressed accordingly
- The debt problems of low- and middle-income developing countries need to be addressed fully and effectively through action at national and international level in order to make their debts sustainable in the long term
- Work with developing countries to create decent and productive jobs for young people
- In cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, essential medicines are to be made available in developing countries at affordable prices
- In cooperation with the private sector, the advantages of new technologies, in particular information and communication technologies, are to be made available
All member states of the United Nations have committed to achieving these goals by 2015.
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