Can Human Rights Be Rescued From Human Rights Activists’ Overreach?
From The Daily Signal
by Emilie Kao and Brett Schaefer / December 10, 2020
NOTE: The simple answer to the question posed by the authors is no, but the answer is more complex than that. Human Rights – and particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – should never have been enacted by any political body anywhere. Because of Eleanor Roosevelt, they have been enacted just about everywhere, and particularly in the United States.
Natural rights come from God. Our government is specifically tasked solely with defending our natural rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself.
Human rights come from governments, and as such can be granted and withdrawn at the will of the government, monarch, or dictator. Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated both the willingness of our leaders to selectively allow human rights while trampling natural rights for the majority.
Human rights must be paid for. Human rights divide people into groups and create endless mischief as these groups fight for a share of the pie.
Finally, the list of human rights activists must include Eleanor Roosevelt herself. She cannot claim ignorance; she did what she did as a continuance of the legacy of her dead husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, who attempted to pack the Supreme Court to get his way in passing numerous unconstitutional laws that enabled human rights (i.e., government handouts and Socialist programs) while suppressing natural rights.
In other words, human rights have always been promoted beginning with the Marxists and Progressives. Today they have become the law of the land, and courts and leaders are constantly finding new rights in the Constitution – or ignoring the Constitution in creating them. Political activists have always used human rights as a powerful tool in the destruction of our Constitution – and our nation.
Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on Dec. 10 in recognition of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served as the foundation of the international human rights system for some seven decades, but it’s threatened by its very success, as activists use it to assert an ever-growing list of “rights” that undermine the inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms it was designed to promote and protect.
Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt served as chairwoman of the committee that drafted the declaration, which included representatives from diverse countries, political systems, cultures, languages, and religions.
It recognized “the inherent dignity” and “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
Forging consensus among the experts contributing to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a singular achievement. Securing support for it among the world’s nations was a triumph.
Over the ensuing decades, however, the remarkable consensus has been challenged by a powerful new movement of sovereign and non-sovereign entities, including lawyers, academics, nongovernmental organizations, activists, and U.N. officials, who seek to “improve” on what was accomplished in 1948.
In order to meet perceived new challenges, this movement asserts new rights and new interpretations of legally recognized rights. As noted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the original 30 rights in the declaration have proliferated into 1,377 rights provisions in 64 agreements.
This effort to promote the “evolution” of human rights threatens to undermine the great and noble project in fundamental ways.
These rights are often in tension—and sometimes in outright conflict. Unlike more traditional rights, which seek to protect the individual from infringements on their freedoms by government, new rights typically seek to guarantee benefits to individuals from governments or to assert rights to categories of people or to a specific community.
High-minded assertions of rights to broadband, a clean environment, or development cannot magically be realized. They require regulations, allocation of resources, and financial transfers by government.
Too often, enforcing new rights requires restrictions on the more traditional rights. For instance, calls for addressing “hate speech”—which advocates support as a means for combating what they see as intolerance and racism—nearly always involve restrictions, prohibitions, or punishments that infringe on the freedom of speech or freedom of religion and belief.
Confusion and controversy over what human rights mean diminish prospects for greater enforcement. Governments use the proliferation of rights to deflect from their violations by pointing to protection of other “rights.”
This long-standing problem dates back decades to communist countries asserting their fidelity to economic, social, and cultural rights—such as the right to a job or a right to health care—as a way to obscure their denial of civil and political rights, such as the right to self-government and freedom of speech.
Today, the problem continues at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Repressive states claim concern over human rights violations in other countries, while rarely being confronted over their hypocritical failure to admit their own problems or the human rights shortfalls of their allies.
Meanwhile, countries like the U.S. receive more criticism and recommendations on improving their human rights practices than Cuba, Iran, or Venezuela.
Accountability is further undermined by activists seeking to reinterpret the traditional definitions of rights and assert new rights not contemplated in the original negotiations.
We see this with claims that women’s rights cannot be realized without inclusion of a right to abortion. Bypassing the democratic process to impose new interpretations of existing rights is an assault on the very spirit of rights.
The State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, made up of experts on the right and the left, acknowledged these problems in a report released last summer.
Many human rights activists strongly opposed the report because it recommended steps to slow their counterproductive efforts to expand the number and definition of rights.
Specifically, the commission recommended that policymakers carefully consider new rights claims, weighing how closely they are rooted in the rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; their consistency with U.S. constitutional principles and American traditions; whether the U.S. and other nations have formally given their sovereign consent to recognition of the claimed rights; whether there’s a clear consensus of support among the many cultures and traditions of the human family; and whether new rights can be integrated into the existing human rights rubric without harmful conflicts.
The commission’s recommendations were hardly radical. They merely call for due consideration of new rights claims, reflection on their potential impact, and democratic accountability. But prudence often involves modest steps, not the sweeping, rapid changes that activists increasingly demand.
Pompeo observed, “More rights does not necessarily mean more justice.” Indeed, the proliferation of ever more rights and the desire to advance all of them without preference has diffused efforts to advance the fundamental rights and freedoms essential to individual liberty.
Respect for and enforcement of universal human rights depend on a clear understanding of what human rights are, practical consensus around the legal norms that protect rights, and respect for the sovereignty of states that guarantee those rights.