Welfare as a human right (2023)

The central ethical concept of this chapter will be that of rights. There are three central components to any right: the right-holder, the addressee and the scope of the right (Nickel, 2013). I am only concerned, however, with one family of human rights: welfare rights (Nickel, 2013, p. 181). The scope of this family of rights, as I will argue, is a minimal level of food, shelter, water, security and health care. This should be provided by the state as the addressee of the right. I will argue in later chapters that a natural hazard and the disruption it causes to a society may prevent the deliver}' of the goods included in what constitutes a basic level of welfare. However, the right to a basic minimum of welfare during a disaster is a human right and thus must be guaranteed by the addressees of the relevant human rights no matter the circumstances. Therefore, as I argue below, if a government is unable or unwilling to act as the addressee of the right to welfare, some other duty holder must step in.

In 4.1, I first subject the concept of human rights to a conceptual analysis including an explanation of how human rights differ from other rights. In 4.2,1 focus on the human right to welfare and the scope of this right. In Section 4.3,1 explore the main ways in which the human right to welfare can be grounded: in the badness of pain and suffering, our interdependence and our joint humanity. I argue that the grounding based on a joint humanity is most appropriate because it consistently includes all right-holders without exception. In Section 4.4, I address possible criticisms of using human rights as the justification for developing international policy as I suggest.

4.1 Human rights in general

For context, there are various types of rights - political, civil, economic - and there are commonalities amongst these categories of rights: all rights have claimants, duty-bearers and a scope of the right. Take the political right to protest, for example. A member of the Occupy Movement, as a right-holder, had a political right to protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral and Parliament in London. The British Government, despite their frustration, were the addressee and thus had the duty to ensure that the Occupy member’s right to protest was upheld. The scope of this right is free speech in protest of what the movement saw as institutionalised economic and social wrongs.

Furthermore, rights can be understood either as moral or legal rights. Many civil, political and social rights are enshrined in national laws so that they can be enforced at the national level. Some of these rights are also accounted for in international doctrine and agreements for additional assurance of legal implementation such as the right to be free from torture, the right to take part in elections and so forth. As a consequence, the addressees of these legal rights have legal obligations as set out by laws of a particular jurisdiction. For my purposes, I concentrate on moral rights which include universal rights such as the right to liberty or autonomy. What distinguishes moral rights from legal rights is that the addressees of these rights have, instead of legal obligations, moral obligations corresponding to the relevant right. I am interested in moral rights because whilst laws and hence legal rights can change, the moral facet of rights remains constant and universal across jurisdiction.

Hence I am only concerned with human rights as a particular kind of moral rights, not their legal basis. In this section, I first explain the three features which make human rights distinct from other rights and which are central to understanding and applying human rights to this topic. Human rights are universal, set minimum standards and are “high priority” norms (Nickel, 2013; Caney, 2010). Next I explain why I reject the other features of human rights (Nickel sets out a list of eight features) as distinguishing them from other rights (Nickel, 2013).

First, unlike other rights, human rights are universal. Human rights extend to every human person regardless of gender, race, or religion, at all times. Likewise, national political borders do not matter as to whether or not a country’s inhabitants have human rights. Each human has a claim to the scope of the right in question. For example, I am a resident in the United Kingdom. As an American citizen, I do not have all political rights available to citizens of this country (voting, for example). However, my human rights are exactly the same as British citizens. Accordingly, I have a claim to the scope of a given human right, say welfare, no matter the country I am living in or whether I have political rights as a woman. Human rights are in this sense universal.1

Second, unlike many other rights, human rights can also be understood to set a minimum global standard to which each rights-holder is entitled. Human rights do not guarantee me the “right” to a lavish lifestyle or the “right” to a home well above my economic means. From a moral perspective, human rights establish the foundation upon which all other types of rights can be built. If they guaranteed more than minimum standards they would be too prescriptive to be agreed upon widely. I can have a decent life without gas heating (specifically, for example) as long as I am safe and healthy within my home. (Other sources of warmth may be sufficient.) Whilst gas heating may be preferable in some societies it is not a basic, necessary good of the type which human rights are often thought to protect.2

Instead, many have argued that human rights underpin efforts to support humans developing minimally decent lives (Nussbaum, 2007a). We each have the right not to be killed and to be given fair treatment under the law with regard to our gender, race or religion. By setting minimum standards human rights set a standard for humans to be treated with a basic level of dignity and humanity (see Section 5.3).

As a consequence, the addressees of human rights are duty-bound to ensure that a minimum threshold of necessary goods is available for a person to exercise their human rights. This means that duty-bearers, for example, are not allowed to provide humans in their charge any less than a standard minimum. In fact, governments are encouraged to offer citizens more in the way of civic rights and many do through political and economic policies. Human rights, though, are assurances that humans will have a minimally decent life in line with what is physically and compassionately necessary for any human (Pogge, 2008, p. 55).

Third, human rights are the highest moral concern for society or, as Nickel describes them, “high priority norms” (2013; Cranston, 1967). National governments have an interest in providing certain rights to their citizens - a wellfunctioning economy, for example, will mean stability and higher quality of life for citizens. However, human rights, claimed by all humans, are the “highest priority” - they “trump” or, rather, generally prevail over, all other claims (Nickel, 1987). Consider that a national government may want to pursue a development agenda for the good of its people. In pursuing that, the national government cannot fail in its responsibility to ensure that individuals have fair and equal access to the goods associated with that development and/or that in pursuing that development goal, some individuals will have to go without nutritious food (Shue, 1980; Nickel, 1987, pp. 16-17, 2013, 2017).3

I argue for universality, minimal standards and high priority norms as the main features of human rights because they are applicable across all human rights and thus appropriately make sense of rights. The other features of rights as set out by Nickel - namely that human rights are not dependent on the procedures of a national government, that they provide global standards against which national governments can be judged, that they are specific and that they establish political norms - are important but not relevant within the context of this analysis.

For example, if we say human rights are “specific” we are limiting the situations and cases in which they can be applied. Consider that human rights imply that all humans are entitled to dignity. There is general agreement as to how we treat a human with dignity (torture is bad, disrespecting a corpse is bad, etc.). However, if we specified the exact parameters of a dignified life we would not be able to make allowances for autonomous choices made over the course of one’s life. If we specified what dignity must entail we would either not account for everyone’s dignified life and/or not be able to treat everyone with dignity. Disposing of remains, for instance, varies by country and culture and each is seen as dignified within that culture. Requiring that we set the parameters of a dignified treatment after death would be too specific. With this kind of justification in mind, I have chosen the three features of human rights which I argue help us distinguish human rights as a unique type of right.

4.2 A Human right to welfare

I am interested in the family of welfare rights and the recognition of associated duties in natural hazard response. So, in this section I first explain welfare more broadly. Second, I show how the human right to welfare matches the features of human rights discussed in the previous section.

4.2.1 An explanation of welfare

We can start from the idea that welfare, or well-being, is an evaluation of how good (or well) a person’s state of being is as opposed to the “good” that they provide (Sen, 1993, p. 36). If a person’s life goes well and she is in a good state, she has a high level of welfare independently of how useful she is for the society. Welfare as it is used in the human rights literature is thus an internal state of being. It is not to be confused with “welfare” in the way of housing or social benefits.

There are different ways of understanding welfare which could all be argued to help measure how good one’s life is going by one’s own standards. Traditionally there are three theories of well-being: hedonism, desire-satisfaction and objectivelist theories. In what follows I explain each. For hedonism and desire-satisfaction I explain why these are inadequate ways of making sense of welfare, particularly as it pertains to emergency situations.

Hedonism, at its most basic, is understood as the balance of pleasure over pain in one’s life (Crisp, 2016). If one’s life contains a lot of pleasures and very few pains, then, according to hedonism, one’s life is going well and one has a high level of welfare. In contrast, if one’s life contains mainly painful experiences and suffering, then on this view one has a low level of welfare.

There is one main objection to pleasure as the core of well-being in the natural hazard context that I raise here. Consider hedonistic welfare in terms of disaster response; responders provide life-saving and life-sustaining aid to those they are rescuing. If hedonism were the correct account of welfare relevant for the human right to welfare, then instead of providing people with food, drink and shelter, the responders could simply hand out pleasure pills, since this would also provide the victims with the same increase in their welfare. However, the removal of suffering, particularly in this situation, only results in a different state of mind whereas the person’s physical condition is still unchanged - they may still be homeless, hungry or remain stuck under rubble (Sen, 1985, pp. 188-189). This must be an implausible consequence of the theory. Surely the right thing to say is that, if the responders care about the victim’s welfare, they ought to save the victims’ lives by providing them with food, drink, shelter and other constituents of their welfare. This is why it is not plausible to think that the relevant notion of welfare here consists of mere pleasure.

The second theory of well-being is desire-satisfaction. According to desiresatisfaction theory, something improves overall well-being if it satisfies one’s desires (Hooker, 2000, p. 39). On this view, the more a person’s desires, plans,

Welfare as a human right 35 intentions and so on are satisfied, the higher that person’s level of welfare is, and vice versa. More specifically, many defenders of this view argue that it is the satisfaction of intrinsic desires that make our lives go well (Heathwood, 2006). Intrinsic desires are desires for those things that we desire for their own sake. So, we do not desire money for its own sake; we only desire it because it enables us to get those things we desire. Hence desire-satisfaction can be said to come from obtaining those things which satisfy intrinsic desires.

(Video) What are the universal human rights? - Benedetta Berti

However, a desire-satisfaction theory' of well-being fails because not all the things we desire intrinsically can be good or right for us (Fletcher, 2013; Hooker, 2000, p. 39). For example, I may desire to have 50 children. I have an intrinsic desire to be a mother and give birth multiple times and to share my life with as many children as possible. As Griffin explains, we cannot exclude immoral or irrational desires from those that should be satisfied in order for a person to achieve well-being if those are the person’s actual desires (1988/2003, p. 24). Accordingly, this irrational desire would need to be satisfied in order for me to have a high level of welfare on this view.

A second problem with desire-satisfaction as a foundation of welfare comes from the literature on adaptive preferences (Nussbaum, 1997; Moss, 2013). According to Amartya Sen, desires (as mental characteristics) adjust to circumstances: our expectations for which and how our desires can be satisfied are diminished by what is possible in a given life scenario (Sen, 1999). Consider adaptive preferences in the following example: Person A is financially poor, lives in a functional but basic house, and can just about feed her family. She feels that she has everything she desires in life. In contrast, Person B is financially wealthy: she can afford a mortgage on a lavish house and goes on foreign vacations every year. She desires a new car, HD TV and the newest iPhone. Person B feels the absence of the goods she desires and yet does not have. She would thus have a low level of well-being according to the desire-satisfaction theory' because her desires have not been satisfied. If we care about other people’s welfare, desiresatisfaction theory' would in this situation require that we provide for the desires of Person B. Given that she has a lower level of well-being, we have a requirement to provide for her needs over Person A’s. This would, in essence, penalise Person A for having adapted her preference for things which she could not obtain (Van Parijs, 2004). However, no one would believe that Person B is leading a poor life (except maybe Person B). Adaptive preferences as an objection to desiresatisfaction theory' helps to demonstrate that desire-satisfaction theory' will not be objective in to whom and how rights are distributed and restricts our ability' to make “interpersonal comparisons of well-being and deprivation” (Sen, 1999, pp. 62-63). Hence, desire-satisfaction theory' does not account for the inequality' of each individual as a starting point.

The third theory' of well-being is that of an objective list. On this view, a person has a high level of welfare when she has a sufficient amount of certain objective goods (Rice, 2013). Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether the person enjoys having those goods or wants to have them in her life. Those basic goods represent things that would make each individual person’s life better. Hence these basicgoods are universal and would be the same across cultures and therefore can be said to be an “objective” or neutral way of determining welfare.4 Different goods are included on “objective lists” depending on which list is used: loving relationships, knowledge, autonomy, friendship and achievement are, for example, often included on the list (Rice, 2013; Hooker, 2000).5

How should we determine which items should be on the list? Many people have thought that the capabilities approach is the most plausible answer to this question. The “capabilities approach”, as an objective-list view, has often been used as a guiding principle when drafting international development policy. Items on this objective list include: life; bodily health; bodily integrity; senses, imagination and thought; emotions; practical reason; affiliation; other species; play; control over one’s environment (Nussbaum, 2001, 2011). The listed items within the capabilities approach are determined to be those things necessary for a person to carry out normal functioning, that is, for doing the kind of things that are typical activities for human beings generally.

Considering the human right to welfare, we should focus on the most basic items to be guaranteed in an emergency situation. These goods also belong to any plausible account of what the most basic welfare of human beings consists of; it is difficult to see how one could live a decent human life without them. Presumably they belong to all objective lists concerning human welfare. I am not suggesting that these items guarantee the flourishing life of an individual. Instead, these are the objectively necessary goods for one to be able to survive and are necessary for health. After these items have been obtained, a person can build on their capabilities.

There is one major criticism against object-list theories of rights (such as the capabilities approach). Critics sometimes suggest that an objective-list theory is paternalistic (or elitist) in that it sets out what is good for someone (Crisp, 2016). This criticism aligns with the suggestion that human rights, and intervention in support of human rights, are western inventions imposed on other countries (see Lauta, 2016). I will address this related criticism in detail in Section 6.3.1. For now it is sufficient to explain that autonomy is usually included in an objective list of goods which enable the right bearer to obtain welfare (Hooker, 2000). Autonomous choice about how one lives one’s life will at least be a balance against paternalistic intentions of those providing the goods associated with the right.

And so, the objective-list theory' of well-being allows for universal application and the setting of minimum standards of a specific set of goods/services. I will assume the objective-list approach to welfare when discussing the human right to welfare.

4.2.2 The human right to welfare

In this section, I introduce how a human right to welfare as argued for would need to be universal, provide a minimum standard, and be a high priority. Then, in the rest of this chapter, I will argue that there is such a right.

First, a human right to welfare would need to have the relevant component parts: the right-holder, an addressee and a scope. As a human right, every human being would be a right-holder. We all would have a legitimate claim to everything that falls under the scope of the right. As a consequence, the state would need to enforce and ensure our right to basic welfare (basic levels of food, water, shelter and medical care). These goods are needed by all humans to survive. These are universally necessary goods and are not contingent on what a national government policy dictates. Even if my church group tries to support me with food from a food bank, ultimately, my government must ensure the right. In this way, the state would be the primary duty-bearer.6

I move now' to discussing the components of the human right to welfare which would make it distinctly a human right. First, the human right to welfare would be a right to a basic minimum of welfare. As explained, and for the purpose of disaster response, it is only necessary to argue for a basic minimum of welfare rights which includes food, shelter, essential medical attention and basic levels of security (Shue, 1980, p. 19; Griffin, 2008, p. 90).7 Some may question how much of these basic goods are necessary for fulfilment of the right; I will not attempt to suggest actual amounts. Instead, the goods associated with the human right to welfare must be provided such that the basic needs of the people in question are met (and they survive in the aftermath of the emergency).

The goods associated with the human right to welfare as described herein allow for the realisation of other rights. The human right to basic welfare need not include education, comprehensive health care and long-term support as I qualify it herein. An education or social interaction which would enable a person to achieve things in life cannot be enjoyed if individuals are suffering and cannot take advantage of those rights (Shue, 1980, pp. 19-20). Thus, in line with Henry' Shue’s view, the human right to welfare, if there were such a right, would be of the highest priority because other rights, say to education, are only possibly claimed if one continues to be alive. Food, on the other hand, is required. Accordingly, food, shelter, medical attention and security are of the highest moral concern for society (Nickel, 2013).

As the highest moral concern, the international community has moral justification for putting pressure on a state to fulfil its duties.8 For example, the international community has a moral justification for pressurizing the North Korean regime for their non-adherence to human rights norms because human right to basic food, water, shelter is of more importance than government systems. Once the people are secure, pressure can be brought to bear regarding other aspects of the government’s dictatorial regime. The welfare of North Koreans is indeed a high priority and must be secured before any other political or economic rights are possible.

Finally, the human right to welfare understood as a guarantee of a minimum level of goods necessary for survival could be argued to be a universal standard. The amount of food, water, etc. that a person requires to continue living does not change based on a person’s nationality, race, sexual orientation, etc. In this way a basic minimum applies to all humans, everywhere, equally.

To summarise, the central features of human rights would also characterise the human right to welfare if there is such a right. The human right to welfare must be universally applicable to all humans, it must set a minimum standard and it must be a high priority norm. In the next section, I outline three ways in which the human right to welfare can be justified. This lays the groundwork for my argument made in later chapters that interventions are in some cases ethically required because of the human right to welfare.

4.3 Grounding the human right to welfare

I now discuss different ways to ground the human right to welfare. This is important for my argument made later that the duties associated with the human right to welfare must be acted upon in post-natural hazard emergency situations. Three kinds of justifications for this right were offered in the previous section. These arguments can be based on (i) the moral significance of suffering, (ii) the role of human interaction, and (iii) the importance of respecting humanity. I argue that the first two justifications for the human right to welfare fail but the third does not. Towards the end of this section and especially in subsequent chapters, I consider some specific consequences the resulting understanding of the human right to welfare has for how the international community should react to emergencies triggered by natural hazards.

4.3.1 The badness of pain and suffering

First, the universal human right to welfare could be argued to exist for the simple reason that pain and suffering are bad. All members of a moral community (including all humans, all “marginal cases”, and all non-human animals) can suffer and feel pain and because of this it could be claimed that they all deserve equal moral consideration (Shafer-Landau, 2012, p. 131; Singer, 1972).9 To illustrate, if someone is trapped in a burning building, all reasonable efforts should be made to save her. Likewise, the family pet ought to be carried out of that building because it is generally accepted that burning causes pain even for animals and pain is bad.

Singer argues more specifically that all of us are morally required to prevent pain and suffering if it is something we are able to do and the prevention will not cause greater suffering to ourselves or others (1972, p. 232). This would mean that every' suffering person is entitled to (and thus can make a claim for) help and we are all required (have a duty) to help suffering persons. In Singer’s famous example, if a child is drowning as you pass a pond, you are morally required to assist that child, even if it means getting your clothes dirty (Singer, 1972). This is because getting muddy' is nowhere near as bad as a child’s death. By' saving the child we are maximizing welfare. If we extend this example to a natural hazard emergency, saving the life of a drowning victim, when responders are qualified to do so and hence will not be hurt themselves, is obviously' expected. This too will reduce the pain of the individual affected and by' extension the welfare of the

Welfare as a human right 39 community.10 If a person is faced with two options, they should pick the option that will ultimately bring about the most pleasure. If pain and suffering are bad it is reasonable to expect people to minimise suffering where possible. Grounding human rights in the badness of pain and suffering view is, however, unsuitable, as I will now explain.

If we try to ground the human right to welfare on badness of pain, then it follows that there should be as little pain and suffering as possible. Hence this grounding of the human right seems to lead to utilitarian welfare maximisation. A problem with grounding the human right to welfare in this way is that we would have to let certain people suffer in order to minimise suffering overall. Consider the recent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline across the northern border of the United States (Aisch & Lai, 2017). The US government’s argument for a pipeline in the area is that millions of Americans will benefit from the oil transported through it. Any risks associated with oil transportation are acceptable because of the benefit the oil will provide. This is in spite of the pain and suffering caused to members of the Sioux living on the Standing Rock Reservation.

(Video) Human rights welfare

However, this does not fit with human rights theory. Human rights are universal and must therefore protect everyone’s welfare equally. Likewise, because human rights are universal we cannot sacrifice one person’s well-being for the sake of others. Thus the alleviation of pain and suffering grounding does not provide the individual with protection; it puts overall society’s well-being above the individual. Human rights dictate that the individual human is the claimant of any human right and thus any duties must provide the goods associated with the right to the individual.

So, whilst the badness of pain and suffering is a reason to supply goods associated with the human right to welfare, it is not the most appropriate grounding for the human right to welfare. This grounding does not help to ensure that goods will be distributed equally and universally to all humans as required by the universality of human rights. Therefore, it can be rejected as an appropriate grounding of the human right to welfare.

4.3.2 Interaction-based human right to welfare

The second way to ground the human right to welfare is to argue that it is justified by the connections that exist between persons. In this section, I begin with a description of a frontier community and explain how “special” relationships exist in such communities. From here I argue that there is no moral reason to assume special relationships stop at national borders. Hence “relevant interactions” need not stop at national borders either and likewise, the associated duties do not stop at borders. However, I then argue that by taking “relevant interactions” at its core, the interdependence-based grounding is an inappropriate way to ground the human right to welfare.

To begin, frontier communities are a simple example of people who depend on each other for survival and have a “mutual concern” for one another. With “mutual concern” it can be argued that “everyone benefits from being in thecommunity - mutual protection, some division of labour, social life, and so on” (Griffin, 2008, p. 178). Each inhabitant relies on the other inhabitants for their survival: a blacksmith is equally important to a farmer or a cattle rancher. Each person plays a part and as a consequence of their contribution they have a right to assistance from the community to which they have contributed. This simple example can thus be used to illustrate the idea that certain kinds of interaction within communities can be argued to create rights to assistance for the members of those communities.

It can then be argued, similarly, that that same kind of right-creating cooperation and reciprocity exists between citizens within national boundaries in a state. Such cooperation can thus be argued to create a “special” national relationship as a consequence of which, within a sovereign state, citizens have various political rights and also rights to assistance. Based on the interaction between them, citizens certain things and we can say that they have rights within their country.

However, even if we accept that intra-state relationships are special, there is no moral reason to assume that we do not also have the relevant kind of special relationships of interaction with those outside the political borders within which we live. For example, I have strong familial ties to the United States. However, I have studied abroad and now have relationships with people living in a different country. I would be as worried about their safety in an earthquake as I would be about members of my family. Special bonds with my family and co-nationals do not prohibit me from having the relevant relationships with friends outside my country of origin. But, these relationships do suggest that we can be interconnected with those outside our national boundaries in a way that similarly creates duties and rights for all of us.

It follows, then, that if we think that reciprocal interaction within a state creates a moral entitlement for assistance from other people within the state, then it is appropriate to think that universal interaction provides the same kind of entitlements universally. This would mean that interaction would, in fact, create a universal human right to welfare. In this tradition, we have duties of justice to all of those with whom we interact (Moellendorf, 2002, p. 31).

In a discussion of human rights grounded in interdependence, it is worth discussing the support provided by cosmopolitan theory. Institutional cosmopolitanism is based on this interdependence-based view of human rights (Pogge, 2011; Caney, 2010). These cosmopolitans claim that there are “duties of justice to some, but not all persons,” as long as that duty is delivered to all “of the persons with whom we are associated” (Moellendorf, 2002, p. 34).11 This is not to say that certain people do not have a right to welfare. Moellendorf does not suggest that certain humans have rights to welfare and others do not. He only suggests that an individual or official’s duty of justice does not extend further than to those with whom we have some sort of associational relationship. Indeed, persons only have moral duties to one another if they are relationally or institutionally linked (Moellendorf, 2002, pp. 32-33). By extension, if we interact with an individual in a relevant way we are morally required to deliver the goods associated with the human right to welfare. Accordingly, grounding the human right to welfare in interdependence excludes, in theory, those with whom we do not share a connection from receiving basic welfare goods. I have three criticisms of this grounding of human rights: (1) the issue of isolated communities, (2) the possibility that we will make badly off people worse off, and (3) a practical problem of deciding who to help. I will discuss these objections in turn.

First, if the interdependence-based grounding of the human right to welfare were the correct grounding of the human right in question, we would not be morally obligated to assist isolated communities. Consider the following: In 2014, Ireland held the Presidency of the European Council. At that time, North Korea was cut off from all trade with western countries and it was not a member of the United Nations. It is therefore fair to assume that Ireland and North Korea did not have a trade relationship. Let us assume further that very few if any North Koreans lived in Ireland and thus cultural links with North Korea were minimal or possibly non-existent. It could be argued that from the interdependence-based view of the human right to welfare, Ireland did not have a duty to provide assistance to North Korea in the event of a tsunami or earthquake because there were no official links or relationships between the two countries.

Hence, if we were strict adherents to the interdependence-based grounding of the human right to welfare, there would be no duty to ensure the human right to welfare to those we do not interact with in a “relevant way”. However, this is not how the world works in reality. Indeed, during such an emergency response welfare is not delivered to those with whom a group has a relationship only: no group of people is officially excluded from the international community, no matter their status as pariah state or otherwise.12 Intuitively the international community sees it as a duty to provide assistance to other humans (even if they do not always act on that duty). This can be seen in situations where the international community air drops supplies for people affected by emergencies when in isolated areas or countries. We may consider whether dropping supplies is politically appropriate, is helpful to the overall situation, and will not exacerbate an existing conflict before delivering aid. What we do not consider is whether our relationship with those suffering is “a relevant type of relationship”. In this way, interdependence does not in fact ground the human right to welfare. If it did people within pariah states would not receive air drops of assistance when required.

Second, by grounding the right to welfare in interdependence we are arguably perpetuating systems which disadvantage those that are already badly off. Our global economic and political systems already disadvantage poor and/or developing countries. Thomas Pogge has forcefully argued that the global poor are disadvantaged because of the way in which the rich countries have divided up resources to their own advantage (2001). In this regard, the global poor can be said to have been purposefully harmed by interactions. This perpetuates unequal political and economic systems and is not consistent with the universality of human rights. Instead, consider an individual already excluded from international economic and political systems, such as a farmer in rural Africa.

Caney has explained that some interdependent notions of cosmopolitanism assume that we may have duties of humanitarian assistance to those outside traditional systems of economics and politics (2009). This “may”, however, is still problematic in that it does not ensure that goods associated with the human right to welfare will be provided by relevant duty-bearers. In fact, “may” does not imply responsibility; it simply implies permissibility. Once again, the global poor may be excluded from claiming the human right to welfare if we ground it in interdependence.

Third, deciding who deserves assistance based on who we interact with is impractical. If we ground human rights in interdependence, the decision to consider someone part of an interdependent network will be occasion specific and will be open to interpretation as to who qualifies for assistance. By arguing that interdependence is based on relevant interactions - formal political or economic relationships - we leave interdependence open to interpretation and ultimately misuse. Distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant interactions is also practically burdensome because it forces policymakers to consider who is a part of an interdependent network during a controversial emergency. If an earthquake has occurred in North Korea, the decision to act must not be held up by a conversation about whether we actually have a connection with North Koreans or not. Assurances of welfare cannot be occasion-specific. Likewise, because a type of aid required is time-sensitive, its deliver}' must not be held up whilst policy makers decide the degree to which a certain country has a “relevant” interaction.

So, grounding the human right to welfare in interdependence and recognising our interconnectedness implies that we have a duty to all humans with whom we have interactions. However, grounding human rights in interdependence is problematic because it does not account for people in isolated communities and it perpetuates global inequalities and injustice. Additionally, determinations of which countries or people exist outside global systems can be situation-specific or inflicted on outlier states. If, then, even when rights are said to be grounded in interdependence, we still provide assistance, there must be a stronger, universal grounding at the heart of human rights. For discussion of this grounding I now turn to the humanity-based grounding of human rights.

4.3.3 Humanity-based grounding of human rights

In this section, I explain a third way of grounding the human right to welfare - the humanity-based approach. After putting the idea of shared humanity in context, I explain how the humanity-based approach to human rights can be understood either in terms of membership of the human species or in terms of the “unique” features we share as humans. I defend the view that human beings are inherently valuable and thus are deserving of respect. I then discuss why humanity-based grounding is the most appropriate grounding of human rights.

An example will help set the scene. There are tribes deep in the Amazon that have not had contact with the world beyond their villages. One such tribe exists in the state of Acre. This tribe may have had contact with outsiders at some point

Welfare as a human right 43 but mainly they have lived a completely isolated existence (Survival, 2014). This means that, until very recently, the tribe did not have any economic or social interactions with the rest of humankind. Integration of this tribe into global society is unnecessary.

Now, consider a situation in which a forest fire is quickly spreading toward the tribe. The fire was not started by humans but it is within human control to stop the fire. Ethically, many of us would think that saving the members of this tribe would still be the right thing to do. Do these individuals have the right to our assistance? I have argued in this chapter that pain and suffering and interdependence (or lack thereof) are not sufficient to require international assistance. However, one response to the question I have posed is that we should save the people of Acre because they are humans.

It should be noted that the human right to welfare can be grounded in humanity in two different ways. This right could be argued to be created by either our shared species membership or the “unique features” of human beings. I will discuss these alternatives in turn.

First, any person sharing the same human genetic coding is human - she belongs to the same animal species. By including all genetically identical animals in the definition of humans, we include “marginal humans” (i.e. those with disabilities or limited brain functioning) as well as human children and infants. Accordingly, it could be argued that any Homo sapiens should enjoy human rights simply because she is human.

(Video) Human Rights Welfare

There are two major objections to grounding human rights in species membership. The first is that doing so privileges a random (though specific) ordering of DNA over that of another being’s DNA (Bernstein, 2002, p. 529). The priority placed on humans as deserving of special treatment is speciesist. Singer explains the criticism of species membership as a grounding of human rights as similar to racism or sexism (2003). Hence grounding human rights in species membership is unethical in itself.

Similarly, we do not specify that one race of humans has rights and another does not. This is because all humans have, for example, the same interest in avoiding pain. In fact, when we have empathy for the suffering of humans of different races we are not empathizing with the other, we are empathizing with that which is the same. The morally relevant consideration is a being’s interests and avoiding the suffering of that being in contravention of her interests (Singer, 2003; Diamond, 2005/2012). Their interests are our interests; species membership is irrelevant. Hence, grounding human rights on species membership is morally arbitrary in addition to being speciesist.

Chappell explains that often we identify non-humans as “other” first, and then decide how best to apply the criteria of personhood to defend our position (2011). In doing this, we allow for prioritisation of humans because we want humans to be superior, not because they are. By extension we prioritise the interests of humans over other species.13

So, the joint humanity grounding of the human right to welfare based on species membership is unacceptable. There is, however, a second way of usingthe humanity-based grounding. This justification begins from the argument that human beings are unique among beings because there are some unique qualities inherent to human beings that make them valuable. Considering the example of the people of Acre given previously, it can instead be argued that we believe these humans to have a right to assistance based on our common humanity.14

The humanity-based grounding of human rights is based on those unique qualities of human beings (Caney, 2010). People disagree about which of the properties are relevant, thus making humans special and deserving of rights. Different arguments exist for which certain properties - sentience, cognition, autonomy, rationality and emotions - are important in this way.

I argue, in line with Griffin, that chief among these qualities is our ability to act autonomously and which seems to set us apart from other beings.15 Unlike other beings, then, we have the ability to form our own understanding of the good life in critical reflection and to pursue this understanding through intentional action (Griffin, 2000, p. 29, 2008, p. 45).

In contrast, whilst we share other grounding aspects of human rights with non-humans (emotions and sentience), non-human animals do not act on autonomous choices in the same way as we do; they may pursue things that are good for them by instinct but they have not formed their own conception of the good life before they begin to pursue a good life. Because of this, it can be argued that our ability to deliberate and act autonomously is the significant quality that both makes us as human beings unique and deserves to be protected by human rights.

In order to protect our normative agency, that which makes us fully human, Griffin argues that we then need three types of human rights: liberty, autonomy and welfare. Liberty is essentially freedom; no one can stop me from pursuing a good life. Autonomy is self-governance - the ability to make choices about one’s own life. Welfare, once again, is minimum provisions. Humans cannot pursue their concept of a good life if they don’t have certain basic elements necessary for survival. Hence, liberty, autonomy and welfare are, according to Griffin, the fundamental types of rights which, together, enable humans to live a fully human life as normative agents. By grounding the human right to welfare in “humanity” in this way we are saying that humans can claim the basic material provisions which makes autonomy and liberty, and by extension, a fully human life, possible. (Criticisms of this position are addressed in Section 4.4.)

And so, the uniqueness of humans is the most appropriate way to understand this grounding of human rights. Human rights are protections for us to act as the autonomous agents that we are. This grounding is also consistent with the idea of rights in general because the humanity-based grounding drawn from agency allows for universal application - the autonomous agency of each individual person is protected by human rights. Likewise, this grounding is consistent with human rights because it ensures a basic minimum of resources which thus enables to live a good (autonomous) life. And finally, this grounding of the human right to welfare ensures that welfare is a high priority and thus prevents people from inhibiting our own good lives.

The human right to welfare thereby creates a human societal obligation to ensure that those items necessary for survival (food, shelter, medical attention and security) are provided to all humans based on our shared humanity when they are under threat.

4.4 Criticisms of human rights use in policymaking

There are various criticisms of human rights, though, which should be addressed considering the centrality of human rights to my argument. Traditional utilitarians argue that human rights are simply “nonsense upon stilts” and thus should not be used to justify any policy (Bentham, 2002). Social contract theorists may argue that there are certain rights only deliverable by the state in which a person lives. Similarly, libertarians may argue that the rights argued for herein are actually negative rights and hence a duty to provide the goods in question does not exist. I discuss and respond to each of these criticisms of human rights in turn.

4.4.1 Utilitarian argument

First, utilitarians make two arguments against using rights as the foundation of policymaking. The first argument pertains to the existence of rights in general. The second argument considers the existence of a human right to welfare in particular.

On the existence of rights, Bentham argues that human rights do not exist and hence cannot and should not be used to ground policies and practice of any kind (Bentham, 2002). In responding to the establishment of the French Declaration of Rights, Bentham argued that the idea of “rights” of man was empty and highly problematic. For example, he argued that the human right to liberty cannot be grounded in reality because, as a matter of fact, humans are not free. All men are not born free and hence any reference to the inherent rights of humans prior to the existence of a state (i.e. rights stemming from natural rights) is not grounded in reality (Bentham, 2002, pp. 323-324).16

At this point, it could be suggested that natural rights, namely the inherent worth of human beings, underpin human rights. Bentham explains, however, that the French Rights of Man grounded in natural rights “is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, nonsense upon stilts” (Bentham, 2002, p. 330). Articulation of rights is only an articulation of a need and one cannot have a duty to preserve an abstract need. Instead, rights are more appropriately understood as a legal construct, grounded in national structures. There cannot realistically be moral rights because there is no basis upon which to ground them, or so Bentham argued.

I disagree with Bentham’s argument that rights are simply rhetorical devices, not grounded in reality, and that even speaking of them can lead to anarchy. The main problem of his “rhetorical devices” claim is that a grounding for human rights can indeed be found in reality. As explained previously, human rights can be grounded in the fact that human beings are normative agents

- they are able to form independent conceptions of a good life and pursue it. Rousseau famously argues that men are, indeed, born free. Only from societal “convention” are humans restricted in this freedom to make claims for themselves. Likewise, though, through these conventions men can pursue the return of said freedom (Rousseau, 1998). Hence, there is a ground for human rights in the way things are.

Importantly, human rights are articulations of what normative agents should be entitled to and in this way are normative. What Bentham’s discussion misses is that rights are inherently normative: they explain what claims people should be able to make on society. Rights are not set out as descriptive notions of the lives humans currently live - they are claims on the lives we should be living. In this way, we cannot rely on legal systems to ensure our rights. If we do, humans will be left open to the subjective, prejudicial and changeable nature of policy, politics and politicians.

My second issue with Bentham’s argument about rights is that he suggests that rights are dangerous because they can lead to anarchy. If rights do not spring from national laws, then governments will constantly be open to revolution and anarchy, or so he claimed (Alexander, 2003, p. 11; Bentham, 2002). The central concern here seems to be that a governmental authority will be questioned or overturned should the people feel they are not receiving what is owed them. Alexander suggests that Bentham is concerned that rights form a “foundation of political legitimacy on a utopian, unachievable fiction” (2003, p. 11).

Whilst complete and universal adherence to universal human rights norms has not been achieved (and many countries still violate human rights), the perpetuation of human rights norms since the 1950s has not caused anarchy. Despite revolutionary overthrows of governments linked to demands for the goods associated with human rights, we do not live in anarchy. Actually, governments have been overthrown for centuries before people accepted that they had human rights. In this way, human rights are not particularly at odds with a national government’s peaceful rule over a territory.

Furthermore, other than the possibility of violence or hardship for those concerned, I do not see why a government being responsible to its people for some moral reasons is so controversial. I would argue that there should be a moral mechanism for people to make demands of their government. As will be discussed in Chapter 8, legitimacy depends not simply on citizens following laws and acquiescing to authority. Indeed, the state must also uphold a moral norm within the society based on duties to its people.

(Video) Social Welfare Human Rights

The second utilitarian argument against using human rights as the foundation of policymaking has to do with a specific understanding of welfare maximisation. There is a conflict between rights theory and utilitarianism. It can be argued on utilitarian grounds that in some instances welfare will need to be re-distributed (taken from one, given to another) in order to maximise societal well-being. Consider a transplant case here and that there are three people in need of different organs. If one healthy person walks into the hospital (and in the absence of other moral questions), welfare maximisation in line with

Welfare as a human right 47 the above entails that it would be morally permissible to kill that one person for her organs in order to maximise overall welfare (Thomson, 1976; Sinnott-Armstrong, 2015). Realistically, no one would make the moral argument for killing one to save three. In this way, developing policy based on human rights is more appropriate.

4.4.2 Social contract argument

second possible criticism of human rights is related to social contract theory. According to contractarians there is a social contract between citizens and government which only exists at the national level. This contract is an ongoing and consistently re-assessed agreement: “Each of us puts in common his person and his whole power under the supreme direction of the general will; and in return we receive, every member as an indivisible part of the whole” (Rousseau, 1998). Together, something larger than oneself is formed which ensures the preservation of our rights. In Section 4.3.2,1 outlined the interdependence-based grounding of the human right to welfare which includes a more thorough argument against that of the contractarians. The duty to provide certain rights, it is argued, is only deliverable by the government with which an individual has engaged in such a contract. Within the terms of the social contract theory and assuming that certain rights (i.e. welfare) are a civic right, it can be argued that it is up to the state to provide for its citizens.17 Human rights are therefore excessive; rights are maintained at the state level and spreading the associated responsibilities to all humans is unnecessary.18

Now, the social contract criticism of human rights would suggest that developing policy for distinct communities may be a worthwhile venture. However, this assumes that each bounded territory represents a distinct civilisation (Waldron, 1987, p. 169). In fact, countries are multicultural and diverse communities in which there will be many people who did not enter into the social contract with the state in which they live. It follows that the needs of certain people within a country will not be afforded the same rights as offered to their contractarian neighbours. Human rights account for diverse communities and ensure equal and universal enforcement of the scope of certain rights. To ensure that all people within a state receive equal enjoyment of rights, there must actually be human rights; rights at the state level are not enough.

4.4.3 Libertarian argument

A third possible critique of human rights is grounded in libertarian norms. In a libertarian view, governments only have negative duties not to harm. Most importantly, the burden positive rights cause would inhibit individual negative liberty (Cross, 2001, p. 863). I should be free to use my money and my time to pursue a good life for myself. Positive duties, in contrast, would require government assistance in response to individuals’ claims (Cross, 2001). That would require me to spend my time and money on someone else’s desires and needs.

Indeed, according to libertarians there are no positive duties. Any positive rights and associated duties would likely be politically and economically cumbersome. Additionally, a positive right requires that a governmental system exists (at whatever level) to fulfil the associated duties (Cross, 2001, p. 866). This would restrict the liberty of individuals; only constraints like time, nature, and ability (things that cannot be controlled) should limit a person’s pursuit of their own good life. So, libertarians argue that no one should interfere with personal freedom (freedom being the thing that allows a person to pursue a flourishing life as they see it) and by extension they would argue against the existence of a human right to welfare.19

The libertarian view is problematic. Welfare and freedom are both important for the same reason: they both enable a person to pursue a good life. However, we should also note that, without basic welfare (food, water, shelter and medical assistance), a person cannot interact with or enjoy their freedom and thus not freely act on their pursuit of a flourishing life. For example, I should be free to own property and manage a given piece of land in a way that will add to my own good life. If I choose to farm the land so that I am self-sufficient but then break my arm and no one is able to manage my farm for me, I will not have any food and no recourse to assistance. Surely, a good life would entail access to food. If libertarians think that freedom matters, they should likewise recognise that a right to basic welfare will equally enable them to basic food stuffs which will enable them to pursue their own idea of a good life. Hence, welfare is at least as important as liberty in supporting a person’s pursuit of a good life.

In sum, there are various critics of the concept of a universal human rights structure. Libertarians, social contract theorists and utilitarians propose reasoned criticism of the development and application of human rights to policy making. However, human rights are an appropriate type of right in that they are universal, treat individuals equally, and ensure that the goods associated with certain rights are provided to right-holders.

4.5 Conclusion

I have explained that human rights are a particular kind of right. There are three features of human rights pertinent to my argument: they are high priority norms, set minimum standards and are universal. Welfare is the human right focused on in this chapter and the wider book. There are at least three ways to understand welfare: hedonism, desire-satisfaction and objective-list theories. In this chapter, I argued for objective-list theories of welfare because it is consistent with human rights in general and helps to establish the human right to welfare as a high priority norm, set a universal standard (for the provision of welfare) and, the objective list means that it can be universally applied. Items like food, water, shelter and medical care set a minimum standard for what is necessary for survival and ultimately contribute to one’s ability to lead a good life. The human right to welfare grounded in the uniqueness of humans based on our agency and ability to know and act on our own idea of a good life is the most convincing grounding because it is consistent with the spirit of rights, allows for universal application, and is the most practically implemented.

In sum, human rights are an appropriate mechanism around which policy should be made. Looking forward to my development of natural hazard and disaster intervention policy, human rights are the appropriate mechanism to justify the need for such policy because the human right to welfare accounts for the basic needs of all humans. Furthermore, the human right to welfare is a high priority norm and is of a higher priority than other national-level political or economic rights. Additionally, the human right to welfare sets the minimum standard as to the provision of basic goods and forces the universal provision of such goods in line with the normative function of human rights.


  • 1 Beitz argues that human rights cannot be understood as timeless: as science and technology change, our duties to humans also change (2003, pp. 43-44). However, human rights are normative and represent the ideal of human society. Hence I argue that whilst our technology and science may change it does not mean that our respect for humans will or should change.
  • 2 Some rights theorists such as Henry Shue argue that minimum standards help to ensure that human life does not sink below a minimal standard necessary for survival (1980). By dictating only minimal standards, national governments can maintain and integrate human rights into national laws with relative ease; this means that national governments are free to administer and implement political and social laws which fits the needs of the country without conflicting with human rights (Nickel, 2017).
  • 3 As high priority norms, human rights are also the standard bearer against which the international community evaluates the political legitimacy of different states. We judge their legitimacy on whether a state kills its own people (Robinson, 2007, p. 87). When a state does not carry out this function of protecting the basic rights of citizens it is not legitimate. Hence, human rights are of the highest priority for states as duty bearer as well as for the individuals making claims.
  • 4 See also Nussbaum (1999, p. 229).
  • 5 Whilst objective lists often combine elements of desire-satisfaction and hedonism (in that some items on an objective list do bring us pleasure and fulfil our desires) it does not solely concern things that fulfil desires or are pleasurable (Crisp, 2016; Fletcher, 2013).
  • 6 The international community has second-order responsibilities because they too can ensure certain rights but should wait for the state to act first (Caney, 2014, p. 134; Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, 1998; IFRC, 2016, p. 165).
  • 7 By its very nature, the human right to welfare establishes a basic minimum of those goods necessary for survival. According to Masolw’s hierarchy of needs any human need “rests on the prior satisfaction of another pre-potent need” (1943). Basic needs are the most important and most fundamental to human existence such that they take priority over all other needs and desires (Maslow, 1943). Once the basic needs of food, water and shelter are satisfied, one can attempt to satisfy other needs and desires (see Cross, 2001).
  • 8 Robinson argues that a state may still be legitimate even if the entire citizenry does not support it; a majority of the citizens should not be opposed to its continuing to govern. He also argues that a legitimate state must protect the basic rights of its citizens and refrain from violating the rights of those in other states. When these functions are not upheld, intervention may be possible (2007, p. 87).

Singer argues that all members of the moral community deserve not to suffer or feel pain when it can be prevented. I limit my argument to humans for purpose of space and focus within this text.

Singer argued that distance does not authorise us to ignore pain and suffering (1972, p. 232). Practical limitations, such as distance which prevents timely response, do exist. Hence, whilst distance may not be a moral limitation, it may be a practical one.

Institutional cosmopolitanism is the view that all humans are co-citizens of the world and thus share political and judicial structures. Accordingly, and in line with an interdependence-based view of human rights, humans linked as co-citizens belong to a political community thus engaging them in a type of social contract (Ronzoni, 2013). Simon Caney explains that an interdependence-based cosmopolitanism would require distributive justice to all members of the global institutional structure. Those outside the structures, however, could only claim rights to humanitarian assistance, not to justice more broadly (2009).

This is not, I would argue, to do with duty to co-humans but rather a lack of political will.

A second criticism to using species membership as the qualifier for membership in humanity involves the issue of reproduction, though it is unnecessary to unpack here (Bernstein, 2002).

This grounding is consistent with the universality and equality of both rights and duties. It is also consistent with cosmopolitan justice which stresses the importance of individuals.

Nonhuman animals can be said to feel pain and pleasure, rationality and emotions and thus do not provide an explanation of what makes humans unique and therefore deserving of rights.

Bentham further argued that humans are not equal in rights. To say so is to ignore the existence of privilege and power in the world (Bentham, 2002, p. 325). Likewise, socialists can claim that the scope of rights is still entrenched in issues of class and power (Waldron, 1987, p. 159). Liberals suggest that rights do not adequately account for the needs of a given society. By focusing on helping the individual we may not support society in such a way as to make the individual’s life, within that society, meaningful (Waldron, 1987, p. 158). Consider, for example, that rights are not universal; the oppression of rights suffered by men are only a component of greater and separate oppressions suffered by women (Waldron, 1987, p. 159).

(Video) Human rights welfare

Indeed the social contract legitimates the state and allows it to govern with the consent of the citizens. For more on a recent, Rawlsian explanation of social contract theory see (Nussbaum, 2007, pp. 4-5).

I will respond to this criticism thoroughly in Chapter 7.

It problematically follows that human rights are not something to be delivered by the international community to individuals (Pogge, 2008, p. 70). The state’s role is solely to ensure that individuals are free to pursue their own interests without external interference. I expect, though, that if assistance was offered by a national (or supranational) government, libertarians would not refuse life-saving support.


What is human rights very short answer? ›

Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings - they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.

Do you know what human rights are explain your answer? ›

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

Why are human rights important short answer? ›

Human rights are needed to protect and preserve every individual's humanity, to ensure that every individual can live a life of dignity and a life that is worthy of a human being.

What is human rights in your own word? ›

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life.

What is the most important human right? ›

The freedom to vote was ranked as the most important human right in five of the eight countries. The United States values free speech as the most important human right, with the right to vote coming in third. Free speech is also highly valued in Germany: its citizens also see this as most important.

How can we protect human rights? ›

6 Ways to Protect & Support Human Rights for People Around the...
  1. Speak up for what you care about. ...
  2. Volunteer or donate to a global organization. ...
  3. Choose fair trade & ethically made gifts. ...
  4. Listen to others' stories. ...
  5. Stay connected with social movements. ...
  6. Stand up against discrimination.

Are some human rights more important than others? ›

The quick answer: All human rights are equally important. They are all dependent on each other. The violation of one right often leads to the violation of another right. There is no hierarchy among human rights.

Why is it important to study human rights? ›

Human rights are important because no individual can survive alone and injustices diminish the quality of life at a personal, local and global level.

Why do we need rights? ›

Rights are given for the citizens so that it can be used as a tool to maintain rule of law. They are the positive limitations on the government and other entities as well. 1. It will help to create necessary changes that will make our government run in a better way.

What are the 10 most important human rights? ›

Here are the 10 basic human rights every individual must know.
  • The Right to Life. ...
  • The Right to Freedom from Torture. ...
  • The Right to equal treatment. ...
  • The Right to privacy. ...
  • The Right to asylum. ...
  • The Right to marry. ...
  • The Right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression. ...
  • The Right to work.
Dec 10, 2021

Is the government doing enough to protect human rights? ›

Answer: Undoubtedly, every Government's foremost duty is to protect human rights. The Government has all the power and infrastructure such as the constitution, the judiciary, the police, etc. to do this. The Government in India is taking all the measures to protect human rights.

Who protects human rights? ›

The United Nations (UN) system has two main types of bodies to promote and protect human rights: Charter Bodies and Treaty Bodies. Charter Bodies are established under the UN Charter in order to fulfil the UNs general purpose of promoting human rights.

What are human rights introduction? ›

It is something to which you are entitled by virtue of being human. Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human rights because they are universal.

What is human right and example? ›

Human rights are norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to education.

What are human rights for students? ›

The rights to dignity, freedom of expression and assembly are only a few of the fundamental human rights essential to ensure a quality higher education for all students. The Human Rights Day reminds students about those rights that are still being violated and cannot be taken for granted.

How was human rights created? ›

The United Nations pinpoint the origin of Human Rights to the year 539 BC. When the troops of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, Cyrus freed the slaves, declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion, and established racial equality.

Why is the right to life the most important right? ›

Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. This right is one of the most important of the Convention since without the right to life it is impossible to enjoy the other rights. No one shall be condemned to death penalty or executed. The abolition of death penalty is consecrated by Article 1 of Protocol No.

What happens when human rights are not protected? ›

There is no rule of law within societies if human rights are not protected and vice versa; human rights cannot be protected in societies without a strong rule of law. The rule of law is the implementation mechanism for human rights, turning them from a principle into a reality.

What are the most important rights citizens should have? ›

  • Freedom to express yourself.
  • Freedom to worship as you wish.
  • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.
  • Right to vote in elections for public officials.
  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Right to run for elected office.
  • Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Jul 5, 2020

How do human rights benefit the society? ›

Human rights are basic rights that belong to all of us simply because we are human. They embody key values in our society such as fairness, dignity, equality and respect. They are an important means of protection for us all, especially those who may face abuse, neglect and isolation.

What is human right essay? ›

Introduction. Human rights are defined as the rights that every person is entitled to. These rights are designed for the development and protection of every human irrespective of caste, gender, and economic status. Human rights essay teaches children about rights in a detailed manner.

Do human rights cover all human needs? ›

Human rights cover virtually every area of human activity. They include civil and political rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom from torture. They also include economic and social rights, such as the rights to health and education.

How many human rights are there? ›

According to United Nations, there are 30 basic human rights that recognized around the world.

What are types of human rights? ›

  • Right to Security from Harm. While there are many accepted human rights, they tend to fall into a few specific categories. ...
  • Right to Legal Equality. Another common category of human rights is the expectation to receive equal protection under the law. ...
  • Right to Political Participation.
Nov 14, 2021

What is the role of the Government in protecting human rights? ›

States, as in governments represented by ministers, diplomats etc, have the primary responsibility to promote, protect, respect and fulfil human rights. They have this responsibility to anyone within their territory or who may be subject to their jurisdiction, control or influence.

How does the Government protect the rights of citizens? ›

The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition. It also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination.

How does the Government support human rights violations? ›

It does this through raising public awareness, training programmes, special projects, and through enquiries, hearings and legal interventions. The SAHRC receives and investigates complaints of violations of human rights. Investigation may entail mediation, litigation or publishing a report.

What are human rights issues today? ›

Injustices like wage theft, discrimination, and physical endangerment occur all the time. Work systems can make work-life balance difficult, taking a toll on employees' mental health. In many places, inadequate pay is also an issue. The federal minimum wage in the United States has remained the same since 2009.

When were human rights made? ›

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights articulates fundamental rights and freedoms for all. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on 10 December 1948.

What type of human right is the right to life? ›

Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to life. This means that nobody, including the Government, can try to end your life.

How do you introduce a topic to human rights? ›

Human rights are a set of principles concerned with equality and fairness. They recognise our freedom to make choices about our lives and to develop our potential as human beings. They are about living a life free from fear, harassment or discrimination.

What is human right essay? ›

Introduction. Human rights are defined as the rights that every person is entitled to. These rights are designed for the development and protection of every human irrespective of caste, gender, and economic status. Human rights essay teaches children about rights in a detailed manner.

What are the rights? ›

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.

What are the 13 human rights? ›

Appendix 5: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (abbreviated)
Article 1Right to Equality
Article 11Right to be Considered Innocent until Proven Guilty
Article 12Freedom from Interference with Privacy, Family, Home and Correspondence
Article 13Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country
26 more rows

What are Indian human rights? ›

There are six fundamental rights in India. They are Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights, and Right to Constitutional Remedies.

What is more important human rights or human life Why? ›

Human life is essentially distinct and of higher value in comparison to other life forms precisely because it is that of a human person. Rights too are important because they are basic entitlements (not just privileges) that properly belong to the same human person.

What are human rights introduction? ›

It is something to which you are entitled by virtue of being human. Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human rights because they are universal.

What are human rights issues today? ›

Injustices like wage theft, discrimination, and physical endangerment occur all the time. Work systems can make work-life balance difficult, taking a toll on employees' mental health. In many places, inadequate pay is also an issue. The federal minimum wage in the United States has remained the same since 2009.

How many human rights are there? ›

According to United Nations, there are 30 basic human rights that recognized around the world.

What are the types of human right? ›

The UDHR and other documents lay out five kinds of human rights: economic, social, cultural, civil, and political. Economic, social, and cultural rights include the right to work, the right to food and water, the right to housing, and the right to education.

What are the 3 types of human rights? ›

  • Right to Security from Harm. While there are many accepted human rights, they tend to fall into a few specific categories. ...
  • Right to Legal Equality. Another common category of human rights is the expectation to receive equal protection under the law. ...
  • Right to Political Participation.
Nov 14, 2021

What are our 30 human rights? ›

The 30 rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR include the right to be free from torture, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education and the right to seek asylum. It includes civil and political rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and privacy.

What are the 10 most important human rights? ›

Here are the 10 basic human rights every individual must know.
  • The Right to Life. ...
  • The Right to Freedom from Torture. ...
  • The Right to equal treatment. ...
  • The Right to privacy. ...
  • The Right to asylum. ...
  • The Right to marry. ...
  • The Right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression. ...
  • The Right to work.
Dec 10, 2021

What are 5 rights of a citizen? ›

2It is a citizen's right to enjoy social services
3It is a citizen's right to freely own property
4It is the right of a citizen to enjoy security and peace in the state.
5It is the right of a citizen to be voted for
2 more rows
Jun 4, 2020

Who is the Father of human rights? ›

Happy birthday to 'the Father of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' Our namesake, Monsieur René Cassin, was a French-Jewish jurist, law professor and judge. Today, we celebrate the birth of the man who became known as 'the Father of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights'.

How are human rights developed? ›

Documents asserting individual rights, such the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791) are the written precursors to many of today's human rights documents.


1. Human Rights Welfare Services
2. Samuel Moyn: "Human Rights in the Neoliberal Maelstrom" | 2018 Human Rights@Duke Lecture
(Duke Franklin Humanities Institute)
3. Human rights welfare
4. Human Rights Welfare Org
5. Welfare to Work - Workfare Lets ignore the Human Rights Act
6. Globalization, Ethics, Welfare and Human Rights, Starn/Wesolowski, Duke
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