A piece of utopia realized

A piece of utopia realized

It reads well, but in large parts like a utopia. Not only with regard to war-torn countries in Africa, but also in Germany, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems above all a collection of pious wishes. But much of the document, adopted 60 years ago on 10. December 1948, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, is now enshrined in national and international law.

Be it the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination" of 1966 or the "Convention against Torture" of 1984, which after all 145 countries have ratified – conventions, international covenants and interventions of states go back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A core set of human rights has since been universally accepted as a minimum standard, such as the treatment of foreigners, protection against expropriation and basic judicial rights such as the right to a judge, writes legal scholar Eibe Riedel.The historic aspect of the Universal Declaration was, among other things, that states for the first time overcame the understanding of sovereignty as mere "non-interference," says the director of the German Institute for Human Rights, Heiner Bielefeldt. Before that, there had been only pure "state traffic regulations" that merely governed interstate relations. "People did not appear in it."With the declaration, this has changed: "The state's dealings with people are no longer just an internal matter," Bielefeldt emphasizes.However, there was a bitter dispute about the countries' leeway in formulating binding conventions and pacts. During the Cold War, for example, the ideas of both sides clashed. The West wanted above all to establish the liberties of the individual. The East attached greater weight to economic, social and cultural rights for the collective.According to Riedel, however, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enjoys wide acceptance precisely because each individual UN member can determine the relationship between state and society for itself. "There is no provision whatsoever against differences of interpretation."Muslim countries, which sometimes refuse demands on human rights ies, citing a cultural imperialism of the West, also ied human rights declarations in the 1980s and 1990s that included, for example, an absolute ban on torture. However, these always establish a link to Islam and are partly subordinated to Sharia, the traditional Islamic legal system. According to this, grand theft can be punished by cutting off a hand, for example.But although respect for and protection of human rights have advanced in the 60 years since the Declaration, they remain an unfulfilled promise for many people, the Secretary General of the German section of Amnesty International, Barbara Lochbihler, points out. "Arbitrary detentions and 'disappearances' exist in many parts of the world, as do extrajudicial executions and slavery."Poverty and discrimination are serious violations of economic and social rights and the cause of violent conflicts.Amnesty International's human rights report this year lists 150 countries where human rights are disregarded. The authors write about the murder of women's rights activists in Colombia, the arrest of children in Pakistan, severe attacks on homosexuals under the eyes of the security forces in Hungary, or Angolan families made homeless by forced eviction. There is no country, no culture, in which all human rights are implemented, Bielefeldt regrets.Also in Germany much can be found, which is against the human rights after the general explanation. The very fact that women still earn almost a quarter less than men, according to the Federal Statistical Office, contradicts the principle of equal pay for equal work enshrined in Article 23. The right to work enshrined in the same article also remains unfulfilled.This is why, according to Bielefeldt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still indispensable today. Its topicality is based on its idea, which stems from experiences of injustice. However, Bielefeldt emphasizes that the awareness of injustice must always be extended. Just as a new UN convention on equality for the disabled was adopted earlier this year. "We have learned that by now," says the legal philosopher. "Nevertheless, the claim of human rights is nowhere fulfilled and their formulation is also unfinished."

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