230 YEARS AGO THE DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

We often talk about “human rights”, “conventions” and “international agreements”. Yet we forgotten important dates. Like August 26th, 1789 when, in France, the Constituent Assembly promulgated the Declaration on Human Rights. A document that was itself a revolution. Starting with Article 1: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can only be founded on common utility”. The final text of the full document was discussed in the Assembly from August 20th to 26th, 1789. That document became the basis on which the first French Constitution was built, in 1791, and gave rise to a radical change in the very way of understanding the “common thing”. A change in the way of thinking and seeing the society that has inspired documents now considered indispensable such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948.
It was in the Declaration on Human Rights that for the first time, concepts were included that today are considered fundamental. Principles such as equality in the face of justice, public employment and taxation.Rights such as freedom of thought, opinion, press, expression. But also the fundamentals of the modern economy such as the right to property, considered sacred and inviolable.
This document was inspired by treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (based on the fourteen points drawn up by the US president, Woodrow Wilson, in 1918) and on the “pillars” of the Four Freedoms set forth by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1941 Atlantic Charter But also documents such as the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights or the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, developed by the Commission for Human Rights and adopted by the UN in 1966.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (proclaimed the first time in 2000, in Nice, and a second time, in an adapted version, on 12 December 2007 in Strasbourg) also referred to those principles.Once again it was a brief but essential document: its preamble and the 54 articles underline fundamental principles on which the Union should be based. Principles such as dignity (art 0-5), freedom (art. 6-19), equality (art. 20-26), solidarity (art. 27-38), citizenship (art. 39-46 ) and justice (art. 47-50) divided into four categories such as the common fundamental freedoms present in the constitutions of all member states;the rights reserved to Union citizens, such as the right to elect their representatives to the European Parliament and to enjoy common diplomatic protection; economic and social rights, those that can be traced back to labor law and “modern” rights, those that derive from certain technological developments, such as the protection of personal data or the prohibition of eugenics and discrimination of disability and sexual orientation .
Precisely because of this being its precursor subject and at the same time inspiring a good part of the treaties that were subsequently written, in 2003 the Declaration on Human Rights was included by UNESCO in the List of Memories of the World.
And yet, exactly 230 years after it was written, this document seems to have been forgotten. The reason, perhaps, is to be found in the loss of the values ​​and principles that were the basis of that text (and of the documents that inspired this. Principles that modern society seems to have forgotten.
Even the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union no longer speaks about anyone: it should have been incorporated into the European Constitution in 2004. A Constitution that has never entered into force, some argue because of non-ratification by member states. The umpteenth demonstration, if any were needed, that the European Union is not a political and cultural union but simply an economic agreement. But also that few respect these principles today. According to the Lisbon Treaty, the principles contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CDFUE), also known as the Charter of Nice, have the same legal value as the other European treaties and should therefore be binding for all European institutions and for Member States.
Instead, re-reading the articles of the Charter of Nice and those contained in the Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent modifications, it is impossible not to notice that these rights have become pure theory.
Today, it is not easy to find a country among those who have signed the Declaration of Human Rights (and, in Europe, the CDFUE) which respects at least in part what was written in its 30 articles on 10 December 1948.
Read that “All human beings are born with equal rights and dignity” (art.1) sounds strange. That the same rights “belong to any human being, without distinction of race, color, sex, religion, language, political opinion or any other” (art.2). In a world where wars for economic reasons are increasing, to hear talk of “the right to life and one’s own safety” appears almost ridiculous. As well as feeling that “no human being will be able to live in a state of slavery”: today in the world a modern form of slavery continues to be a social scourge and underpaid workers without union rights are often the basis of the production of multinationals that govern the economy of the planet. Yet few talk about it and nobody does anything.
The list of articles and fundamental rights fallen into oblivion is very long: from torture to the recognition of legal rights, from equality before the law to the protection of constitutional rights, from the right not to be arrested, exiled or arbitrarily detained (such as do we put it with Guantanamo and the like?) to the right of “every individual to receive political asylum in other states other than his own, unless he is guilty of actions contrary to the fundamental principles of the United Nations”. And again, “Every person has the right to a citizenship, and cannot be deprived of it”, states the art. 15; the reality is that not even UNHCR today is able to say how many stateless people are.
The list of denied rights, sometimes even in the most “developed” and “developed” countries, is very long: the right to freedom of conscience, religion and thought; the right to freedom of opinion; the right to the participation of each individual in the government of their own country, and in these days in the UK the queen has accepted the government’s request to close the Parliament !.
The right to a decent standard of living, for oneself and for one’s family: it sounds strange in a world where poverty, both relative and absolute, remains a problem that national and international measures have never succeeded (or did not want) to solve.
The “right to education”: illiteracy continues to be one of the major impediments to the growth of entire populations, think of Africa. Instruction that “must be free in the early stages”. Provided, of course, that you can afford to pay for school books and tuition fees, which in some cases, like in India, make it impossible even to enter schools, so who can study on the street thanks to volunteers.
The problem is perhaps that most people do not know what it was like to live before the principles that were included in the Declaration on Human Rights and that are the basis of modern society were adopted.In many developed countries it sounds strange to hear about dignity, freedom, equality. Or concepts like solidarity and justice. Yet these are principles that, over the years, seem to have faded. Like the ink with which, on August 26, 1789, the fathers of the French Revolution wrote the Declaration on Human Rights.

C. Alessandro Mauceri
C. Alessandro Mauceri
Since thirty years C.Alessandro Mauceri deals, writes and talks about issues related to the environment and a sustainable development, as well as internationalization. He is author of several books, including Water War and Finta Democracy. His research and papers were reported in several newspapers, in Italy and abroad.Posts

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