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from issue no. 10 - 2008

Vitality, delicacy, transcendence of human rights

The validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years after its proclamation. An article by the Ambassador of Chile to the Holy See

by Pablo Cabrera

Ann Eleanor Roosevelt, in a photo of 1948, showing the manifesto of the Declaration of Human Rights

Ann Eleanor Roosevelt, in a photo of 1948, showing the manifesto of the Declaration of Human Rights

The speed with which events follow one another does not often leave room for the analysis of lots of ideas, facts and theories that deserve careful assessment at a time when the world community is immersed in a process of globalization that destroys expectations and is deficient in responding to problems that are multiplying daily. A necessary reflection on this issue entails a shared moral challenge to unify criteria and outline mechanisms capable of giving a more acceptable face to a global panorama that demands better political, economic, social and humanitarian conditions. In other words, it is time to think big and with a new spirit, bearing in mind that the central point of convergence for undertaking any action is the dignity of the human person. In short, it is not enough to attempt a mere corrective management of reduced prospects or act on the basis of specific or sectorial interests; we must instead develop a solid and coherent strategy to adequately address the crisis presented by the international system.
The view according to which “history is what stimulates change” can be an inspiration in confronting this contemporary challenge. The new list of rights and duties that emerge in the context of globalization and seeks inclusion in the legacy of values that history has left to society, must be taken up, respected and also protected in the context of the new and different situation that is being shaped worldwide.
Through a hermeneutic reading of what has happened in the last sixty years, including both the successes and defeats, the good and the evil, the results and the suffering, the errors and the positive results, one can responsibly contribute to a necessary global order that is effective in overcoming social inequality, the deterioration of coexistence and the increasing environmental deterioration that we see.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which commemorates its sixtieth anniversary this year, is a good reference point for rallying the determination to overcome the inconsistencies that continue to impede the overall and just development that the world community demands with urgency.
Such a massive expression of the will has created a cultural model in which the rights of individuals are clearly recognized as superior to those of States and as belonging to all mankind. Furthermore, it has provided a way and a scale for the values of freedom, equality and fraternity to the very ends of the earth. Consequently, agreeing that the widespread problems of globalization are shared and that their solution interests all, means honoring and strengthening the validity of the Declaration, that is, in addition, apt to bring about the necessary change. Although the centrality of human rights is not yet sufficiently rooted in the formulation of policies by countries, it is well to say that the contents of the document in question present themselves as a powerful signal in the configuration of a culture of peace and harmony capable of alleviating in the new generations the burden of transformation towards a more united world.
The Declaration of 1948, in fact, implies a commitment to promote a change in the behavior of countries. It was not conceived as a simple observation or as an act merely of witnesses, but as a kind of institutional message for the historical context that came out of the Second World War. The agreement between power and moral authority, which worked at that time to draw up an agenda, with ethical content, was an element in the process and constituted a challenge for humanity. And today it reproposes itself as the suitable formula to set in motion schemes of cooperation and to reverse the negative trend they currently show. Moreover, it proves itself decisive in a series of initiatives aimed at overcoming the weaknesses of the system, exposed by the prevailing globalization, which affects the dignity of persons in areas hitherto unthinkable and that interact, making their vulnerability more evident. The disasters of terrorism, the challenge of biotechnology, the consequences of the data-storage/data-protection equation, the search for sustainable development, the drama of migration are only some of the challenges that put the existing moral canons to the test and make of that important text a point of reference for halting the overexposure to which humanity is subjected by new factors that are, moreover, foreign to its nature and structure.
The fight against hunger, thirst and poverty is the key to addressing the saga of globalization, whose most dramatic challenge originates perhaps in the phenomenon of migration that, in its negative aspect, generates exclusion and fuels violence. All this shapes a framework of humanitarian emergency. Included in this framework, human rights, as ethical substratum of international relations, entail the obligation to create and approve actions that put order into the relationship of people with their natural environment. Over one hundred million people suffer today from a serious food shortage, adding to those, just as numerous who have never had enough to eat. The causes are varied and sometimes result from mistaken practices that require special treatment; however, we must recognize that a good number of people who knew only poverty, are enjoying an improvement in the quality of life in emerging countries and with important indices of development, thanks to the degree of recognition obtained by fundamental rights, through the formation of a universal consciousness. However, efforts have not been sufficient to achieve the shaping of a common and unified habitat for the developed and the developing worlds. Therefore, to encourage and expand creativity and encourage interdisciplinary work to cover the shortfall that the global situation presents, must be part of the strategy that world diplomacy must put in place to root out the inequality that destroys every process of integration, social cohesion and inclusion .
The renewed fighting in North Kivu,
the eastern sector of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced some 250,000 people to abandon their villages  [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

The renewed fighting in North Kivu, the eastern sector of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced some 250,000 people to abandon their villages [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Therefore, a reflection on the meaning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights allows the introduction, pedagogically and principally, of the real meaning of solidarity. It can shape a synergy that marks the difference with what has been achieved so far and that, in some way, readjusts the methodology so as to deal positively with the aggressiveness of globalization, favoring the emergence of an agenda to revitalize cooperation and restore human rights. It is a matter, therefore, of using a means of “eliminating inequalities and increasing security”, as Pope Benedict XVI suggested in his last speech to the United Nations.
While a new configuration of world power is taking shape and the creation of a “unified multilateralism” is invoked, one must necessarily reaffirm the vitality, the delicacy and transcendence of human rights. It should be noted that a generation of Latin American diplomats actively participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of 1948, the scope of which surpassed all expectations. Despite the fact that at that time Latin America was making no large contribution to the global circulation of ideas, its offering was included with a special stamp into the architecture of the UN and other mechanisms and institutions of the multilateral system. The implicit commitment to the recognition of personal, social and economic rights, inserted itself as a cornerstone of foreign policy of the great majority of countries in the region and has always been a source of energy for the restoration of democracy, especially after the painful experiences of institutional rupture where the violation of human dignity was systematic.
It is precisely human rights that put the imprint of faith and confidence on diplomatic work because their nature is bound up with peace, tolerance, dialogue and mutual understanding, in short, everything that can only develop under the banner of a culture of respect for fundamental values. They become a paradigm of coexistence and concerted action which, of course, constitute the basis for claiming the Millennium Goals set out by the international community at the United Nations in 2000 and that today are sorely tested by the grave financial crisis and strong of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights is essential in advancing any dialogue or negotiation aimed at establishing a world ever more fraternal and united; for this reason, the confluence of political will of solid cultural and moral support does not accept that the person’s fundamental human rights have partial or restricted application, in any situation or circumstance. In other words, the content of the Universal Declaration of 1948 is valid and it is the duty of those who formulate public policies to honor it to its full extent.

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