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Rights that one has because one is human.



Things that we are entitled to by virtue of rules that carry authority (whether formal/ legal or informal / moral)


What are the two meanings of "right"?

Rectitude - something being right

Entitlement - someone having a right


What are the consequences of a right being withheld?

RIght holder suffers a special harm/ deprivation if they are denied the right.
The right holder has special claims and related practices that see to guarantee their enjoyment of the right.
Rights violation triggers action/ remedies.

Duty bearer is obliged to take action.


What three ways are rights implemented?

Assertive exercise
Active Respect
Objective enjoyment



- the right is claimed, activating the obligations of the duty bearer who either respects the right or violates it.



The duty bearer takes the right into account in determining how to behave without the right-holder ever claiming it.
e.g. automatically assume we are born to the right of education.



Neither the right holder nor the duty bearer give any thought to the right.
e.g. right to a public area.



"Having" a right is of most value precisely when one does not "possess" (the object of) the right.


What are the features of human rights?

Those rights we have in virtue of being human.
UNIVERSAL - all human beings are rights holders
EQUAL AND INALIENABLE - either a human being or not

Human rights are moral rights of the highest order - doesn't matter if they are written into the law, but in most cases trying to include it into the law.


Describe the historical evolution of human rights.

- Initially rights belonged to the royals.
- Magna Carta - no longer subject to the Kings decision to someone's right to life.
- Human rights didn't arise until the 17th century. Started a conceptual discussion of rights.
- John Locke - limits of royal power
- Rousseau - the division of State's function to limit power, no one is born to have authority over the other, and if there is a govern that we do not are that we are treated fairly, it is our duty to overthrow it.
Kant - rights to all rational beings, in recognition of their natural dignity, social contract.
18th Century -
several revolutions:
US Revolution - the American constitution (1791) into the shape of a Bill of Rights
The French Revolutions and the Declaration of the RIghts of Man and Of the Citizens - "inherent dignity of the human person"..
18th and 19th century: the generalisation and expansion.
WWII - the universal declaration of human rights (1948) - the awareness that the international community set down formal standards of HR and freedoms to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. Response to state oppression and inhumanity of WWII.
Specification - civil, political, economic, social, cultural rights.

Specification: topics (torture, racial discrimination); victim groups (women, children, disabled people and indigenous people)


Human rights in China (old)

Confucious: "human nature" (ren) - an accomplishment; human being is not something we are; it is something that we do, and become. "humans are fundamentally good" and "the goodness needs to be nurtured"

"Human dignity" was understood as the achievement of a small elite.

Humanity is to be achieved in this world.

Humanity is to be achieved in and through society.

Mencius: all humans are born good (Mencius 6A:6), emphasis on education, wisdom, and virtue as a potential check on hierarchical abuses of power.


Hindu views on human rights.

Particularism and universalist, "there is only one caste - humanity"
Caste theoretically assures that each person is treated according to his or her dessert.
A caste system permits each person to achieve a certain kind of dignity, differential, not equal.


Islamic views on human rights.

- All individuals are endowed with rights and lived in love and charity with their neighbours - Al Farabi
- "Human rights in Islam, as prescribed by the divine law, are the privilege only of persons of full legal status. A person with full legal capacity is a living human being of mature age, free , and of Moslem faith" (Khadduri 1946:79)


Christian views on human rights.

- "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them". (Gen 1.27-28)
- Dignity is something "that none of us can receive from others, and that no one can take from us" (Pannenberg, 1991, p177)
- But, it is hierarchical: Christian society in the medieval and early modern eras was deeply hierarchical.


Features of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Indivisible - a life of dignity is not possible without something close to the full range of recognised HR.
Interdependent - rights interact with one another to produce a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

Human rights are rooted/justified in a conception of human dignity. - All rights included in the UDHR are rights of individuals.

Although they are universal rights, states have almost exclusive responsibility to implement them for their own nationals.


UDHR emphasis on the individual

All rights included in the UDHR are rights of individuals.
Even when group membership is essential to the definition of a human right, that right is held by individual members of the group not by the group itself.
Still individual rights can be seen as a "social practice" - individuals shape and are shaped by human rights.


What is dignity? What are the approaches to defining it?

No real definition.
-Too vague, just a language thing.
- Rooted in intrinsically valuable aspects of being human.
- A "transcendental" norm.
Overlapping consensus approach:
- Different people different conceptions of dignity.
- Law bodies shape our understanding of life and dignity.


What do human rights require?

- Protections of personhood/agency: substantive understanding.
- Autonomy - free of oppression.
- Real choice - education, information and association.
- Minimum material resources to follow one's choice.
- Liberty to pursue one's chosen path.
- Not rights to anything that promotes human good or flourishing but to an austere protection of personhood.
- Rights of a functioning historical and socially embedded human agent.



Normative agency: "our capacity to reflect on, to choose and to pursue what we ourselves decide is a good life."
Status to be protected by human rights.
Personhood: Autonomy, liberty, and minimum provision.
Right to an austere protection of personhood.
Rights of a functioning historical and socially embedded human agent.


Political approaches to human rights

Rights that actually work.
"it is not a matter of knowing which and how many rights there are, what their nature is and on what foundation they are based, whether they are natural or historical, absolute or relative; it is a question of finding the surest method of guaranteeing rights and preventing their continuing violation" - Norberto Bobbio (1996, p12)
"there is no strong foundation for human rights" - "or, what amounts to the same thing, there are multiple, or inconsistent, 'foundations'" Jack Donnelly (2003, pg20)
"there are no such rights, and belief in the is one withe belief in witches or unicorns" - Alistair MacIntyre (1981, p67)
This requires an effective state, that is, a state that enforces rights.


What happens when a state fails to enforce human rights?

A state fails when it is indifferent to human rights violations, or be too weak to defend them.
"Right to intervene" - "the exercise of this right of protection or prevention is dependent on the actions of international institutions and major powers that have the economic and military resources to intervene" (Chandler, 2005 ,p181).
Paradox: the ends of human rights (equal freedom and dignity) and the means used to implement or secure them (the power of the stronger).
Human rights are "granted" or "allowed" by the powerful to the powerless.


What are the responsibilities of duty bearers?

- Not to deprive
- Protect from deprivation
- Provide effective enjoyment
- Aid the deprived

In principle all duties apply universally to all social actors.

HR laws attribute duties to protect, provide and aid the deprived almost exclusively to states.


Is there any HR obligations for companies?

Regulatory gap - should have own human right commitment, more challenging to operate company?
Race to the bottom
Any role for accounting? - how accounting as a practice could contribute to human rights, or is it not at the front of human rights?