Declaring a “human right” does not make it one (part 1)

There are no human rights which follow as an inevitable consequence of the natural laws of the universe.

Consider what is needed to create a right. Mere declaration does not suffice. A right is entirely a social construct. When encompassed within a legal, moral or ethical system, it could be taken as a social contract. As a contract it requires to be between two parties; the grant-giver and a recipient. In fact, our entire conception of rights has meaning only when applied to the social interaction between humans.  All rights are about the behaviour of humans.

I take a right to be an entitlement. It is a possession of status within some specified human society which gives its owner a privilege to act or not act in some specific manner, and/or a claim on other entities within the relevant society to act or not act in some specified manner

The granting of a right is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient for a right to exist. It must be granted by a party such that

  • ownership of the right is vested in the receiver, and
  • exercise of the right by the recipient is guaranteed by the grant-giver

Rights can not – and do not – exist except when vested by a competent grant-giver in a qualified recipient. The grant-giver must have the power to grant. The competence of the grant-giver is fundamentally necessary (but also not sufficient) to the creation of a “right”. An individual can grant a right to another individual only if it is within his power to do so. A grant which is outside the competence of the grant-giver to give creates no right for the receiver.

It is also a necessary condition – though not sufficient – for the recipient to be qualified to possess and exercise the granted right. No rights can exist if the grant-giver does not have the wherewithal to vest ownership of those “rights” in the recipient.  Nor can they exist if the recipient is not capable of exercising such vested rights or if such exercise is not ensured. Declaration of so-called animal rights does not create any animal recipient qualified to possess or exercise that right. Such declarations do not vest privileges or claims in any animal and are actually about human behaviour.

Anybody can declare a right but for any grant to be meaningful, the granting party must be able to guarantee and ensure the exercise of that right by the right-holder. A right which cannot be exercised is vitiated and empty. It fails, in fact, to be a right, whether of claim or of privilege. The grant of such empty rights then becomes merely a statement of wishes. A party which can only grant empty rights, where the exercise of such “rights” is not guaranteed, is a party not sufficiently competent to grant rights.

Human rights are neither universal nor absolute. They are not written into the laws of the universe. They are an expression of desires and wishes and hopes about standards of human behaviour. In reality there are no human, or even divine, agencies which have a competence sufficient to grant so-called human rights. They are declared – always – by bodies or entities which lack the full competence first, to vest ownership of the rights in the recipients and second, to guarantee and ensure their exercise.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UN DHR) is just that – a declaration.  What it describes are not rights. The UN can neither guarantee nor ensure the ownership or the exercise of those  declared rights or of the implied duties. Neither can the governments of the UN’s member countries guarantee the exercise of the rights declared. Without the ability to guarantee the exercise, the rights declared are not, in fact, rights at all but are merely pious hopes.

UN Declaration Human Rights

The UN Declaration of hopes and wishes is only as good as it is allowed to be, by the assumptions it starts with. The assumptions are not sound. It is a declaration of desirable standards of human behaviour. Unfortunately it ignores the basic requirements for any rights to exist. It does not specify the parties involved. It ignores the competence required of the party granting the rights and ignores the qualifications of the receiver of the rights. The fundamental claim in the UN DHR that “all humans”, independent of their behaviour, should possess these “rights” is untenable. How? Who is competent to grant such ownership? To whom? And who guarantees the exercise of these “rights”.

Whatever the UN Declaration of Human Rights may be, it is not about rights at all.




3 Responses to “Declaring a “human right” does not make it one (part 1)”

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