Friday, December 8, 2017

69th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Unifying Human and Environmental Rights

By David Gallup
Why should we think beyond our humanness to a worldly, earth perspective? Does the earth have a right to exist independently from humans? Do animals, plants and even inanimate objects have rights? How should humans interact with the earth and ecosystem, not as “owners” of the earth, but as caretakers of the planet?

As we celebrate the 69th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2017, let us take a moment to appreciate the bounty that the earth provides for humanity. It is a time to reflect, not only upon human rights, but also upon the rights of the earth itself. It is time to reflect upon how our human rights are dependent upon environmental rights. And it is time to reflect upon humanity’s duty to protect the earth.

Global warming, ozone depletion, rising sea levels, soil erosion, habitat destruction, species extinction, drug, pesticide, plastic and petroleum toxins in groundwater, pollutants in the air, landfills and oceans, deforestation, etc. These human created problems impact all life on the planet and pose a threat to all beings’ existence. We must consider how our human actions are violating that most fundamental right – the right to exist.  Although the focus of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) pertains specifically to human rights, several Articles in the Declaration can be construed to provide a basic legal framework for considering environmental rights and duties as part of our human rights and duties.

The Human Focus of the UDHR

In 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed, humans were not fully aware of how our use of the earth and its resources could negatively impact the world. The link between human rights and environmental rights was not yet established. The UDHR focuses specifically on human rights, and only indirectly on environmental rights, for several reasons:

  1. The UDHR was created immediately after World War II when the rights of millions of people were violently, and for many lethally, violated. The UDHR was a reaction to the war, to develop laws of peace as an adjunct to the laws of war, with the expectation that once human rights are fully respected, humans would be less inclined to behave aggressively toward one another.
  2. The framers of the UDHR wanted to focus on human interactions – how we treat each other – in order to build a peaceful world.
  3. The conceptualization of other third or fourth generation rights (such as environmental rights) had not yet come into mainstream thought. The earth had for so long been looked upon as human property to exploit solely for human advancement.
  4. The scientific studies that reveal how treatment of the environment can impact our ability to claim and exercise our rights had not yet been conducted.
Even though the framers of the UDHR do not directly mention environmental rights, these rights can be deduced from Declaration.

The UDHR and Environmental Rights

We can extrapolate rights related to the earth from five articles of the UDHR: Articles 3, 25, 28, 29 and 30.

Article 3 of the UDHR affirms the rights to live, to freedom and to security: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” We now know that if the earth dies, we humans die with it. To affirm our life, liberty and security, we have the duty to act towards nature sustainably and indigenously.

Article 25(1) of the UDHR affirms the rights to health and to fulfill basic needs: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” To advance the standard of living for humanity, we must respect the web of life that supports our health and well-being.  To have abundant food and to fulfill our basic needs, we must nourish the land and maintain clean air and water. While considering standards of living, we must also be mindful of how the priority of continuous economic growth, and its concomitant resource usage, negatively impacts the environment. The earth is facing greater and greater strain from human activities that exacerbate natural phenomenon such as hurricanes, wildfires, and seismic activity.  When we are not mindful and respectful of nature’s infrastructure, nature will wreak havoc on our human infrastructure.

Article 28 of the UDHR affirms the goal of living in a world of order rather than entropy: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” What does a social and international order look like, that allows us to fully realize our rights? That order will come from a holistic world system that equally values both human and environmental rights. That order will come from advocating for the earth. We humans must speak up for the earth, using our “reason and conscience” (as Article 1 states) to voice and implement what the earth needs in order to heal and flourish. That order will come from the awareness of both our rights and duties as world citizens to each other and to the earth.

Article 29 of the UDHR affirms that we humans have duties to each other and the world around us:  “(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.” We must expand the notion of duty to the community to mean duty to the earth as a whole, rather than only to the human community. We must secure the recognition of rights of others with the consideration that “others” includes the environment. We must exercise our rights only to the extent that this exercise does not damage the earth.

Article 30 of the UDHR affirms that humans cannot engage in any activity or perform any act that destroys our rights: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” In this final Article of the Declaration, we find our ultimate human duty to the planet. Destruction of the environment eventually destroys our rights.  More than any other human activity, war violates human rights and despoils the environment. Our human rights, and ultimately world peace, are dependent upon healthy, sustainable natural and human environments.

Moving Beyond the UDHR

As our understanding of humanity’s link to the earth has evolved, activists and lawmakers have established environmental laws in an attempt to regulate human interaction with the environment. More than 80 declarations, treaties and multilateral conventions have been ratified over the past 75 years in an effort to protect various aspects of the environment. Several of the most well-known, though not yet well-implemented, include the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the right to a healthy environment, the 1992 Rio Declaration on the protection of the integrity of the earth’s ecosystem, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gases, the subsequent 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. In 2015, 193 countries adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, of which 8 directly pertain to the environment. National governments have given themselves until 2030 to try to achieve these goals.

As environmental activists have seen nation-state treaties come and go with big fanfare but little positive change, other attempts to declare the rights of the environment have come to the fore. In 2010, at the “World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth,” a Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth proclaimed the rights of the earth and all beings and the duties of humans to the earth. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have signed a petition in support of this rights of nature declaration. Activists plan to present more than a million signatures of support to the United Nations on the 70th anniversary of the UDHR next year with the expectation that the UN will adopt the Declaration. As with many declarations and treaties, relying upon the UN or individual nations to enforce their provisions has had limited success.

Despite the plethora of laws and scientific guidelines for humans to follow to be good stewards of the earth, national governments and corporations have blocked progress toward an ecologically sustainable world. It is not necessarily a question of making new laws, which national and corporate leaders will likely ignore; rather, it is a question of enforcing the laws already on the books, engaging the public in protecting the environment, and summoning a united political will. We need to work with one human voice to govern how we treat the earth and all its inhabitants.

Universal Human Rights Require Universal Environmental Rights

Human rights, peace, and environmental activists must work together to achieve universal awareness and respect for all rights. In the future, we may adopt a Universal Declaration of Universal Rights and Duties, a compendium encompassing all human, environmental and other rights and responsibilities. For now, though, uniting as world citizens to implement universal human rights side by side with universal environmental rights is the key to survival of humanity and the earth.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Why Do We Call Ourselves World Citizens?


“I speak an open and disinterested language, dictated by no passion but that of humanity… Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world...” 
--Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Why Do We Call Ourselves World Citizens?
 (also available at www.worldservice.org/update.html)
By David Gallup
157 years after Thomas Paine wrote The Rights of Man, and after dropping bombs on cities as an air force pilot in WWII, Garry Davis voluntarily gave up his national citizenship and claimed world citizenship. In his autobiography, My Country is the World, he wrote, “Man’s deadliest, self-imposed, restrictive device is nationalism. You and I may be fellow humans, but we are not fellow nationalists. I am a fellow who willfully withdrew from the co-partnership of citizen and national state and declared himself a world citizen.”
Why did Garry Davis call himself a “world citizen”?
Garry Davis, like Thomas Paine, called himself a “citizen of the world” or “world citizen” because he saw the earth and humanity linked together as one unit, not just as a biosphere or ecosystem in which we are passive onlookers. He saw a human and political governing system sustainably integrated into the environment.  He saw the possibility of humans working together to achieve a greater goal, to be more than the sum of individual parts.
He realized that if we humans were to move beyond aggression and war, then we would need to recognize that we are already one human family. We would need to claim a higher citizenship, a higher allegiance to each other and to the earth.
Citizenship is the expression of our rights and duties within a particular communal framework. World citizenship is the recognition that our communal framework is the world as a whole, that we carry our rights and duties with us wherever we are and that the world we share already unites us.
Why should we call ourselves “world citizens” rather than “global citizens”?
 The term “global citizen” is a misnomer. The word “global” derives from “globe,” meaning ball or sphere. “Global” is an adjective describing a location or place. A global citizen is an individual who happens to live on the earth.
“World citizen,” two nouns together, describes an action. A “world citizen” is who you are, what you do, and to what you pledge your allegiance.  The word “world” derives from Old English and Dutch, meaning the “age of man.”  “World” pertains to the life of humans, human existence, humanity, society, civilization, human institutions and the web of interactions among humans and with the environment.
As both a noun and an adjective, “world” is a system. The word “world” describes both the place where humans are and what, together, humans have done with and can make from our surroundings. The “world” is an interconnected system of our actions, reactions, and abilities to transform our relationships with one another and the earth. The word “world” focuses on the human aspect – the structures and institutions – of our existence.
You wouldn’t say “citizen of the globe.” That is not a system. That is a description of where someone finds themselves on a spherical shape or geographic mapping. “Citizen of the world,” however, does engage the idea of people working together for a common goal. So, to be a world citizen means that you consider rights and duties of everyone individually and of all of us together towards each other and the planet. It’s not just a location. It’s not just a description. It is a political statement.
World citizenship is an idea put into action; it is ideals made real. World citizenship embraces action to develop an ethical framework for fulfilling our rights and duties. We have to conceive of the world framework that we want.
This conception of a functional world system requires principle, ideology, strategy and tactics of world citizenship. For a world citizen, the principle is one human family; the ideology is universal rights and duties; the strategy is education of universal principles, rights and duties; and the tactics are the symbols and tools that we engage to promote comprehension of our need to be committed to our planetary and human status, to the rights and duties that we have in the world that we create for each other.
Why is this distinction between “global” and “world” important?
Unlike the term “global,” the term “world” constitutes the ethics, structures and institutions of the humenvironmental system that we can choose to create and develop sustainably.  
We must claim world citizenship status. National governments cannot prevent us from doing so. They can only restrict horizontal citizenship – from one nationality to another. They cannot restrict vertical citizenship that transcends the nation.
If you have a “right to a nationality,” you also have a right NOT to have a nationality. You have a right to claim a higher allegiance to humanity and the earth. Or you can consider the idea of “nationality” to take a broader perspective of identity, meaning world citizenship status – meaning the world is our country.
We are citizens of everywhere and everywhen – wherever and whenever you find yourself in all times and situations. We are each a citizen of everywhere (the whole world). And we are each a citizen everywhere. In other words, wherever you are, wherever you find yourself, you are already a citizen – with rights and duties, no matter whether you were born in that specific place or not. Having a “state” identity is irrelevant to our innate and unalienable rights that we carry with us wherever we go. The problem with the nation-state, as a challenge to a functioning world system, is that it attempts to exclude; it places “others” outside of its own framework of local law.
As world citizens, we rely on world law, such as Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” We have rights and duties inherent to being a world citizen, which must be respected everywhere and for everyone.
We use “world citizen” and not “global citizen” because we need world law – law for a world system to help us govern ourselves peacefully and sustainably. Global law only pertains to the environment, an ecological framework. World law relates to humans, to our human world, to the myriad of interactions that we have with each other as well as with the planet.
Once the framework of world citizenship is secure, we can unite at an even higher level. With a sustainable system in place in this world, we can then become citizens of the universe.
Why do we claim and must we claim world citizenship?
In a future blog, I will discuss the idea of world citizenship as an organizing principle for a successful, sustainable humanity – why we do claim and must claim world citizenship.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Nation-State Hypocrisy and the Nuclear Threat


By David Gallup

How can nuclear weapons states, like the United States of America, legitimately demand that other states, like North Korea, cease their research and production of nuclear weapons, when they themselves continue to maintain and upgrade their own arsenals?

Developing, producing and maintaining nuclear weapons are war crimes and crimes against the peace that could lead to the ultimate crime against humanity, omnicide -- the elimination of humanity and the extinction of most life on the planet.

Nuclear weapons development, production and maintenance violate both humanitarian law and human rights law. See the appendix below regarding how nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and the laws of peace.

Despite the international law against nuclear weapons and war, nation-states with nuclear weapons do not want to divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals. The nation-states’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, ruled in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal, with the exception of use for self-defense – a loophole that allows governments to maintain the nuclear option. North Korea could claim that its nuclear testing and arms development is for its own protection. What country doesn’t invoke self-defense, national security, or national sovereignty as a basis for its aggression?

Humanity finds itself in this quandary because of the nation-state principle of national sovereignty.

We must now turn to a new principle of sovereignty, if we are to transcend the control of nuclear weapons countries who make the false case that their best interests are aligned with the best interests of humanity and the earth.

The Supreme Leader of North Korea thinks he can win a nuclear war. So does the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. These national “leaders” are not rational actors. But neither are the other nuclear weapons heads of state.

These heads of state have no legitimate intention to dismantle all nuclear weaponry, nor to stop aggression generally. National governments want these tools of destruction at their disposal, even arguing that their existence prevents their use. What sane leader would start a nuclear war knowing that global annihilation could occur? Mutually assured destruction does not prevent national leaders from acting irrationally.

Nuclear weapons and nuclear war are not the only nuclear concern. Continued use of nuclear energy is poisoning the planet. The uranium and plutonium used by nuclear power plants has already led to environmental degradation in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Enriched plutonium from power plants continues to be made into nuclear weapons. Whether this material is in the hands of national governments, insurgents, or terrorists, its existence threatens our survival.

Outlawing nuclear war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power will begin to remove the threat. To solidify humanity’s future, we need to create global institutions of law and engender a global pride in being citizens of the world. We need to establish a consciousness of humanity and the earth as precious, to be protected.

Before the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, under the “old world order” rulers or governments had no compunction about waging war for unabashed self-interest. They considered it an acceptable tool of state-craft. After World War I, the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact attempted to make war illegal. In particular after World War II, under the “new world order,” governments became reluctant to wage wars of conquest, couching most wars as defensive protection rather than for offensive gain. (See The Internationalists by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro.)

The UN Charter attempted to establish the conditions in which member-states may use armed force, in particular for self-defense and common defense. Article 2(4) of the Charter states, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Because the Charter maintains national sovereignty as sacrosanct, however, warfare within a state (non-international) remains unchecked.

Both the old world order and the new world order are disorder. Continued lack of unity of the human race under one citizenship perpetuates chaos and is the breeding ground of war. A legitimate world order will arise with a global rule of law that world citizens create through democratic, non-hierarchical and participatory world institutions of law.

Sanity in governance requires higher level sovereignty with human and whole earth thinking. Sanity requires human government -- world citizens’ government. A future for humanity requires sanity, sincerity, and human-level sovereignty.

As sane and rational actors, we need to engage our idealism to deal with the realistic threat of nuclear weapons. We need realism to be tempered by idealism. We need to become real-dealists. Only if we implement our idealistic goals of a governed, and nuclear-free, world, will we be able to realistically survive as a species. It’s in our best interest to move beyond our self-interest. We must transcend the paradigm of nationalism to create a world that works for everyone. World citizenship can lead us to achieve an honest, holistic, and worldly consciousness.

One immediate step that each of us as world citizens can take is to sign the petition supporting the ratification of the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” To sign the petition online, click here https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/support-the-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty?source=direct_link and to sign a handwritten petition, click here http://prop1.org/wilpf/2017/Petition.ban.treaty.pdf.

I have already signed the petition. Will you?

Appendix:

The threat or use of nuclear weapons violates the principles of international humanitarian law.

War crime:

The Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court maintain the premise that war is supposed to be limited, affect civilians minimally, and be winnable in a short time frame. Fallout from a nuclear war cannot be limited. Many people, not just military combatants, will die. No one can win a nuclear war.

Crime against the peace:

The threat of using nuclear weapons not only destabilizes the regions where the threat is focused, but also the progression of humanity towards the global rule of law and the consequent peaceful world. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) confirms that any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law; yet heads of state dangle the nuclear option like a plaything.

Crime against humanity:

Even a limited nuclear incident could cause immediate, dramatic devastation and long-term habitability concerns for the entire earth. Nuclear war would be genocide of humanity.

According to customary international law and international treaty law, national governments must not commit acts that violate human rights.

Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Article 5 (1) of the ICCPR states, “Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.”

Continued development of nuclear weapons violates our human rights, in particular our right to live and our right to a world order that allows for the full and free exercise of all our innate and unalienable rights.

Right to live:

Article 3 of the UDHR states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Article 6 of the ICCPR states, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

World order:

Article 28 of the UDHR states, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”


The preamble of the ICCPR states, “The States Parties to the present Covenant, Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person; Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights; Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms” agree to uphold human rights.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Should Human Rights Be Decentralized?

By Noemie Broussoux-Coutard*, Guest Blogger

Activists assert the universality of human rights to demand that governments respect everyone’s rights and duties universally. Embodied by treaties, covenants and declarations, human rights enforcement appears to provide an antidote to ongoing violence and inequality in the world. Has the demand for respect of universal human rights principles led to greater respect of our rights?
In her book, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law Into Local Justice, Sally Engle Merry, Professor of Anthropology, Law and Society, analyzes the current flaws in international human rights law creation and dissemination, and attempts to respond to these flaws by proposing that international law and human rights development should return to local community engagement.  Education and promotion of human rights standards, she maintains, should be in accordance with the culture of the local area.
Merry highlights the knowledge gap between the drafters of international law and the communities who are directly impacted by these laws. Localities are often excluded from crucial conversations and preparatory work during the drafting of human rights laws, as well as from what those laws will do and how they will be implemented. Merry posits that the lack of awareness of the law-making process creates an unwillingness to abide by the laws, as well as a perpetuation of human rights violations all over the globe.
Because law drafting tends to be an elitist process, lawmakers sometimes fail to acknowledge the concepts of culture and local identity, and how those concepts relate to human rights.  Local culture, to a significant amount of communities, represents the essence of their existence. Merry states that cultural considerations in human rights often are either overlooked by international standards, or used as a shield against laws, but instead should serve as a peaceful tool to benefit all parties. She writes, “Even as anthropologists and others have repudiated the idea of culture as a consensual, interconnected system of beliefs and values, the idea has taken on a new life on the public sphere.” Merry proceeds by explaining that culture can be used as a method of educating all parties: the international actors, by teaching them the intricate diversity of each community and how it ultimately relates to human rights, and the localities, by teaching them the essentiality of having human rights laws by giving local examples of human rights violations, stemming injustice in their communities.
Merry argues that the solution lies in the “vernacularization” of human rights, by bridging the gap between participants at the international and the local levels, utilizing resources such as NGOs and other activist groups who can translate and understand both parties in this dilemma. This solution is particularly useful in implementing crucial laws that are generally misunderstood by populations with little to no access to the human rights education. This misunderstanding is due in large part to the law-makers of the privileged world who take part in what Merry calls the “transnational culture of modernity.”
This term describes the general grouping of people who, by the simple fact that they all live in modern, organized states with high regards towards individual rights and protection from the state, fail to consider the differences between their world, and communities whose cultures largely differ from these standards. The people in this transnational culture of modernity are often the very people who compose human rights codes and promote human rights on a global scale. Through the assistance of NGOs and activists to bridge the gap of understanding between global standards and local cultures, various disadvantaged communities have come to understand how their governments are mistreating and oppressing them. They have begun to claim their rights utilizing the resources that international human rights treaties provide.
To achieve greater awareness and respect for human rights everywhere, we need to deal with how globalization of human rights has excluded many underprivileged communities from participating in the development of legal standards and legal processes. We need to provide human rights education to local communities, explaining how human rights law and human rights violations directly impact those communities. We also need to educate everyone involved in drafting and implementing international human rights laws that those laws will achieve greater recognition and support when local communities have a voice in the process.
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*Noemie Broussoux-Coutard participated in the Summer 2017 Session of the World Law Internship Program in World Service Authority's Legal Department.