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Human Rights, Emerging Needs and New Commitments
Reference Dialogue: Human rights, emerging needs and new commitments

Experts from all over the world took part in the re-reading of the 1948 Declaration that was presented in this dialogue and will then start its course through the different international summits for discussion and exposure to amendments by politicians and the civil society in general until its approval by the UN.

The public presentation of the Constitution of Emerging Human Rights, an updating of the universal declaration of 1948 aimed at tackling the new problems of the 21st century and the setting up of an International Constitution of Human Rights that will support academic institutions and NGOs around the world were the first tangible fruits of this dialogue at the Barcelona 2004 Forum.

The document, one of whose central themes is the right to a basic universal income, will now be open to the amendments of the civil society until its discussion in the World Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005. From then it will start its course through the different international summits until it is finally approved by the UN, as explained by Joan Saura, President of the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia and director of this dialogue, during the closing session. The four days of sessions brought together over a hundred speakers and a thousand people attending including representatives from NGOs, lawyers and experts from all over the world.

The 50 articles that comprise the Constitution do not in any way intend to replace the previous declaration, but make possible “a re-reading according to the values of the new century and the abuses of neoliberal globalisation”, thanks “to the demands of emerging social movements that will also demand its fulfilment”, according to Sonia Picado, President of the InterAmerican Institute for Human Rights. “Human Rights must be the ethics of globalisation”, she stated.

The UNESCO Chair of the Autonomous University of Mexico, Gloria Ramírez, was charged with announcing the creation of the International Constitution of Human Rights. This is a multi-disciplinary network to create a synergy between academic institutions and NGOs around the world that work in defence of human rights in a “theoretical-practical binomial”, that will use new technologies and Internet to coordinate, collect complaints and act faster and more precisely.

In his closing speech, the Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, summarised one of the main conclusions of the Dialogue by claiming a reform from the UN in order to establish obligatory jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal and the International Court of Justice that effectively ensures compliance of treaties on human rights over and above the sovereignty of the states, a legal recourse in which genocides and dictators are usually protected in order to remain unharmed.

The dialogue also served as a framework for the European Congress of the Basic Income Network, one of the fundamental points of the new emerging rights, in terms of which its Vice-President, Guy Standing, announced the setting up of the World Network for Basic Income: “If the 20th century was the century for conquering social rights, we could say that the 21st century will be the century for economic rights”, he stated. According to this British economist, every study performed indicates that “all states can guarantee their citizens who need it a basic income according to the country’s standard of living”. Saying that “this would provoke indolence is an insult to humanity” he added. “On the contrary, it would allow individuals to develop all their true abilities and would promote consumption”. A daily basic income would give “real meaning to the word freedom by giving negotiating power to the weakest” he affirmed.

In short, the conclusions of the Dialogue can be summed up in two points: aspiring to a “global democracy” backed up by a supranational obligatory international jurisdiction that is remunerative as well as reparatory for victims, even in post-war conflict cases, and a “right to development” set up on the responsibility of the international community as a whole. For this, we must “settle the principle of subsidiarity in order to create a new international economic order against the obvious failure of neo-liberal theories”, concluded Victoria Abellán, Director of the Public International Rights Department at the University of Barcelona and a member of the committee drawing up the Constitution.

The right to development implies the right for peoples to claim the elimination of hunger and poverty by an international legal organism that, as intended with the International Criminal Court (ICC), ensures that the agents involved, governments and multinationals, work together to achieve this objective. It is the “the right to have a future”, that would start, for example, with the cancelling of external debt, according to this expert.

According to UN figures calculated during the dialogue, over 840 million people, most of them in Africa and Asia, still live under the direct threat of hunger, and this number increases every year by 5 million. Thus, the Millennium Objectives set up four years ago appear to be more and more fanciful, including those that aimed to solve this problem by 2015.

The fact that the dialogue coincided with the holding of the World Summit for Action Against Hunger in New York, attended by the presidents of Spain, France, Chile and Brazil, meant that a large number of speakers focused on this and reminded us that according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the levels of official aid for development have been reduced dramatically since 11 September, partly due to what is known as aid fatigue but also, as has happened mainly with the USA, rich countries have diverted their attention and resources to the fight against terrorism.

There was a consensus of opinion amongst the speakers in this regard, when indicating that the best way to combat terrorism is to find its causes and that “aid for development is the best way to avoid the proliferation of tomorrow’s terrorists”.

Three eminent representatives of Human Rights, Esteban Beltrán, Director of Amnesty International in Spain, Sylvia Steiner, a judge at the International Criminal Court, and Jean-Luc Blondel, Adviser to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, alerted us to the “loss of moral course” of states, which, due to their obsession with security, are cutting back more and more on rights, faced with which they appealed to civil society to be “vigilant” with their governments.

In the opening session, the representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Gita Welch, regretted that “for almost a third of humanity, human rights are still a vague promise, a dream”, however, like most speakers, she recognised that the 1948 Declaration was universal, more than anything “due to the systematic violation of it”, and at least it had served to make “people aware of its violation and the abuses committed”. And the work of the members of civil society and NGOs has made great progress in this area thanks to their denouncing activities in order to move public opinion, she concluded.

It was Juan Manuel Bandrés, Honorary President of the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia who, after the reading during the closing session of the letter of support sent by the President of Brazil, Lula Da Silva, The Right to Utopia, best summed up the spirit of the dialogue: critical and realistic but with a hint of hope, by stating this, “the right to demand a better world” as “the main enemy is scepticism, distrust, resignation or indifference”. With specific actions like the Constitution of Emerging Human Rights we are trying to mark the horizons, the aims to be achieved by the civil society” with the conviction that if globalisation is the internationalisation of commerce and terrorism, human rights can also be internationalised, along with democracy, development and social justice.

For his part, the sociologist and urban planner, Jordi Borja, vindicated as another of the essential points presented in the Constitution the need to recognise all residents of the same city or region as citizens with full rights, regardless of whether they are nationals of this country or immigrants without papers. “We have to go from citizenship by nationality to citizenship by residence, in order to avoid second class citizens. We must all have the same rights, with or without papers”, he affirmed. For this expert, cities should sign a transnational “social pact” to be set up in a “strategic alliance” that will cushion the impact of neo-liberal globalisation and avoid the social urban apartheid with cities that struggle to exist between the slums in the suburbs and the exclusive neighbourhoods of the richest.

Amongst other things, the Constitution of Emerging Human Rights looks at training, a dignified death, illegality faced with injustice, the integration of women’s rights “transversally”, freedom of movement between countries, a “true” religious freedom or not having a religion and universal rights such as the environment, the defence of one’s own language and claims from indigenous peoples.

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