Why are political rights codified as genuine human rights? Political rights are validated as human rights because they can be judicially enforced. For instance, the right to vote and the right to engage in political activity, such as the right to run for office. The idea of political rights as human rights is from the example to arbitrary development of liberty, freedom of expression, equality before the law, the prohibition of cruel treatment of punishment, the right to privacy – is an idea that has been superseded by developments in theory, law, and practice. Political rights set the foundation of government first, before enforcing any other laws. On the other hand, human rights help reduce the abuses committed by authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Human rights help relieve non-combatants in conflicts in many parts of the world. To further explain, this paper will discuss why economic rights are not seen as human rights and why they are.
Aryeh Neier explains that human rights set limits on state power, which relates to the question of why economic rights are not valid as human rights. Human rights should be inclusive towards broader social justice issues rather than focusing on the main human rights issues. Each human right is important in itself and should be looked at as a different issue. For example, it is not possible to transform a human rights organization into a social justice one. Human rights provide limits on the use of power because resisting social justice movements often abuse human rights due to the power they hold. Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s methodology consists of documenting thoroughly and with great care abuses of human rights by governments and those exercising the power of governments.
Another reason is that economic and social rights have standards that all societies have to eventually meet over time, this issue includes food, health care, education, cultural resources, etc. However, a right such as education can be expensive, and states need time to “progressively realize” access, because the state will promise to fulfill the rights if there are available resources and capacities. Additionally, some states do not carry the money or the capacity to maintain economic and social rights. And this issue is also why some states keep social and economic rights as aspirations, and not immediate enforceable rights because they are not the state priority. Puta-Chekwe and Flood state that Western states viewed economic and social rights with suspicion because many of these rights required an element of wealth distribution. For instance, a state cannot have its citizens complaining about one’s right to cultural resources not being fulfilled, if the state does not even have enough resources. Thus, states need to first establish a government foundation to institute stability and structure. On the other hand, Margot Salomon disagreed, writing that the struggle for social justice and human rights are the same since they both seek to redistribute power.
Social justice is about the distribution of wealth, resources and power. Puta-Chekwe and Flood explain that the marginalization of economic and social rights has marginalized the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. Therefore, economic rights should be seen as human rights because they are considered a core human right. The Indian and South African courts recognize that you cannot have one without the other, because the right to life is meaningless, unless there is access to food, clean water, shelter, etc.
It is true that social and economic rights seem less justiciable when compared to civil and political rights. In order to protect the “right to life,” this idea requires taking all those into account. For example, elections can sometimes be more expensive and less effective than education for the good of society. If the money were spent more on the public education system and less on elections, this idea would benefit the public good. However, since the notion of “progressive realization,” the state will say social and economic rights are expensive and can be done over time when states gain more resources. The risk to this is that the states will repeat this notion until the right is eventually suspended and forgotten. To stop this from happening, the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has clarified that states must never cite “progressive realization” to justify inaction.
In sum, the division between “civil and political” and “economic, social, and cultural” rights are challenging and not always well understood by everybody. Economic and social rights should be enforced by the state once they have sufficient resources to fulfill those rights. Because without a government enforcing political rights first, this idea would cause instability within the state, since some states do not have the money or the capacity to meet these rights. But will economic and social rights ever be validated as human rights? I agree with the statement that the right to life is meaningless without the minimum survival needs. The pursuit of happiness includes access to adequate food, clean water, health care, and at least primary education. All human rights should be seen as basic rights because they are interrelated and interdependent, recognizing one will make it easier to recognize others.
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