Human Rights

Variation in Human Rights Norms

Human rights are basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. They should protect all individuals, at all times, in all places. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN in 1948. It is now evident that 'violations' of human rights have occured in a range of locations and at a variety of scales. Globalisation has impacted human rights, as has development.

  • Human Rights Norms: human rights norms are the foundation of human rights. There are 30 statements in the UDHR which are accepted as human rights norms. Human rights are protected by law and through the signing of international treaties or conventions, e.g. the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Intervention: Humanitarian intervention (intervention by state or group of states in foreign terriroty) may be used to end human rights violations. The UN Security Council is the only body that can legally authorise use of force. There are costs and benefits to such intervention, e.g. political stability or leading to further injustices. UN involvement can take many forms, e.g. peacekeeping and the coordination of organisations active in an area. Other forms of intervention include economic sanctions and prosecutions of individuals responsible for human rights violations.
  • Geopolitics: geopolitics refers to global political power and international relations. Political power is often closely related to economic power. The USA remains the only superpower. The IMF states that there are powerful ACs, increasingly influential EDCs and peripheral LIDCs. Organisations such as the UN exert geopolitical influence. MNCs have power and influence over the countries in which they invest. 
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Spatial Patterns and Human Rights

Article 3 of the  UDHR states that everyone has a right to 'life, liberty and security'. Forced labour, maternal mortality rates and capital punishment show significant unevenness in their distribution.

  • Forced Labour - categories include children forced to work, men unable to leave work becuse of debts and females exploited. Globally there are 21 million victims; no region is unaffected. Southeast Asia has the highest level at 11.7 million (2012). Economic factors affecting rates include poverty, migration and low wages. Political factors of influence include conflict, corruption and prejudice. Social factors of influence include gender inequality, sexual exploitation and bonded labour. Environmental factors of influence include escaping climate-related disasters and hazardous working conditions.
  • Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) - globally, in 2013, 289,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these deaths occured in developing countries, e.g. Chad. MMR is affected by access to treatments, poor quality medical care, lack of availability of information and education, poverty and cultural barriers. Most of these deathsare preventable and a matter of human rights protected by, for example, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
  • Capital Punishment - according to Amnesty International, in 2014 there were at least 607 executions globally and 2470 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries. Factors affecting capital punishment include: differences in types of crime for which it is imposed, an increase in the number of countries in which it is being abolished, reinstatement in some countries, changes in number of pardons.
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Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is the unequal treatment of individuals based on their gender. Measurements show that it mainly affects women, but increasingly, men and boys are included in programmes to tackle gender inequality. The Global Gender Gap Index devised by the World Economic Forum can be used to compare different countries. Several challenges show the complexity and contested nature of the issue: these include forced marriages, human trafficking, access to education and violence against women. Factors which affect the variation in the patterns of gender equality include:

  • Economic participation and opportunity - labour force participation. Work equality for similar work. Estimated earned income. Legislators, senior officials and managers. Professional and technical workers.
  • Educational attainment - literacy rate. Enrolement in primary education. Enrolement in secondary education. Enrolement in tertiary education.
  • Health and survival - sex ratio at birth (female//male). Health life expectancy.
  • Political Empowerment - women in parliament. Women in ministerial positions. Years with a female head of state (llast 50).

Girls suffer disadvantages in education in poorer countries, especially in rural areas- prohibitive costs, negative classroom environments, lack of role models, child marriage, insufficient government investment, inadequate legislation.

Health rights for women are violated when they are denied access to health services- enforced marriage, harmful traditional practices, forced abortion, lack of empowerment, sexual violence.

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Strategies and Global Governance

  • Strategies for global governance of human rights include: laws and regulations (treaties and conventions are established by organisations such as UN, EU and NATO). The role of humanitarian peacekeeping operations. Humanitarian intervention and relief assistance. Attempts to change and modernise norms. The influence of MNCs in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The work of NGOs and private organisations.
  • Violations of human rights leading is caused by several factors or contributing elements, e.g. denial of basic human needs of food, housing and work, discrimination, oppressive governments, genocide and torture, mortality, damage to infrastructure, impact on food and water supplies, displacement of people, exploitation of women and 'ethnic cleansing'. Geopolitical intervention can include, for example, sanctions and military intervention.
  • Intervention involves flows of people and money to affected areas, e.g. personnel needed in peacekeeping missions. Money is needed to fund operations and this is supplied by member state contributions, the USA is the greatest contributor. An example is the stabilising mission in Haiti which has more than 4500 personnel and over $500 million has been donated by 51 countries.
  • The UNHRC employs individuals and working groups to promote ideas and values. NGOs, such as Amnesty International, publish information to increase awareness of human rights abuses.
  • Technology via social media helps with the flow of ideas. Remote sensing and satellite imagery are used for surveillance and observation in dangerous areas.
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Global Governance at Different Scales

Institutions include the UN at a supranational scale, ASEAN at a regional scale and national governments and NGOs working at a local scale.

  • UN: an intergovernmental organisation with 193 member states working under the UN Charter. Human rights are at the centre of the Charter. The Office of High Commisioner for Human Rights has the lead responsibility within the organisation. Council and treaty bodies work with the legal backing of the International Bill of Rights. The Security Council deals with serious violations of human rights in conflict areas.
  • NGOs: many NGOs are involved in the protection of human rights. They often work at the local scale to monitor situations and provide education and training programmes to support people.
  • Treaties, Laws and Norms: a treaty is a written international agreement between two or more states of organisations. By signing or ratifying a treaty it becomes bound by international law. International law defines the responsibilities of states. Treaties and laws are defined from norms- long-established practices in many countries set out in the UN Charter, they are refined by treaties.

Human rights are an essential part of achieving development. These strong links are shown in the UN's Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Consequences of Global Governance

HRs can be regulated through global governance, states can report HR violations commited within their countries to an external body such as the UN. This has consequences for civilians and places in both the short and longer term, which can be both positive or negative.

Examples include:

  • Military Protection - provision of shelter, medicines, food and water (short-term positive).
  • Infrastructure Redevelopment - democratic elections, support in education and training; improved future food security (long-term positive).
  • Population Displacement - civilian casualties, destruction of property and infrastructure (short-term negative).
  • Aid Dependency - prolonged military and political conflict; significant impacts on population structure; long lasting negative place perception (long-term negative).
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