Explain the Significance of Human Rights?

Significance of Human Rights

The study of rights has traditionally linked it to the concept of individual liberty. When it is said that someone has rights, it implies that she has a certain zone of liberty and privacy that no one has the authority to transgress or snatch away. At the societal level, this naturally gets modified into the concept of civil liberties. This implies that the state comes under scrutiny and is under observation as to whether it is providing rights to its citizens and, moreover, not violating their rights. Of course, one member of the society could infringe on the right of another, but then it is a matter of general law.

Thus, social scientists have looked at human rights in terms of their being guaranteed, and their possible violation by the state. Human rights are not merely matters ethics.

They primarily involve the obligation of the state. Human rights endow individuals with’a legitimate claim against the state to enjoy an existential status with proper dignity. The primary thrust of human rights on the empowerment of society, particularly the most vulnerable groups in society, to lay legitimate claims, to the institution of the state for a life with dignity and, freedom and resources. Human rights’ are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

It may be seem that development is concerned with the standard of living and quality of life, while human rights are derived from notions of civil liberties and individual freedom. Development can be defined as expansion of people’s capabilities and opportunities, and an increase in their freedom of choice to the lives they lead. Similarly human rights are also not merely limited to civil liberties, economics rights and right to development can be brought under this.

The role of the state goes beyond a protective one to a promotional one. Once it is realized that freedom does not simply mean freedom from something but it also means opportunities. This is fruitful way to look at the concept of development in terms of opportunities, functioning and capabilities. Freedom is not just freedom from something; it can also mean freedom to do something or freedom to have access to something, This something in our case is basic human, needs.

Now long with oppression, deprivation has also been made a part of the concept of human rights. The role of the state has expanded from a mere protective one to a promotional one. This is especially true in the case of economic rights., Here deprivation can be used in two senses  first, some individuals may be deprived of something, may lack something all throughout; secondly, individuals may have had these things but have had these snatched away, taken away through exploitation or aggression. In this latter sense, deprivation becomes a part of oppression.

In the first sense of deprivation that we have used, in which individuals have never had the things or items germane to our discussion, where there has been a constant lack, there can be reasons other than oppression for this deprivation. The people may simply be very poor, for instance.

If the full potential of a person is not allowed to blossom, if the person fails to realize her latent capabilities, it is deprivation in the sense of not being allowed entitlements or optimal human potential. With regard to oppression, the idea of human rights seeks to determine minimum levels or thresholds, so that if people, are pushed below these levels, we can say that oppression and hence human rights violation has taken place.

Thresholds can be determined by invoking the three principles of security, identity is protected; and participation. Security means personal security, an  access to a secure livelihood, and a claim to privacy identity implies one’s cultural and social identity is protected and participation involves being allowed to participate in the economic and political life of ones community, society or state.

The approach based on rights goes farther than the basic needs approach in the sense that it injects an element of accountability to the whole process. The government is held to be responsible for providing and promoting the rights of people to these basic needs as well as ensuring that these rights are . not infringed upon. In the subsequent sections, we spell what all this implies and entails.

Like other human rights, economic rights are expressions of human dignity, which are common to all of humanity, Since we should look at all aspects of rights in totality, the approach to economic rights should be no different from that to other rights. As mentioned above, we should not equate economic rights simply with the basic needs approach, which is a mere statement of policy, and involves some welfare measures by the state.

Focusing on economic rights involves going beyond some entrenched ideas of development, since that term, if interpreted in a particular way, can lead thousands of people to a sorry plight, through disenfranchisement, dislocation and deprivation. The development process has in some cases led to over consumption of exhaustible resources, devastation of nature, and dislocation of marginal people. It has led to disparity in the standards of living of the countries of the North and those of the South, and within countries, especially of the South.

A basic point about economic rights needs to be always kept in mind. Normally, while talking about have tights, which are taken away, here the state, should be in the dock. But in the case of economic rights, rights are in the sense of people being allowed to realize their capabilities. The state should ensure people’s entitlement to various goods and services, which meet the basic needs. The state should provide these goods and services. Here the distinction between protective and promotional roles that we talked of earlier becomes important.

A related point is that experiences of the operation of markets in various countries has shown that there are certain groups in society which are vulnerable to ill-health, disease and general poverty and deprivation as the economy functions. In this regard, the state undertakes a certain set of actions that are described under the rubric of social security.

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