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A Third Generation of Solidarity Rights: Progressive Development or Obfuscation of International Human Rights Law?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2009

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In recent years there has been growing support, manifested in various international fora, for the notion that a third generation of human rights, composed of solidarity rights, is emerging. The principal assumptions behind this concept are:

(1) that the principal categories or sets of human rights presently recognized by international law (civil and political rights on one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other) can be termed respectively first and second generation rights;

(2) that these rights are not sufficiently flexible or dynamic to be able to respond adequately to present circumstances;

(3) that there is a set of more or less homogeneous demands which are distinguished primarily by the fact that solidarity is a prerequisite to their realization; and

(4) that these new demands are presently in the process of acquiring international recognition as human rights.

Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 1982

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1. See generally, Vasak, Karel, “For the Third Generation of Human Rights: The Rights of Solidarity”, Inaugural Lecture to the Tenth Study Session of the International Institute of Human Rights, Strasbourg, 2–27 07 1979Google Scholar; Final Report of Unesco Expert Meeting on Human Rights, Human Needs and the Establishment of a New International Economic Order, Paris 19–23 June 1978, Unesco doc. SS–78/CONF. 630/12; Final Report of a Colloquium on the New Human Rights, Mexico city, 12–15 August 1980, Unesco doc. SS–80/CONF. 806/4; Marks, Stephen P., “Emerging Human Rights: A New Generation for the 1980s?”, Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, 1981, pp. 435–52Google Scholar; some of the papers and discussion contained in Colloque international des droits de I'homme, Istanbul, 28–30 mars 1979 (Ankara, University of Ankara Faculty of Political Science publication 477, 1981)Google Scholar; and Holleaux, André, “Les lois de la ‘troisième génération’ des droitsde I'homme”, Revue française d'administration publique, Vol. 15, 1980, pp. 4573Google Scholar.

2. General Assembly resolution 33/73 (1978).

3. General Assembly resolutions 34/46 (1979), 35/174 (1980) and 36/133 (1981). See also the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights affirming the existence of the right to development, including resolutions 4 (XXXIII) (1977), 4 and 5 (XXXV)(1979), 6 and 7 (XXXVI)(1980) and 36 (XXXVII)(1981).

4. Adopted on 27 November 1978.

5. The text of the Charter, as adopted, is reproduced in Organization of African Unity doc. CAB/LEG/67/3/Rev. 5 (1981).

6. In addition the 8th paragraph of the Preamble to the Charter indicates that States Parties are “convinced that it is henceforth essential to pay a particular attention to the right to development…”.

7. See “Preliminary Draft of a Third International Human Rights Covenant on Solidarity Rights”, submitted to the Fourth Armand Hammer Conference on Human Rights and Peace, Aix-en-Provence, 21–23 August 1981, para. 1.

8. Vasak, Karel, “A 30-year Struggle: The Sustained Effort to Give Force of Law to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, UNESCO Courier, 11 1977, p. 29Google Scholar.

9. Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Thirty-Sixth Session, Economic and Social Council Official Records, 1980, Supplement No. 3 (E.1980/13), para. 119.

10. “Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Geneva, 20 August-7September 1979”, (E/CN.4/1350) para. 58.

11. “Report of the Working Group of governmental experts on the right to development” (E/CN.4/1489 (1982)) para. 8. See also “Report of the seminar on the effects of the existing unjust international economic order on the economies of the developing countries and the obstacle that this represents for the implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Geneva, 30 Iune-11 July 1980” (ST/HR/SER. A/8) para. 91.

12. Final Report (Paris), op. cit., note 1 supra.

13. Ibid., para. 6.

14. Ibid., para. 240.

15. Ibid., para. 241.

16. Op. cit., note 1, supra.

17. Ibid., paras. 9–10.

18. Ibid., paras. 20–22.

19. Many Voices, One World: Communication and Society Today and Tomorrow (Kogan Page, London/Unipub, New York/Unesco, Paris, 1980) pp. 172–74Google Scholar.

20. Ibid., p. 187.

21. Ibid., p. 172, note 2.

22. Final Report (Mexico City), op. cit., note 1, supra, p. 4.

23. “The Rights of Solidarity: An Attempt at Conceptual Analysis”, Unesco doc. SS-80/ CONF. 806/6 (1980), para. 5.

24. Final Report (Mexico City), op. cit., note 1, supra, Annex IV, p. i.

25. Ibid., p. v.

26. Conference on Peace = Human Rights and Human Rights = Peace, Final Document” 'Bulletin of Peace Proposals, Vol. 10, 1979, p. 224CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

27. These proposals were contained in appendices to the main conference background documents, all of which were issued in mimeo form.

28. Ibid., Appendix I, para. 1.

29. Ibid., para. 4.

30. It should be noted however that the subject has been the subject of some academic analysis. The most detailed and persuasive of these is Marks, op. cit., note 1, supra. See also Marie, Jean-Bernard, “Droits de l'homme et abus de langage”, La Croix (Paris), 20 11 1981, p. 2Google Scholar.

31. Tawney, R.H., Equality (London, George Allen and Unwin, 1964) p. 286Google Scholar;

32. Bilder, Richard B., “Rethinking International Human Rights: Some Basic Questions”, Wisconsin Law Review, 1969, No. 1, p. 175Google Scholar.

33. Dissenting opinion of Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro, Resolution No. 23/81, Case 2141 (United States) March 6, 1981, printed in Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1980–1981, Organization of American States doc. OEA. Ser. L/V/11. 54. doc. 9, rev. 1 (1981), p. 54.

34. Bilder, , op. cit., note 32, pp. 175–76Google Scholar.

35. The validity of these distinctions was considered in a recent United Nations report entitled “Regional and national dimensions of the right to development as a human right: Report of the Secretary-General” (E/CN.4/1488 (1981)), para. 134.

36. Many Voices, One World, op. cit., note 19, supra, p. 187.

37. E/CN.4/1982/SR.32 (23 February, 1982), representative of France.

38. “The international dimensions of the right to development as a human right …: Report of the Secretary-General” (E/CN.4/1334 (1979)) para. 39 and paras. 42–45.

39. Tévoédjrè, Albert, La pauvreté, richesse des peuples (Paris, Editions Economie et Humanism, Les Editions Ouvrières, 1978)Google Scholar.

40. E.g. Maizels, Alfred, “Mutuality and Conflict of Interest in the North-South Negotiations”, Trade and Development: An UNCTAD Review, No. 2, Autumn 1980, pp. 118Google Scholar.

41. North-South: A Programme for Survival (London, Pan Books, 1980) p. 64Google Scholar.

42. Chonchol, Jacques, “The Declaration on Human Rights and the Right to Development: The Gap Between Proposals and Reality”, in Development, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Report of a Conference held in The Hague on 27 April-1 May 1981 convened by the International Commission of Jurists (Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1981) p. 115Google Scholar.

43. In this respect it is relevant to note the statement contained in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.

44. In the view of the present writer most, if not all, of the component elements of these rights are already present in the various provisions of the two existing International Human Rights Covenants. To the extent that the interpretation and scope of application of these provisions cannot be expanded to meet new demands and changing circumstances, consideration should be given to the preparation of additional Protocols to the Covenants, ratification of which would be optional for States Parties.

45. These took the form of the International Human Rights Covenants which, although adopted by the General Assembly in 1966, did not obtain sufficient ratifications to enter into force until 1976.

46. Professor Jean Rivero has warned of the risk of an inflation of human rights and concluded that it is necessary, in the recognition of new human rights, “de garder présents à l'esprit la nécessité de ne pas compromettre la cohérence de la notion, le souci de la traductibilité des droits de l'homme dans les faits, sa transcendance par rapport aux idéologies et aux systèmes politiques, économiques et sociaux, et la seule finalité qui puisse la fonder sur le service de l'homme.” Rivero, Jean, “Le problème des “nouveaux” droit de l'homme” in Résumé des cours, Tenth Study Session of the International Institute of Human Rights, Strasbourg, 22707 1979, part. III, para. 3Google Scholar.

47. One version of such a draft third covenant has already been proposed. See note 7 supra.

48. Thus the implications of article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain effectively unexplored. It provides that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized”. Similarly the relevant provisions of article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights warrant greater attention. Under the terms of paragraph 1 of article 2 each State Party to the Covenant “undertakes to take steps individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means …” (emphasis added).

49. While it is appropriate to respond to the major human rights concerns of each of the major geo-political blocs, it is not necessary to devise a separate conceptual framework within which to do so. For analyses of the importance of responding to these concerns see Marks, Stephen P., “The Peace-Human Rights-Development Dialectic”, Bulletin of Peace Proposals, Vol. 11, No. 4 (1980) pp. 339–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Espiell, Héctor Gros, “The Evolving Concept of Human Rights: Western, Socialist and Third World Approaches” in Ramcharan, B. G. (ed.), Human Rights: Thirty Yearsafter the Universal Declaration (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1979), pp. 4165Google Scholar.