How the three dimensions of rights are strictly related to each other
The Right to Life, the Right to Health and the Right to Environment
Do the world-wide most developed countries really achieved the understanding and the settlement of the Human Rights?
The Natural rights of men is a notion dated back in the years, this first ideal was carried out especially by a philosophical doctrine called Jusnaturalism, whom presented different developments depending on the historical time, however all of these various interpretations and applications presented a common pattern: they were all generic and not clearly developed. The Middle Age was characterized by several attempts aimed at establishing the concept of “the right of man”, that started to get more and more explicit in the Modern Age and Contemporary Era. In these terms, a concrete and practical contribution was given by historical milestones, such as: The Magna Charta Libertatum of 1215, The English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) and The United States Federal Bill of Rights of the same year of the previous one, finally landing to several constitutions and, in this case especially, to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This is a very short historical background of the years of continuous fights for the establishment of a State’s leading doctrine based on rights and equality, whom perhaps let us reflect on how many years the world needed to reach (and I would say “partially”) the goal of “Human Rights” with their fundamental and alienable connotations.
My reflection is based on the idea that the three “generations” or “dimensions” are firmly linked to each other in the way that each specific right, that belongs to one of the three, is related to others belonging to a different dimension.
The first right that I would like to analyze is the Right to Life, whom I personally consider one of the most relevant and that nowadays, is still not completely acknowledged and respected. The third article (Art.3) of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) stands that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.”. This right belongs to the first dimension of rights, the one of “Social and Political Rights”. This deals with the identity and role of the individual within a society and its political and legal sort of rights. These rights MUST be granted by the State, organization, group, etc., whom has to keep its jurisdiction and power off the people who are expressing those rights.
According to what I said previously the right to life must be granted and controlled by the Government, indeed, nobody can attempt at the life of a person (including the state, government and other organizations and institutions), these have the role to guarantee your protection through rules and laws.
Do the States really guarantee the right of life? All these statements make me reflect on how many countries are still in a controversial position to those fundamental rights. The first example that cross my mind is that of The United States of America and its much-discussed death penalty.
The capital punishment is still in force in thirty-seven states over fifty and it is used also by the Federal Government, each state can choose its execution methods, indeed it is mostly applied the lethal injection because considered “less painful”. How can a state that is supposed to grant the life of its citizens is the one who condemn their life to the end? I’m convinced that it is absolutely unhuman to kill someone, we cannot have the control over life or death of a person. It must be ethically condemned especially if this CRIME is committed by the State itself, the one supposed to check over wrongdoings. It is the last resort used by the state against horrific crimes, but today cannot be accepted and justified anymore because the society has other forms of penalty and punishment. It is an alienable right of everyone to stay alive.
Nowadays around fifty-seven Nations in the world maintain in force the death penalty, I strongly believe, also if it is maybe a little utopic to say, that one day we will finally achieve the abolishment of death penalty.
I took as an example The United States of America because it is one of the most powerful, civilized and developed country world-wide, but at the same time is the main character of this paradox.
Another controversial and not much discussed aspect is that of the Chinese concentration camps, the so called “Laogai”. These were established by Mao Zedong in the middle of the twentieth century and are still in force today. Zedong was inspired by the example of the Stalinian “Gulag”.
In fact, the soviet officials and experts helped the Chinese president to establish the foundation of “forced labor camps”. Laogai in mandarin means “reform through labor”. Therefore, it is a controversial aspect. The idea of salvation and education through labor was strongly persent in the history of the world, especially in the years of tyranny. The Hitlerian “Lager” (“Arbeit Macht Frei” – labor sets you free), was one of the main horrific strategies applied by Hitler during the Second World War (1939-1945).
What makes me reflect is that, differently from the other two greatest examples, the Laogai are still nowadays a tool used by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This tool has a double purpose, the first one, is “The policy of Terror” based on spreading the fear among the citizens; and the second and most horrific one, is based on economic interests of the PRC; in fact, using the labor camps the State has a continuous and inexhaustible workforce at no cost.
The two objectives go against the human reason and the rights of the human beings. The people in the camps are subjected to awful, horrifying and unhuman conditions.
They are supposed to work around sixteen hours at day. Hygiene and security do not exist.
They are forced to sleep on the ground or, if they are “lucky”, on a miserable rock. They do not have primary resources, including food; therefore, hunger is a daily business to deal with.
The punishments within the camps include the solitary confinement without food in small cellblocks.
Overall, it is an environment based on abuse, hunger and mistreatment.
The peculiarity of the system is that it is based on the “political indoctrination”. It is characterized by hard studies on communism and socialism and by the auto critic of the person itself, to reform, in this way, its personality and in order to create a “new socialist person”.
How can a state on the dawn of the third millennium apply such a horrific system of agony? How can the PRC accept such a treatment of its own citizens? How can The People’s Republic of China maintain this practice as a “State Secret”?
Shouldn’t the State fights for the rights, especially these regarding the life of the citizens? I am plenty of questions in my mind and they cannot find an answer. This behavior goes against my beliefs and values, I can’t even imagine the situation and feelings of these people. I do not understand why the world is not revolting, discussing and claiming such speechless practices. Should not the most developed countries (in the field of rights) stop this massacre?.
The realities who do not respect these inalienable rights are still a lot today and most of the time we are not aware of that. The States, organizations and the cameras of the journalists all around the world keep their hands off those situations. Then, my question is: Because they do not know? Or because it is easier for the economy of the state itself?.
Obviously, the condition of the prisoners is not healthy and doesn’t respect the standard of humanity. This other aspect touches the second dimension of rights and especially The Right to Health.
Therefore, the second right that I took in consideration belongs to the second dimension of rights: The Right to Health in fact, is an “Economic, Social and Cultural right”. The state has to guarantee it according to its resources, but obviously giving at least a minimum level of health to its citizens.
The twenty-fifth article, close one (Art.25, sec.1) of the UDHR stands that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services …”.
We, developed countries, are used to a standard health assistance given by the state. However, for example, is still debated the healthcare policy in force in the United States of America. Indeed, the USA health system doesn’t present a “universal health coverage” that means that everyone, independently from its finance, has access to the State’s healthcare. Therefore, the insurance is very expensive and not everyone can afford it.
In 2010, the system did a huge step forward thanks to the forty-fourth president of the United States, Barak Obama. He introduced the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), that increased the number of people covered by the system.
Unfortunately, this initiative was deeply criticized by the political opponents and also by the citizens. In fact, Obama lost a great consensus after this initiative, people started to complain because “they were paying for people that did not have a purpose inside the society”, and I can confirm it because I experienced it while I was in the US hearing this arguments from local people. A more severe step back was taken by the neo-president Donald Trump, whom proposed in 2017 first to abrogate the Obamacare and then to partially abrogate it, both times it was rejected by the Senate.
This last example, in my opinion, is peculiar because it is about the greatest power in the world, whom again is at the center of my reasonings and it’s still the protagonist of controversial and paradoxical compromises and policies. This is another proof supporting the thesis that affirms that the concept of human rights, somehow, is not fully acknowledged also in the most developed countries.
Regardless these deficiencies of the developed countries, there is still a huge issue in the World:
The Right to Health in the Third World. Indeed, the right to health is systematically and evidently denied in the developing world; where illiteracy, misery, poverty, technological backwardness and the shortage of basic and elementary hygiene and health conditions facilitate the spread of diseases and infections among the populations. Here we clearly face a dramatic face of the issue, the situation in the less developed countries is dramatic.
Every year, in the world, around seven million children under the age of five die, because of the hunger and because of the health conditions. I am taking this example because children are the ones who need, more than the others, our help. Children do not have the capacity of taking care of themselves since they depend on adults.
What I believe is that before the health we have to guarantee and ensure the capability to be healthy. The fact is that it is not enough to raise awareness of the issue among the people, but we must ensure the condition in which people are able to be healthy. Therefore, another time, the life of a person is related to the health condition and the environment where this person lives. A healthy environment is not necessarily the one of the developed countries. In fact, the First World is still struggling with other types of health: the mental health and the physical health related to the processed food of the Food Industry.
With mental health I am also referring to the gambling addiction, which is a huge problem that is spreading and widening especially in the United States.
Millions of adults are compulsively addicted or are becoming problem gamblers. Millions of families are losing all their money, are getting destroyed by the addiction of one of its components.
So, the question that easily comes is always the same: how can the State let all of this happen? How can’t the State limit the speeding of this phenomenon? How can it let lives of people to be destroyed? Another time, I can answer to all of these questions with a straight word: Money.
Money and economy are, once again, at the center of the discussion. These are the leading aims of the states’ interests.
The slogan of the “American Gaming Association” (AGA) is “When gaming grows, America gains”. That means that having a deeper look on this issue it is evident that there are economic claims.
The gambling industry is one of the most profitable for the National treasure.
Sadly, the economic interests are once again prevailing over the inalienable human rights and the developed countries seems not to have assimilated this concept.
This phenomenon is perceivable also in the food industry. Looking at the world, in one hand, there are people who are dying because of the lack of food and, in the other hand, people are dying and getting sick because of the food ingested. The sad truth is that world is being the theater of this shame.
Additives, hormones, pesticides and antibiotics are what we are eating every day. These substances are at the basis of the “processed food”, which is the product of industrial and chemical manipulation.
It is not a case that the cases of obesity and cancer are exponentially increasing.
I have previously talked about the importance of the environment and how it affects health and, consequently, life. Thus, the third and last right that I would like to analyze is: The Right to (a healthy) Environment. The rights related to matters such as the environment, resources and self-determination represent the third generation of rights: The so called “Collective Rights”.
The environmental degradation is a daily business of the governments of the states and nations all around the world. This increasing issue is the other face of industrialization and globalization that characterized the world especially in the last fifty years.
Unfortunately, today there are still some countries where globalization and progress come first.
I am talking of the United States of America and the President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy who cut billion dollars to the State’s expenses for a health environment and for the limitation of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Indeed, President Trump lately decided to pull the USA out of the already ratified Paris Agreement on climate of the 2015.
These initiatives are going against the international institutions whom are constantly and strongly trying to limit the Global-Warming and its forthcoming consequence, the climate change.
The policies adopted by the USA are causing not only environmental and climate imbalances, but are endangering the health and life of the entire population of the world.
The environmental and atmospheric pollution is caused by several factors that are mostly unknown to the people. For example, not everyone knows that the twenty-five biggest cargo ships pollute more then all the cars on the planet and that everyday around three oil tankers sink or risk to. We are not aware of this radical situation, because these events are kept where they happen, far away from the coast, the public opinion and the cameras of the journalists. This is a sad truth that once again is kept in the dark because of the economic motifs. Air pollution is one of the main causes of death in the world. Why do people have to die because of the selfish interests of the Globalized powers?.
What I believe is that the people should start to condemn and report these behaviors, with a view to further improve their own life expectations and the one of our successors.
The environment is strictly linked to the right of health and therefore, to the right of life. In fact, Human Rights are related to the concept of “Environmental Sustainability”, that is based on the idea that we have to satisfy our environmental and economic expectations, but at the same time to guarantee to the next generations a healthy environment and clean resources without compromising their future. Due to the actual condition of the world’s environment, we can consider this right as denied for the present generations, whom have the duty to establish the basis of a healthy environment for the future ones.
A healthy environment is one of the most important requirement for a healthy mind and a healthy body. I understood that the geographical location, the environmental condition and the social context where we live make the difference. But isn’t it unjust to “condemn” a person who did not have the fortune to grew up in a place rather than another one? In my opinion, it is. Consequently, we, as citizens of the world, have the role to guarantee and ensure these rights to everyone. The role of the most developed countries is to help the less ones to achieve progress, stability and fair and healthy conditions.
In conclusion, through the analysis of the connection between the three dimensions of Human Rights, we can affirm that the way to reach the “total” understanding and settlement of Human Rights has still to be fully reached. The world will be able to achieve it through collaboration, a sustainable approach, concrete actions, self-analysis and a looking-forward prospective.
The denial of Human Rights lies behind the economic interests of the global powers and of the sovereign states. The affirmation of Human Rights lies in the generations of the future and in the ability of the current generations to teach since the school age the culture of the respect of the three dimensions, in order to let them understand that one cannot exist without the other and that the deprivation of one of them, necessarily, cause the impairment of the other two.
§ CBC Documentary- Laogai: Inside China’s Gulag
§ Western Constitutionalism, an Introduction – Professor Andrea Buratti
§ Rai Storia – Contemporanea documentary: Cargo – La vita nascosta della Globalizzazione