The Historical Nature of Human Rights

By FredrickHobbs

Although the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights has often been affirmed and reinstated, a great challenge to the realization of the full implementation of these rights globally is posed by the neglecting of certain sets of rights. Those rights can be singled out as those belonging to the so-called “second” and “third” generation of human rights.

The greatest apparent difference exists between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. This difference should be placed within the political context which is responsible for its generation so that we are able to point out the ideological aspects of the arguments which are used to downplay the importance of economic, social and cultural rights.

The overemphasis on civil and political rights is an inadequate means to protecting human dignity worldwide. Moreover, it can be argued that this discourse indirectly leads to the dehumanization and debasement of a large portion of the world’s population and is thus contra-productive. However, before we can argue about the future of human rights and the important role of economic, social and cultural rights, we need to grasp the historical circumstances which have conditioned and shaped this discourse.

The awareness of the element of the historical context in the field of human rights will itself place us in a position to understand that they are far from being an immutable concept. They serve to protect human beings and as such require constant adjustment and redirecting in light of new developments that threaten to infringe upon human dignity.