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Rights Coalition Pushes for Binding Convention

Friday, May 7, 2010

In the six decades since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), rights advocates have made great strides at establishing many rights issues as mainstream concepts. But although governments, corporations and military commanders are routinely taken to task over abuses in the court of public opinion, binding rights principles -- and the means to enforce them -- on the national and international levels remain a gaping hole in the effort to guarantee the rights of every individual around the globe.

Now, a diverse group of academics, corporate leaders, universities and non-governmental organizations have joined forces in a bid to significantly change the human rights equation.

The goal? To craft -- and pass -- an International Convention on Human Rights that would be enforceable in the courts of every country around the world before the 100th anniversary of the UDHR.

The 2048 Project's champions, which include former Irish President Mary Robinson and Robert Haas, former chairman of Levi Strauss, are leveraging existing ICT technologies to build a grassroots movement around the world to help craft a representative draft convention. On 2048's Web site, visitors are urged to submit their thoughts and comments on the existing draft and the effort in general, as well as their individual views on universally applicable human right principles.

Organizers plan to take the draft to the United Nations and lobby the world body to help frame a convention to put before the General Assembly. They are encouraging governments to begin monitoring the process now, and hope the international grassroots support they are building during the drafting process will help convince any reluctant governments when the time to ratify approaches.

"Of course there would be attempts to say the bill violates cultural or religious traditions," one of 2048 Project's architects, Berkeley professor Kirk Boyd recently told the Toronto Star. "But there are rights that are simply universal and belong to every human being, whatever their nationality. You could say slavery was a cultural tradition, but that doesn't mean it should be accepted."

The current draft acknowledges the contributions of the UDHR, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, and the African Convention on Human Rights to broaden the legal scope of rights protection, and integrates many of their principles -- such as free speech, freedom of religion and equality before the law.

But the draft also calls for the recognition of environmental rights, a concept that has gained traction among the rights community over the last decade in response to climate change concerns. It also specifically names private-sector actors as liable for rights violations, and calls for the creation of an International Court of Human Rights.

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