When most people in the United States
are asked about human rights, they talk of the right to vote and the
Bill of Rights, particularly the freedoms of speech, press, religion,
and assembly. Many have defended these powerful freedoms on behalf
of their country, their neighbors, and themselves.
There are other rights declared
in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
that are not part of the human rights consciousness of most Americans.
These include rights to adequate food, clothing, housing, medical
care, and even education. They also include rights related to social
security, marriage and family, and labor union participation and working
conditions. These are among the social, economic, and cultural rights
identified in Articles 16 and 22-29 of the UDHR to which everyone
is entitled, regardless of who you are or where you live.
Social and Economic Justice:
A Human Rights Perspective is intended to expand the conversation
about human rights. It provides background information, ideas for
taking action, and interactive activities to help people think about
human rights in a broader, more inclusive manner. It strives to help
us define issues like homelessness, poverty, hunger, and inadequate
health care, not only as “social or economic problems,” but also as
human rights challenges.
Placing problems such as these
within the human rights framework provided by the UDHR incorporates
a moral vision into public policy and personal decision making. It
provides a rationale for action in the name of human dignity, peace,
and justice. This publication is the Human Rights Education Series
– Topic Book 1, a companion to Human Rights Here and Now: Celebrating
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That book is broader
in scope, while Social and Economic Justice: A Human Rights Perspective
focuses on those rights found principally in the last third of the
UDHR. Both books are tools for bringing the UDHR into the lives of
people in the United States.
Both books are also contributions
to the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004.
They imagine a world in which everyone learns about these human rights
and accepts as a personal responsibility to advocate for and defend
them on behalf of oneself and one’s community: local, national, and
global. It is a powerful vision.
This book is the outcome of contributions
from many educators and institutions committed to human rights goals.
There are some who deserve special mention.
Those who contributed activities or essays:
Alameda County Community Food Bank
(sections of Hunger USA), Nancy Flowers (Martin Luther King
– From Civil Rights to Human Rights), Shulamith Koenig (Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights: Questions and Answers), and the Resource
Center of the Americas (sections of Wages, Earning Power,
Profit, and Responsibility).
Those who served as principal authors
of activities or essays:
Sushanna Ellington (The Elderly
Poor) and Gwen Willems (Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
as Human Rights: Historical Background).
Those who were co-authors:
Kristi Rudelius-Palmer (Taking
the Human Rights Temperature of Your School), Sherry Kempf (Economic
Justice: The Scramble for Wealth and Power), and Karen Kraco (Community
Research and Action Plan: Social and Economic Rights).
Those who offered editorial suggestions:
Elise Guyette, Janet Schmidt, Patrick
Manson, and the more than forty educators participating in human rights
workshops organized by Amnesty International USA and the Vermont Alliance
for the Social Studies.
Nancy Flowers for the keen editorial
eye and hand that touched every page of this book and for her tireless
encouragement and assistance.
Amnesty International USA for fostering
human rights education and supporting the Human Rights Educators’
Network of dedicated volunteers.
The Stanley Foundation, Joan Winship
and Jill Goldesberry, for their support in the creation and publication
of this book.
The Human Rights Resource Center
at the University of Minnesota, Terri Kinne, Betsy Clink, Jennifer
Saari, and Kristi Rudelius-Palmer for their coordination, editing,
and design expertise in the final production stage.
Center for World Education, College
of Education and Social Services, University of Vermont for hosting
the initial writing and research institute in July 1977.
Shulamith Koenig for her vision
of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004.
Five publications in particular
made substantial contributions to this book.
David Shiman, Teaching Human
Rights (Center for Teaching International Relations, University
of Denver, 1998).
Educating for Economic Justice.
Human Rights Education: The Fourth R (Human Rights Educators’
Network, Amnesty International USA) Vol. 9:1 (Spring, 1998).
Alicia Dorosin, Courtney Geelan,
Eve Gordon, and Rachel Moore, Why Is There Hunger in Our Community?
(Alameda County Community Food Bank, Oakland, CA, 1997).
Amy Sanders and Meredith Sommers,
Child Labor Is Not Cheap (Resource Center of the Americas,
Minneapolis, MN, 1997).
Nancy Flowers (ed.) Human
Rights Here and Now: Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (Human Rights Educators’ Network, Amnesty International
USA, Minneapolis, MN, 1998).
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
On December 10, 1998 the world celebrated
the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR).
The United States was instrumental
in creating the UDHR, with Eleanor Roosevelt as head of the drafting
committee and the US Constitution as a principal model. The USA joined
the UN General Assembly in unanimously adopting the UDHR, accepting
its exhortation that “every individual and every organ of society”
should “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these
rights and freedoms.”
Americans, through our Constitution
with its Amendments, already possess many of the political and civil
rights articulated in the UDHR. However, the UDHR goes further than
the US Constitution, including many social and economic rights as
well. The UDHR’s Article 25, in particular, guarantees everyone has
a human 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.” However,
when most people debate issues of hunger, housing, and health care,
for example, they rarely frame these as human rights questions. Americans
tend to equate civil/political rights with human rights.
Economic and Social Justice:
A Human Rights Perspective addresses the social and economic rights
found in Articles 16 and 22 through 27 of the UDHR, which are generally
not recognized as human rights in the United States. These rights
were further articulated in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Although in 1948 the United States
was a signatory to the non-binding Uni versal Declaration, it remains
among the few nations that have not ratified the ICESCR.
In keeping with the UDHR and ICESCR,
Economic and Social Justice: A Human Rights Perspective treats
social and economic rights as inalienable human rights, putting them
in both local and global perspective and illustrating the interdependence
between social/economic and civil/political rights.
Economic and Social Justice:
A Human Rights Perspective is also built on the premise that the
study of human rights is also a call to action. Therefore, the activities
briefly described below suggest ways in which participants can act
to make this a better world.
Economic and Social Justice:
A Human Rights Perspective begins with a brief
history of economic, social, and cultural rights and an essay,
in question and answer format, that introduces these rights. Although
cultural rights are interrelated and of equal importance as economic
and social rights, this book primarily addresses justice regarding
economic and social components.
II provides nine activities to
further explore and learn about social and economic rights:
1, Imagine a Country, introduces social and economic
rights in an engaging and provocative manner;
2, Economic Justice: The Scramble for Wealth and Power,
provides a lively exploration of fair distribution of wealth;
3, Wages, Earning Power, Profit, and Responsibility:
International Lessons, makes a power ful connection between
wages and working conditions abroad and responsible consumerism
4, Community Research and Action Plan: Economic and Social
Rights, targets human rights challenges in the community;
5, Hunger USA is a multi-part lesson that explores
links between hunger and poverty;
6, The Elderly Poor uses case studies to highlight
human rights concerns;
7, Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your School
employs a questionnaire;
8, Martin Luther King Jr. – From Civil Rights to Human
Rights, introduces King’s broader global human rights vision;
9, Activists for Human Rights identifies historical
figures in US history who have championed human rights and have
a particular focus on social and economic rights.
The Appendix contains documents,
a glossary of terms, a directory of resource organizations, and a
bibliography to assist those eager to increase their understanding
and/or move into action to address social and economic rights.