Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights, Livelihoods and Ubuntu for the 21st Century

The celebration of Human Rights Day across the world will be meaningless without interrogating the significance of peoples’ rights in relationship to human livelihood and peaceful co-existence among humans and between humans and planet earth in the 21st century. Such interrogation should be geared towards unravelling the implications of new phenomena for our collective humanity in the 21st century. These phenomena include the Western conception of human rights based on exclusions and hierarchies, biotechnology and robotics revolution, genetic perdition and cloning, capitalist plundering of the earth, as well as the dehumanisation of human beings by neo-liberal capitalism.

Following the devastating war associated with the capitalist depression of 1929-1945, an international organisation, the United Nations, was formed with a mandate to promote world peace. There were four salient objectives outlined in the UN Charter: 1) to maintain world peace and security; 2) to protect the fundamental human rights and uphold the dignity and equality of all humans; 3) to create a forum for cooperation in solving international problems and in providing respect for international law; and 4) to promote freedom, advance human progress and achieve better standards of living.

In 1948, the UN agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which codified a common universal standard for the upholding of human dignity. Today, 10 December 2010, 62 years after the declaration, it is important for all people to reflect deeply on the meaning of human dignity in the 21st century. We want to remind our readers that the challenges of the moment demand that, in tandem with the ideals of Ubuntu, we elevate the new principle of the collective rights of human beings in the 21st century. The principle of Ubuntu which is now emerging as a core organising principle links humans to each other, to nature, and to the universe. It is this concept of shared humanity that we want to reflect on today so that we can promote an inclusive concept of peace, human dignity, and human rights. More