U Thant the Burmese United Nations Secretary General from 1961 to 1971 spoke on the Declaration of Human Rights:
This great and inspiring instrument was born of an increased sense of responsibility by the international community for the promotion and protection of man’s basic rights and freedoms. The world has come to a clear realization of the fact that freedom, justice and world peace can only be assured through the international promotion and protection of these rights and freedoms.
The prescient quotation above is a succinct summation of both the purpose and goal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was set out not as a lofty set of utopian ideals, but rather a basic structure under which nations should accord expressing the rights of which all people of the world are entitled. Yet the declaration is not without its detractors. Key among them are philosophers Maurice Cranston, Robert Nozick and Henry Shue which each according to their unique outlook opposes rights listed within the declaration, specifically the economic rights listed.
The distinction between political and economic rights can be tricky to distinguish because there are different uses of each term. For the purposes of this essay I will use political and economic rights as used in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Political Rights are defined in articles 3 to 21 of the Declaration such as right to life and freedom from slavery while Economic Rights are in articles 22 to 27. In this framework both political and economic rights are human rights that nations ought to equally respect and protect.
The first portion of rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Political and Civil which serve to protect individuals from excesses of the state. The primary function of political rights is the imposition on governments and international organizations to uphold basic liberties of the world’s citizens. This is not so much a standard of excellence but rather a safeguard against repression and discrimination that would affect individual’s ability to participate in civic or political life. Political Rights include but are not limited to the Freedom of Thought and Expression, The Freedom from Unjust Bodily Harm by a Government, and the Freedom to Participate in Civic Affairs. Using the theory of Negative and Positive Rights, Political Rights are seen as negative rights. Negative Rights are seen as actions under which right holders are not to be subjected to a particular action by a group entity such as torture by government, or unjust imprisonment.
The second portion of rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Economic Rights, which serve to provide equality of resources, conditions and treatments. The primary function of economic rights is for Governments and International Organizations to provide a minimum standard of resources and benefits to the world’s citizens as to not be hindered by...