IEP-UCP Estoril Political Forum: Human Rights Today
The 2008 theme of the IEP-UCP Estoril Political Forum was on Human Rights Today: 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and included speakers such as João Carlos Espada (Director, IEP-UCP and Editor, Nova Cidadania, Lisbon), Anthony O’Hear (Director, Royal Institute Of Philosophy and Editor, Philosophy, London), Raymond Plant (King’s College, House of Lords, London), Marc F. Plattner (Editor, Journal of Democracy, Director, IFDS, Washington, D.C.), and Susan Shell (Boston College, Boston), among many others. Click here to download the final Programme
The conference included a special debate on Should Human Rights play a major role in international affairs ? with students from the Europaeum, IEP-UCP, Georgetown University, and the National--Louis University, Poland. The debate was chaired by Dr Paul Flather (Secretary General, Europaeum), with expert moderators Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky (Member of the Board, IFES, Oxford) and Professor Eusebio Mujal-Leon (Georgetown University, Washington DC).
Summary of Conference Presentations:
Carl Gershman, Head of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA
Democracy and Human Rights
Firstly, Gershman points out the difference between human rights and democracy alluding to the US conflicts on ideological issues concerning human rights and democracy promoting groups since President Carters government. He concludes that the democracy-promotion community failed in helping democratic activists and defenders of the human rights in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries, on the one hand because of limited access, closed or conflicted societies, on the other hand because their bureaucratic and governmental organisation is not adaptable to the different challenges of pre-democratic autocracies so that they had to work in the restricted space offered by the governments. The democracy-promotion community has to find governmental and non-governmental ways to support activists and human rights defenders even in powerful autocratic countries.
João Cardoso Rosas, Assistant Professor at the University of Minho
Nature and Scope of Rights
Cardoso Rosas strongly recommends shortening the lists of Human Rights and distinguishing between citizenship rights depending on political requirements and therefore variable and human rights as sacrosanct and unchangeable which are mixed up in the great declarations as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Human Rights should not be confused with citizenship Rights. Thereby, the moral power of Human Rights would be increased.
William Hasselberger, Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture, University of Virginia
Index of Economic Freedom
Concerning the language of the UN Declarations on poverty reductions SOL and BIG, Hasselberger criticises the lack of specificity, a wrong cause and effect relationship, a causality mistake (as the aim is poverty reduction which should be caused by economic growth) and the indication of wrong duty-bearers: governments could not cause economic growth, market forces would be the much better choice.
Piotr Naimski, former Deputy Minister of Economy, Member of Parliament, Poland
Democracy and Human Rights
Piotr Naimski talked about the situation in Central Asia, the former republics of the Soviet Union, which became except for a few authoritarian states. After the break down of the Soviet Union, local conflicts on ethnical or boarder-related issues were sorted by the authoritarian state model as the Central Asia does not know any modern tradition of sovereignty and independent states. The Human Rights were violated in many of these countries. Therefore, the western alliance has to avoid empty declarations; it would do much better to support building governmental and juridical institutions, to continue broadcasting information from abroad to the people as well as to make the authorities tolerate NGOs monitoring the situation in the countries.