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Study on the Rights to Subsistence and Development with Reference to the Origin of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
April 11,2019   By:CSHRS
Study on the Rights to Subsistence and Development with Reference to the Origin of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
 
LI Junru*
 
I. The History of the Drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the Position and Role of the UN Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations should not be Ignored
 
The reason for me to use the term “source”in the discussion on the right to subsistence and the right to development is mainly to draw attention to a basic fact: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) under the leadership of the UN Economic and Social Council.
 
As we all know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by UNCHR, which is a secondary body of the United Nations and one of the functional com-missions of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations. The United Nations has six principal organs while founded: the General Assembly; the Security Council; the Economic and Social Council; the Trusteeship Council; the International Court of Justice; and the UN Secretariat. The Economic and Social Council of the General Assembly of the United Nations (ECOSOC) is one of the six principal organs under the UN Charter. It has four major functions: First, it may make or initiate studies, reports and constructions with respect to international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters and may make recommendations with respect to any such matters to the General Assembly, to the Members of the United Nations, and to the specialized agencies concerned. Second, it may make recommendations for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Third, it may prepare draft conventions for submission to the UN General Assembly, with respect to matters falling within its competence. Fourth, it may call, in accordance with the rules prescribed by the United Nations, international conferences on matters falling within its competence. At the beginning, it should coordinate 14 specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and five regional commissions for the work on economy, society and related works.
 
It used to be the primary organization in the United Nations for handling issues relevant to human rights before the founding of the UN Human Rights Council in 2006. Meanwhile, it provided aid for the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted under the leadership of ECOSOC and adopted by the UN General Assembly. UNCHR is one of the 10 functional commissions under ECOSOC, which was established in 1946 according to Chapter 68 of the UN Charter to be in charge of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It should be noted that UNCHR enjoys very high status in the United Nations because its foundation was included in the document for the establishment of the UN. It plays an important role in the ECOSOC. In March 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the proposal to establish the Human Rights Council with the vote of the overwhelming majority, ending the mission of UNCHR.
 
Mr. Peng Chun Chang participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a representative from China. He has served as permanent representative of the ECOSOC, vice president of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the vice president of the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His election as the vice president of UNCHR comes from the wide recognition of his outstanding performance in the ECOSOC. In particular, his three speeches at the ECOSOC were extremely impressive. In the first speech, he quoted the sentence of Mencius that “let a prince seek by his excellence to nourish men, and he will be able to subdue the whole kingdom” to clarify the task of ECOSOC. In the second speech, he proposed to declare war on bacteria causing many human diseases and plague with the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO). In his third speech, he proposed that the world should be considered as a whole and appropriate attention should be given to the economically underdeveloped areas. These speeches are still of great value today. What were the themes of these speeches? The right to subsistence and the right to development.
 
I hope to get the attention of one basic fact through mentioning the role of ECOSOC, the relationship between ECOSOC and UNCHR and the connection between Mr. Peng Chun Chang’s speeches at ECOSOC and his election as the vice president of UNCHR: considering the source of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN put the human rights issue under the framework of economic and social development at the very beginning.
 
II. The Contribution of Chinese Civilization to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Emphasizing the Protection of the Right to Subsistence and the Right to Development
 
The discussions on Mr. Peng Chun Chang's contribution to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are mostly focusing on his outstanding work to integrate elements of Chinese civilization into the classic of human rights. I agree with this point very much.
 
Here, I would like to stress that his third speech at ECOSOC is the essence of his thought on human rights and the context of his work for the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this speech, he paid great attention to the issue related to development of underdeveloped countries and regions. The highlight of his speech was the last part in which he set out the most striking opinions of the Chinese on human rights. In this part, he introduced the human rights thought in the Confucian classic Liyun of the Book of Rites. “When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the ablebodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. (They accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. (They laboured) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view to their own advantage. In this way (selfish) schemes were re-pressed and found no development, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the Grand Union.” It is said that this part is the Chinese declaration of human rights and it makes sense. Chang cites this part of the Chinese classic to clarify that the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations will care for everyone to have a happy and healthy life. Meanwhile, it shows that the most important human rights are the right to subsistence and the right to development and economic, social and cultural rights as subsidiary rights.
 
On the afternoon of May 26, 1948, the 46 th meeting of the third session of the UNCHR began the discussion on the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On May 3, 1948, several days before meeting, the Chinese delegation sub-mitted the China Proposal for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The draft proposal covered ten points. The first three points included: Article 1, everyone has the right to life. Article 2, everyone has the right to freedom of conscience and belief, freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of information, speech and expression. Article 3, everyone has the right to a decent life and the right to work and leisure, health, education, and economic and social security. From the proposal of the Chinese delegation, it can be seen that the Chinese stress the protection of such rights as life, conscience, freedom, life, work, leisure, health, education, economy and social security in terms of human rights. After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was finally adopted, it can be seen that all these positions have been included.
 
Therefore, the major contribution of the Chinese civilization to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to emphasis the importance of respecting and protecting the right to life and the right to development.
 
III. My Logical Thinking: the Logic and Cognitive Order of Human Rights
 
In the exploration of human rights theories with the basic theories of historical materialism in Marxism and considering my understanding from the source of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially the basic thought of Chinese civilization in human rights from the contribution of Mr. Peng Chun Chang to human rights, it is worthwhile to pay attention to one point.
 
In the field of human rights theory, the development of human rights thoughts in the world is generally divided into “three generations”. It makes sense. The so-called “three generations of human rights” actually reflect the three stages of development in the recognition of human rights. However, there is no superiority among the three generations and it is not necessary for every country to follow the same order to promote human rights protection. Meanwhile, it is not proper to take the path and basic points of Western countries on human rights issues as the only criteria for the human rights cause in the world. China has taken a different path in development of human rights from that of the Western countries. Therefore, we should not simply take the “three generations” theory as the principle and guideline for promoting China’s human rights career.
 
At this point, it is necessary to further discuss whether the cognitive order of human rights is the inherent logic of human rights. Cognitive order belongs to cognition. Judging from actual process of the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the cognition of human rights is always subject to the constraint of multiple factors such as individual religious belief, political system and economic status. It was wise of Mr. Peng Chun Chang to use his view of culture pluralism to resolve contradictions. Nevertheless, the deep-seated problems of human rights could not be solved merely from the perspective of cognition. Today, we should think about human rights from a higher position.
 
Human rights are the rights of human beings for being human. What rights should be protected from one’s birth? It is the right to life. Meanwhile, clothing, food, shelter, and transportation should be provided for the subsistence of life, so we should produce everything needed to support one’s life. This the starting point for the logic of human rights. What are the human rights to be respected and protected at this logical starting point? It is the right to subsistence and the right to development. Other rights for human beings, like economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, are created in the maintenance and protection of the right to subsistence and the right to development. What is the problem we are discussing here? It is the logic of human rights itself. Of course, the logic of human rights is presented in diversified forms in the process of development due to various factors. In any case, the cognitive order is not equal to the inherent logic of human rights. The discuss on the difference between the inherent logic and cognitive order of human rights is for construction of a better and scientific human rights theory system to promote the development of human rights career in China.
 
* LI Junru ( 李君如 ), Vice-president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, former Vice-President of the Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C.
 
(Translated by HU Liang)
 
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