The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) turns seventy this year, which ought to be cause for celebration. Unfortunately, things aren’t as straightforward as the anniversary slogan, “#STANDUP4HUMANRIGHTS,” would have you believe. The declaration states that “recognition” of human rights is the basis of freedom, justice, and peace and that when these are not recognized, “barbarous acts” can ensue. This is why rights need to be protected by law. The declaration lists thirty, including the right to life, liberty, due process, religion, education, marriage, and property.
The document’s similarity to the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights is clear, as are its roots in Enlightenment thinking and John Locke. The preamble’s final paragraph encourages governments to promote the declaration through “teaching and education.”
By 1976, the United Nations produced two “covenants,” one on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the other on Civil and Political Rights. In 1999, it added the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although having widespread support, none of these documents is legally binding (Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain).
This is where things get tricky. Article 2 of the 1999 declaration states that nations have “a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms…by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields” (1). Further, nations “shall adopt such legislative, administrative and other steps as may be necessary to ensure that the rights and freedoms…are effectively guaranteed” (2).
A lot can happen in fifty years. The non-binding 1948 declaration encouraging teaching and education mutated into a 1999 directive to hold nothing back in the creation of a new society. “Necessary” appears three times, as in do whatever is necessary to achieve the ends outlined in the universal declaration. Subsequent articles address grievances (art. 9), public resources to be used (art. 13), cultural promotion (art. 14), and even the creation of “new human rights” (art. 7), whatever those may be.
Enter Brazil, which has been led by a socialist regime with close ties to Cuba for the past twenty years. Even before publication of the 1999 declaration, it produced its own blueprint, Programa Nacional de Direitos Humanos (PNDH), for implementing its own version of human rights. The blueprint has gone through a lengthy but highly skewed consultative process and two revisions, the latest in 2009.
The 2009 revision (PNDH-3) reflects the platform of the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), which was founded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), the former president convicted in 2017 of corruption and money-laundering in connection with the Petrobras scandal and sentenced to more than nine years in prison. He lost his case on appeal last month. In true Marxist fashion, he declared: “This PNDH-3 will be a consistent and sure road map for continuing the historical march to rescue our country from its slave, subaltern, elitist, and exclusionary past toward the construction of a society increasingly based on the great human ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity” (p. 14). Compare with Lullaby for Lula.
PNDH-3 is hardly a roadmap for liberté, égalité, and fraternité. Rather, it outlines the creation of a New Brazil based on gender ideology, abortion, deconstruction of “heteronormativity,” (p. 121), promotion of underage sex, revision of the educational system to reflect party values, curtailment of parental authority, restriction of private property, censorship of the media, disarmament of civilians, militarization of the police, expansion of “public safety” efforts (p. 127), and the “public construction of truth” (p. 214), which excludes religion. All of this is to be accomplished through legislation and executive orders and paid for, in large part, by “international organs” like the Ford Foundation.
If Lula manages to survive and run for the presidency again, which he is threatening to do, New Brazil may become a reality. It doesn’t take much imagination to predict what would happen. Just look at Brazil’s neighbor to the north, Venezuela, where a humanitarian crisis has forced hundreds of thousands to flee across the border to Columbia. Nobody at CNN or The New York Times seems interested in covering the story, because, after all, human rights violations are committed by the Right, not the Left, and certainly not by a Chavista like Nicolás Maduro. If there is no food, no medicine, no work, and no housing, it is the fault of Secretary of State Tillerson and the Trump administration.
Seriously, I would love to stand up for human rights and the universal declaration. But that’s not the reality, at least not in Brazil, which is using a document that John Paul II praised as “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience” for its own political purposes. But maybe that was the intention all along. Thanks, United Nations, but I’ll sit this one out.
Image credits: feature by Renato Souza; 1950 photo, United Nations; “PT,” Partido dos Trabalhadores. Also, see Relatório de Implementação. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance.