I attended a very interesting lecture last month. The person giving the lecture was a prominent human rights lawyer and activist. By the end of the lecture, my understanding of human rights had changed significantly. This is because the lecturer gave us, the attendees, a different perspective on human rights. The topic that was being tackled in the lecture was that of ‘advanced human rights’, and their relationship to ‘basic human rights’. So the lecturer started by pointing out that human rights fall into two broad categories. There is the first category of basic human rights: like the right to life, the right of association, the right to liberty, the freedom of speech, freedom of worship… and so on. Then there is the second category of advanced human rights: like the right to work, the right to shelter, the right to education, the right to medical care… and so on.
The lecturer pointed out that it becomes interesting, when we start taking note of the relationship between the ‘basic human rights’ and the ‘advanced human rights’. That is where we come to discover that proper protection of the basic human rights leads to proper/faster attainment of the advanced human rights. And conversely, the attainment of the advanced human rights leads to better basic human rights protections. Let’s take, for instance, the right to work. In that case, let’s take the example of a gentleman who has managed to get work at a company like CVS. So every once in a while, like every fortnight, the gentleman is able to visit the CVS employee login site, sign in, and subsequently access a decent paycheck. You note that the money from that paycheck empowers him, and makes it easier for him to defend his basic rights. Conversely, a person who doesn’t have stable employment is disempowered. He is vulnerable, and is unable to defend his basic rights. You find, for instance, that most of the victims of police shootings tend to be from the poorer sections of society. You also find that those poorer members of society are less inclined to assert their rights to associate or their freedom of expression. They are more concerned with day to day existential pursuits.
On the other hand, in places where the basic rights are protected, people become more empowered to fight for the advanced rights. For instance, with the right of association well protected, people are able to form political parties, to agitate for better government policies. Similarly, with the right of expression well protected, people are able to agitate for better government policies. And the better policies translate into an improved economy: which gives more people access to the right to work. Or the better policies lead to more educational opportunities (right to education), better healthcare facilities (right to medical care)… and so on. It therefore becomes clear that the ‘basic human rights’ and the ‘advanced human rights’ are intertwined in such ways.