Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Sixty years. It has been sixty years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been written and in most of the world most people do not have access to most of these rights. Indeed there are groups that have access to none of them. We have done such a poor job of meeting the needs of the oppressed even though there is more than enough wealth to meet everyone’s needs and still have the ridiculously wealthy enjoy their lavish lifestyles. What stops us from keeping the Declaration’s promise?

Part of the problem is the lack of institutions. The UN has tried to enforce its rules over the years, but lacks any real teeth. Unless the most powerful nations agree on a course of action, it seldom acts to protect the weak. This happens, in part, because the most powerful nations disagree not so often as to what needs to be addressed but rather how to address it. Our own nation, rather than take advantage of the international courts in dealing with Saddam Hussein, damaging both the courts’ and our own legitimacy. Sometimes this is a matter of simple misunderstanding and stubborn insistence on the primacy of our manner of handling things.

Much of it, though, is selfish neglect and a certain degree of dangerous nationalism. Many fine, compassionate people, particularly in the Western World, still have problems with their beloved nation being second guessed by a larger organization. This works fairly well for the moneyed elite around the world, as such an organization could keep them in line as well as the brutal dictators they often deal with. Because people put their national identity above the collective good, their politicians either ignore the UN’s needs, or actively malign that body.

So far that has worked OK for the relatively wealthy people of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and the rest of the great economic powers. That can’t go on forever though, and as our civil liberties are eroded, as our basic human dignity is stolen from us by a financial crisis that turns us into beggars or slaves, the more we may wish there was had a guiding order to the international community to protect the rights set down in the Declaration.

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