Beyond a Minimum Threshold: The Right to Social Equality
The State of Economic and Social Human Rights, Lanse Minkler, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2013
Posted: 5 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2013
Over the past two decades, a growing number of human rights scholars and practitioners have focused on defining the content of the economic and social rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties. Numerous works now elaborate on the “minimum core content” of these rights, while others explore the idea of an “adequate” level of social rights, as explicitly guaranteed in the Universal Declaration. Both approaches define the content of economic and social rights in terms of a minimum threshold to which every person is entitled without regard for the overall equality in the enjoyment of these rights by the people within a society. There is mounting evidence, however, to indicate that more unequal societies have higher homicide rates; lower life expectancies; worse health outcomes; greater discrimination against women and racial minorities; and lower participation in elections. These dimensions correlate closely to human rights recognized in international human rights law, including the rights to life, health, nondiscrimination, personal security and political participation, suggesting that economic and social inequality adversely impacts on the enjoyment of human rights. In view of this evidence, this chapter considers whether the right to a social order in which all rights may be realized, guaranteed in article 28 of the Universal Declaration, demands some level of economic and social equality, just as it demands some level of civil and political equality.
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