The Origins of the Right to Science: the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man
The Right to Science: Then and Now, Cambridge University Press, Porsdam H. and S. Porsdam Mann (eds.) (forthcoming 2021)
25 Pages Posted: 2 May 2020
Date Written: April 27, 2020
To be published in Porsdam H. and S. Porsdam Mann (eds.), The Right to Science: Then and Now, Cambridge University Press, 2021. This chapter tells the story of the drafting and adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948), and in particular of its provisions on the “right to science” and the “rights of science”-- that is to say the human rights that are most crucial for the work of scientists and inventors, such as freedom of thought, academic freedom, intellectual property and others.
The American Declaration is the first broad and detailed enumeration of human rights to be adopted by an intergovernmental organization. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is hailed as the founding document of international human rights, it is often forgotten that it was preceded and inspired by the American Declaration. While the Universal and the American declarations were largely drafted in parallel, the drafting of the American Declaration was always a couple of steps ahead. The American Declaration was completed before the second round of drafting of the Universal Declaration, and was adopted on 2 May 1948, almost eight months before the Universal Declaration (10 December 1948). There is no doubt that the American Declaration heavily influenced the drafting process and final wording of the universal one.
Thus, if one were to pinpoint a day and place where the “right to science” was born, it would be on 31 December 1945, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. On that day, the Inter-American Juridical Committee adopted the first draft of the future American Declaration. In it, they described a new human right, never articulated before: the right to benefit from progress in science and technology, also known more succinctly as “the right to science”. Although reworded and re-elaborated, the right survived two drafts and the negotiating process to end up in Article XIII of the American Declaration. In turn, that provided the essential wording for Article 27.1 of the Universal Declaration, which then led to Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and several other human rights treaties and declarations.
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