Born With Equal Rights?
"All human being are born and created equal in dignity and rights," states Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but does that hold true in our modern world?
We’ve all heard about the concept of “freedom of movement”, and if asked whether or not we believed it exists, most of us would say “yes”. In fact, if I was asked this before having deeply thought about it – I would also have given a positive answer. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be correct.
First of all, lets establish a common understanding of “freedom of movement”. If freedom (according to the Oxford dictionary) is the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity; the state of being unrestricted and to move easily, then freedom of movement should be understood as the power to determine where to move and where to live, independence in using such power and possibility to move to any place easily.
Still, such freedom of movement is not enjoyed by any person in the world. Wherever you live and whatever passport you hold – there is always a country which you cannot easily travel to for a visit, not to mention for work or to take up permanent residence. There are always countries for which you need to obtain a visa.
So, why were the visas imposed in the first place? To me, this question relates to the existence of borders. Borders are (according to Wikipedia) “geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as government, sovereign states, federal states, and other subnational entities. Borders are established through agreements between political or social entities that control those areas”. Hence, borders have something to do with states, governments and politics but not with the people and their rights. Isn’t it strange? It is declaredthat human rights are the most valuable rights that should be prioritized before anything else while in fact we can see that they are not.
For now, let’s leave aside the issue of borders and turn to the human rights.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights! Are we? In terms of work opportunities some people are “more equal than the other”. This expression is used in Russia with sarcasm to show that while everyone is equal by law, on practice it is not always the case. Do we really want such “rule” to be applicable to the whole world? Probably not. We all would like to live in the world where your rights do not depend on your physical or financial strength, race, religion, place of birth, sex etc. But if so, why people born in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Belarus and many other countries do not have the right to fly to have dinner at Hummer und Austerbar in Zurich as, for example, any English man has. How did it happen that in 21st century people’s rights depend on place of birth?
The answer lies in the fact that human rights stopped evolving to mirror the current state of the world and the needs of its people. The great achievements in this field were made after World War II: United Nations was formed, Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed, followed by implementation of its provisions into national laws. These treaties, acknowledged by most countries in the world less than a century ago, started to be looked at as some kind of dogma or a sacred cow. When discussion starts on the freedom of movement and its connection to the violation of human rights, opponents often refer to article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights which talks about freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state but not worldwide. Opposers like to point out that since there is freedom of movement within your respective country – why should there be one across the world? Yes, of course, the article limits the freedom of movement by state borders, but it does not have to stay this way forever. In 1948 when the declaration was passed this provision was very progressive. Many countries, including, for example, the Soviet Union, where I happened to be born, did not allow citizens to move freely by implementing the so called “propiska” or depriving agricultural workers (“kolkhozniki”) of internal passport necessary for travel within that country.
Well, the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago. And, even though some try to reincarnate several of its’ inhumane, derogatory, and undignified practices, such regime is binding to be deadly not only in Russia but in all parts of our planet. The world has changed. It takes minutes before news about an event in Africa or Asia spreads around all meridians; and it only takes moments to get in touch with our friends that are scattered across the world. The borders are falling apart naturally and if there are no borders, there is no question about limitation on movement. We all need to go forward, face and deal with the new agenda, eliminate any discrimination and finally create a truly equal world.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention of Human Rights, Constitution of Russian Federation.
Assignment to particular place of living.
This article first appeared on the TK Law Advise blog.