A WORLD FEDERATION – Chapter 3– Human Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed.” Thomas Jefferson, 1776

1 Adoption by the UN General Assembly

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 48 nations voted for adoption, while 8 nations abstained from voting. Not a single state voted against the Declaration. In addition, the General Assembly decided to continue work on the problem of implementing human rights. The preamble of the Declaration stated that it was intended “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.”

Articles 1 and 2 of the Declaration state that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights”, and that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms mentioned in the Declaration without distinctions of any kind. Neither race color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or social origin must make a difference. The Declaration states that everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person and property. Slavery and the slave trade are prohibited, as well as torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments.

All people must be equal before the law, and no person must be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. In criminal proceedings an accused person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty by an impartial public hearing where all necessary provisions have been made for the defense of the accused. No one shall be subjected to interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Attacks on an individual’s honor are also forbidden. Everyone has the right of freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a state, the right to leave any country, including his own, as well as the right to return to his own country. Every person has the right to a nationality and cannot be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality. All people of full age have a right to marry and to establish a family. Men and women have equal rights within a marriage and at its dissolution, if this takes place. Marriage must require the full consent of both parties.

The Declaration also guarantees freedom of religion, of conscience, and of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Everyone is entitled to participate in his or her own government, either directly or through democratically chosen representatives. Governments must be based on the will of the people, expressed in periodic and genuine elections with universal and equal suffrage. Voting must be secret. Everyone has the right to the economic, social and cultural conditions needed for dignity and free development of personality. The right to work is affirmed. The job shall be of a person’s own choosing, with favorable conditions of work, and remuneration consistent with human dignity, supplemented if necessary with social support. All workers have the right to form and to join trade unions. Article 25 of the Declaration states that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing, housing and medical care, together with social services. All people have the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood or old age.

Expectant mothers are promised special care and assistance, and children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. Everyone has the right to education, which shall be free in the elementary stages. Higher education shall be accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education must be directed towards the full development of the human personality and to strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education must promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups, and it must further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

A supplementary document, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 12th of December, 1989. Furthermore, in July 2010, the General Assembly passed a resolution affirming that everyone has the right to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. Many provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example Article 25, might be accused of being wishful thinking. In fact, Jean Kirkpatrick, former US Ambassador to the UN, called the Declaration “a letter to Santa Claus”. Nevertheless, like the Millennium Development Goals, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has great value in defining the norms towards which the world ought to be striving. It is easy to find many examples of gross violations of basic human rights that have taken place in recent years.

Apart from human rights violations connected with interventions of powerful industrial states in the internal affairs of third world countries, there are many cases where governmental forces in the less developed countries have violated the human rights of their own citizens. Often minority groups have been killed or driven off their land by those who coveted the land, as was the case in Guatemala in 1979, when 1.5 million poor Indian farmers were forced to abandon their villages and farms and to flee to the mountains of Mexico in order to escape murderous attacks by government soldiers. The blockade of Gaza and the use of drones to kill individuals illegally must also be regarded as gross human rights violations, and there are many recent examples of genocide. Wars in general, and in particular, the use of nuclear weapons, must be regarded as gross violations of human rights. The most basic human right is the right to life; but this is right routinely violated in wars. Most of the victims of recent wars have been civilians, very often children and women.

The use of nuclear weapons must be regarded as a form of genocide, since they kill people indiscriminately, babies, children, young adults in their prime, and old people, without any regard for guilt or innocence. Furthermore, recent research shows that a war fought with nuclear weapons would be an ecological disaster. Smoke from burning cities would rise to the stratosphere, where it would spread globally and remain for a period of 10 years, blocking sunlight, destroying the the ozone layer, and blocking the hydrological cycle. An all-out war with thermonuclear weapons would essentially destroy all agriculture for such a long period that most humans would die from starvation.

The damage to the biosphere would also be enormous. We may ask: by what right do the nuclear nations threaten the world with a disaster of these proportions? Would not a war fought with nuclear weapons be the greatest imaginable violation of human rights? We should remember that both war in general and the use of nuclear weapons in particular violate democratic principles: The vast majority of ordinary citizens prefer peace to war, and the vast majority also long for a world without nuclear weapons.

It is plain that if the almost unbelievable sums now wasted on armaments were used constructively, most of the pressing problems facing the world today could be solved; but today the world spends more that 20 times as much on armaments as it does on development. Today’s world is one in which roughly 10 million children die every year from diseases related to poverty. Besides this enormous waste of young lives through malnutrition and preventable disease, there is a huge waste of opportunities through inadequate education. The rate of illiteracy in the 25 least developed countries is 80%, and the total number of illiterates in the world is estimated to be 800 million. Meanwhile every 60 seconds the world spends roughly 3 million dollars on armaments. The millions who are starving have a right to food. The millions of illiterates have a right to education. By preferring armaments to development, we deny them these rights. It is time for civil society to make its voice heard. Politicians are easily influenced by lobbies and by money, but in the last analysis they have to listen to the voice of the people. We have seen this recently in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. We should try to learn from the courage of the people of these countries who have defied guns and tanks to demand their human rights. No single person can achieve the changes that we need, but together we can do it: together we can build the world that we choose.

No one living today asked to be born in a time of crisis, but the global crisis of the 21st century has given each of us an enormous responsibility: We cannot merely leave things up to the politicians, as we have been doing. The future is in our own hands: the hands of the people, the hands of civil society. This is not a time for building private utopias or cultivating our own gardens. Today everyone has two jobs: Of course we have to earn a living, but in addition, all of us have the duty to work actively, to the best of our abilities, to save humanity’s future and the biosphere.


Figure 1: Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt with their first two children. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was the niece of US President Theodore Roosevelt. After marrying her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she served as First Lady during his four terms as US President. She also served as US Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1953. Harry Truman called her “First Lady of the World” in recognition of her achievements in the field of human rights. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She later chaired John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Eleanor Roosevelt is also remembered as an outstanding advocate of racial equality, economic and social justice, and journalistic freedom.

eleanor roosevelt

Figure 2: Eleanor Roosevelt on a commemorative stamp.

charles malik

Figure 3: A photo of Charles Malik with Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he worked to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

freedom of speech

Figure 4: Freedom of Speech, one of a series of four paintings by Norman Rockwell.

freedo of worship

Figure 5: Freedom of Worship, one of the Norman Rockwell paintings illustrating Franklin D Roosevelt’s January 1941 speech on the Four Freedoms.

freedom from want

Figure 6: Freedom From Want

freedom from fear

Figure 7: Freedom From Fear.

2 Human rights versus national sovereignty

In the present United Nations Charter there is a logical inconsistency between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the idea of absolutely sovereign nation-states on which the present Charter is based. If human rights are violated within a nation, does the international community have the right and the duty to intervene? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “yes”. The principle of absolute national sovereignty says “no”. This dilemma could be avoided by making the United Nations into a federation, and following the procedures by which existing federations, such as the European Union, secure the human rights of their citizens.

3 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Wikipedia states that “The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20 November 1989 (the 30th anniversary of its Declaration of the Rights of the Child). It came into force on 2 September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Currently, 196 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except the United States.” There is a great need for the legal protection of children. Today, child labor accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, and 17% in Latin America. Large-scale slavery also exists today, although there are formal laws against it in every country. There are more slaves now than ever before – their number is estimated to be between 12 million and 27 million.

Besides outright slaves, who are bought and sold for as little as 100 dollars, there many millions of workers whose lack of options and dreadful working conditions must be described as slavelike. Here is an excerpt from Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize lecture: “…Dear sisters and brothers, today, in half of the world, we see rapid progress and development. However, there are many countries where millions still suffer from the very old problems of war, poverty, and injustice. “We still see conflicts in which innocent people lose their lives and children become orphans. We see many people becoming refugees in Syria, Gaza and Iraq. In Afghanistan, we see families being killed in suicide attacks and bomb blasts. “Many children in Africa do not have access to education because of poverty. And as I said, we still see, we still see girls who have no freedom to go to school in the north of Nigeria. “Many children in countries like Pakistan and India, as Kailash Satyarthi mentioned, many children, especially in India and Pakistan are deprived of their right to education because of social taboos, or they have been forced into child marriage or into child labor. “…Dear sisters and brothers, dear fellow children, we must work – not wait. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. We. It is our duty.

“Let us become the first generation to decide to be the last , let us become the first generation that decides to be the last that sees empty classrooms, lost childhoods, and wasted potentials. Let this be the last time that a girl or a boy spends their childhood in a factory. Let this be the last time that a girl is forced into early child marriage. Let this be the last time that a child loses life in war. Let this be the last time that we see a child out of school. Let this end with us. Let’s begin this ending … together … today … right here, right now. Let’s begin this ending now.” The treatment of immigrant children by the Trump Administration if the United States must also be seen as a gross violation of the Rights of the Child.

4 The struggle for women’s rights

Experts agree that higher status for women. higher education for women, and jobs outside the home are key steps that are needed to stabilize global population. Moreover, these reforms are highly desirable for their own sake, for the sake of justice and equality, and for the sake of the uniquely life-oriented vision that women can give us. In this chapter, we review some of the historical steps in this direction, staring with Mary Wollstonecraft’s book Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Vindication of the Rights of Woman

While in France, Mary Wollstonecraft had written An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, which was published in London in 1794. She also wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and Vindication of the Rights of Man (1792). Both of these were replies to Edmund Burke’s argument for conservatism, Reflection on the Revolution in France. In her book on the rights of women, Mary wrote: “My main argument is built on this simple principle, that if [woman] be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all”, Wollstonecraft contends that society will degenerate without educated women, particularly because mothers are the primary educators of young children. She attributes the problem of uneducated women to men and ”…a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who [consider] females rather as women than human creatures” “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison” “I then would fain convince reasonable men of the importance of some of my remarks; and prevail on them to weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations. I appeal to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature, claim, in the name of my sex, some interest in their hearts. I entreat them to assist to emancipate their companion, to make her a help meet for them! Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers: in a word, better citizens. ”

Votes for women

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)

The daughter of politically active parents, Emmeline was introduced to the campaign for women’s suffrage at the age of 14. In 1879 she married Richard Pankhurst. He was a barrister, sympathetic to the cause of votes for women, and 24 years older than she.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Figure 8: Mary Wollstonecraft in a painting by John Opie. She was the author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Of the five children born to the marriage Emmeline and Richard’s daughters Christobel and Sylvia became active in the fight for the political rights of women. In 1903, a year after the death of her husband, Emmeline Pankhurst founded what was to become the most radical and controversial branch of the campaign for women’s rights: the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). This organization, consisting entirely of women, believed that little progress would be made through polite requests for reform. Therefore WSPU members chained themselves to railings, broke the windows of prominent buildings, set fire to postboxes, attacked policemen, and, when arrested, went on hunger strikes. The hunger striking women were force-fed, their jaws being held open by steel clamps and tubes forced down their throats. Of course newspapers reported all of this, and debate about the issues reached a high pitch. After World War I, the Representation of the People Act of 1918 extended the right to vote to men over 21, and to women property owners over 30.

Women’s political rights in other countries

According to the Wikipedia article on Woman’s Suffrage, “The first European country to introduce women’s suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland, then part of the Russian Empire, which elected the world’s first women Members of Parliament in the 1907 parliamentary elections. Norway followed, granting full women’s suffrage in 1913. Denmark followed in 1915, and the Soviet Union followed in 1917. “Most independent countries enacted women’s suffrage in the inter-war era, including Canada in 1917, Britain (over 30 in 1918, over 21 in 1928), Germany, Poland in 1918, Austria and the Netherlands in 1919, and the United States in 1920 (Voting Rights Act of 1965 secured voting rights for racial minorities)… “Late adopters in Europe were Spain in 1933, France in 1944, Italy in 1946, Greece in 1952,[12] San Marino in 1959, Monaco in 1962, Andorra in 1970, Switzerland in 1971 at federal level, and at local canton level between 1959 in the cantons of Vaud and Neuchatel and 1991 in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden,[16] and Liechtenstein in 1984.

In addition, although women in Portugal obtained suffrage in 1931, this was with stronger restrictions than those of men; full gender equality in voting was only granted in 1976… “The last Latin American country to give women the right to vote was Paraguay in 1961. In December 2015, women were first allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia (municipal elections). “Extended political campaigns by women and their supporters have generally been necessary to gain legislation or constitutional amendments for women’s suffrage. In many countries, limited suffrage for women was granted before universal suffrage for men; for instance, literate women or property owners were granted suffrage before all men received it. The United Nations encouraged women’s suffrage in the years following World War II, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) identifies it as a basic right with 189 countries currently being parties to this Convention.”

emmeline pakhurst

Figure 9: Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928). In 1999, Time Magazine named Emmeline Pankhurst as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century, noting that “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”.

votes for women

Figure 10: A WSPU poster by Hilda Davis, 1909.

annie kennedy

Figure 11: Annie Kenney and Emmeline Pankhurst’s daughter, Christobel. When World War I broke out, both Emmeline and Christobel Pankhurst halted their protests and supported conscription and the war effort. By contrast, Sylvia opposed the war. When the war was over, the Representation of the People Act of 1918 extended the right to vote to men over 21, and to women property owners over 30. The discrepancy between men and women was intended to ensure that women did not become a majority.

sylvia pankhurst

Figure 12: Sylvia Pankhurst in 1910. She wanted the suffragette movement to be explicitly on the side of the Labour Party, and broke with her family on this issue. She was also opposed to war. In 1915, Sylvia Pankhurst gave her enthusiastic support to the International Woman’s Peace Congress, which was held in the Hague.


Figure 13: A suffragette who has chained herself to a railing.

arrest of suffregette

Figure 14: The arrest of a suffragette.


Figure 15: Malala Yousafzai: “We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced”.

women equality

Figure 16: Women are the intellectual equals of men.

olaf palme

Figure 17: When he was Sweden’s Prime Minister, Olaf Palme declared that his administration’s goal was that “neither in education, nor in opportunities for employment, nor in law, nor in social custom, should there be any difference whatever between men and women”.

womens equality

Figure 18: Experts agree that educational and legal equality for women are vitally important steps towards stabilizing, and ultimately reducing, global population. These reforms are also extremely important for their own sake, and for the sake of the uniquely life-oriented insights that women can give to the world.

5 Water as a human right

Lester Brown’s lecture in Copenhagen

After a lecture at the University of Copenhagen in the 1980’s, Lester R. Brown of the Earth Policy Institute was asked which resource would be the first to become critically scarce. Everyone in the audience expected him to say “oil”, but instead he said “fresh water”. He went on to explain that falling water tables in China would soon make China unable to feed its population. This would not cause famine in China itself because of the strength of the Chinese economy, which would allow the Chinese to purchase grain on the world market. However, shortages of fresh water in China would indeed cause famine, for example in Africa, because Chinese demand for grain would raise prices on the world market beyond the ability of poor countries to pay.

Predictions of drought in the Stern Review

According to a report presented to the Oxford Institute of Economic Policy by Sir Nicholas Stern on 31 January, 2006, areas likely to lose up to 30% of their rainfall by the 2050’s because of climate change include much of the United States, Brazil, the Mediterranean region, Eastern Russia and Belarus, the Middle East, Southern Africa and Southern Australia. Meanwhile rainfall is predicted to increase up to 30% in Central Africa, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Siberia, and much of China. Stern and his team point out that “We can… expect to see changes in the Indian monsoon, which could have a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Most climate models suggest that the monsoon will change, although there is still uncertainty about exactly how. Nevertheless, small changes in the monsoon could have a huge impact.

Today, a fluctuation of just 10% in either direction from average monsoon rainfall is known to cause either severe flooding or drought. A weak summer monsoon, for example, can lead to poor harvests and food shortages among the rural population – two-thirds of India’s almost 1.1 billion people. Heavier-than-usual monsoon downpours can also have devastating consequences…” In some regions, melting of glaciers can be serious from the standpoint of dry-season water supplies. For example, melts from glaciers in the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas now supply much of Asia, including China and India, with a dry-season water supply. Complete melting of these glacial systems would cause an exaggerated runoff for a few decades, after which there would be a drying out of some of the most densely populated regions of the world. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) was recognized as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 July 2010. … It stated: “The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.”

lester brown

Figure 19: Lester R. Brown

clean water

Figure 20: We all need clean water to survive.

maude barlow

Figure 21: Maude Barlow (born 1947). The Wikipedia article on her states that she is a “Canadian author and activist. She is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, a citizens’ advocacy organization with members and chapters across Canada. She is also the co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, which works internationally for the human right to water. Maude chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch, is a founding member of the San Francisco-based International Forum on Globalization, and a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly and was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right by the UN. She has authored and co-authored 16 books.” Maude Barlow’s work on the issue of water is especially important because fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce throughout the world.

Thirst for Profit: Corporate Control of Water in Latin America

Here are some excerpts from an article by Lisa Bascov-Ellen, published of June 19, 2009 by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs:

The Corporate Crusade to Commodify Water

“Water has been characterized as the oil of the 21st century. Blue gold. It is essential to life, and yet humanity faces a growing water crisis as a result of severe mismanagement in water and sanitation, which will be exponentially exacerbated in the coming decades by population growth combined with declining resources. Latin America has the greatest income disparity in the world and the population’s access to water reflects this inequality. Over 130 million people living in the region do not have access to potable water in their homes, and sanitation is in even poorer condition, as it is estimated that only one in six persons has adequate sanitation services.

According to the 2007 Annual Report from the nonprofit organization Water For People, Every day, nearly 6,000 people who share our world die from water-related illnesses – more than 2 million each year – and the vast majority of these are children… There are more lives lost each year to water-related illnesses than to natural disasters and wars combined.’ It is clear that lack of access to clean water is a serious issue, one that has only started to gain international attention from a variety of organizations in recent years… “The struggle over water is certainly not a new phenomenon.

Wide-scale water privatization began in the 1990s and was often stipulated as a condition for assistance from international financial aid institutions, primarily the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Since then, there has been ongoing conflict over water management, with Latin America at the center of many of the models for resistance and restructuring. These water-related conflicts, popularly referred to as ‘water wars’, gained international attention a decade ago. The expulsion of water giant Bechtel by the citizens of the Bolivian city Cochabamba marked the beginning of a greater resistance to water privatization and commercialization in Latin America.

Given the failures of privatization and neoliberal policies in Latin America, it should not come as a surprise that the people are objecting to the commodification of this basic human need… “In Cochabamba, after Bechtel was installed, it quickly raised rates by an average of 35% (and in some cases as much as 200%), which was far outside the budget of the city’s poor and would have left many without access to water. Licenses were even required for individuals to collect rainwater from their roofs, and people were charged for water taken from their own wells… “Protests escalated to the point that the Bolivian government declared a state of martial law, and eventually the company was forced to abandon their operations in the country.”

6 The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, September 13th. 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against,and 11 abstentions. The UN describes it as setting “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool toward eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people, and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalisation.” Article 8 of the Declaration states that:

  1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

  2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

rights of indigenous peoples

As has always been the case, the rights of indigenous peoples are threatened by the greed of militarily powerful invaders who want the land on which they live. In this context Article 8.2.b of the Declaration is particularly important. The recent election of Jair Bolsinaro to the Presidency of Brazil has brought these issues into special focus. He is a fascist, a racist and an advocate of the violent seizure of indigenous lands for the purpose of commercial exploitation. Besides violating indigenous rights, the destruction of the Amazon’s rain forests would contribute significantly to the danger of catastrophic climate change.

7 The Rights of Mother Earth

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

This conference took place in Tiquipaya, just outside the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, from April 19-22, 2010. The event was attended by around 30,000 people from over 100 countries. It was hosted by the Bolivian government, and the proceedings were transmitted online by the organizations OneClimate and Global Campaign for Climate Action. One of the outstanding results of the conference was the drafting of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, modeled on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both Declarations might be criticized for being unrealistic, but both have great normative value. They define the goals towards which we ought to be striving.

Proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth


We, the peoples and nations of Earth:

• considering that we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny; • gratefully acknowledging that Mother Earth is the source of life, nourishment and learning and provides everything we need to live well;

• recognizing that the capitalist system and all forms of depredation, exploitation, abuse and contamination have caused great destruction, degradation and disruption of Mother Earth, putting life as we know it today at risk through phenomena such as climate change;

• convinced that in an interdependent living community it is not possible to recognize the rights of only human beings without causing an imbalance within Mother Earth;

• affirming that to guarantee human rights it is necessary to recognize and defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings in her and that there are existing cultures, practices and laws that do so;

• conscious of the urgency of taking decisive, collective action to transform structures and systems that cause climate change and other threats to Mother Earth;

• proclaim this Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, and call on the General Assembly of the United Nation to adopt it, as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations of the world, and to the end that every individual and institution takes responsibility for promoting through teaching, education, and consciousness raising, respect for the rights recognized in this Declaration and ensure through prompt and progressive measures and mechanisms, national and international, their universal and effective recognition and observance among all peoples and States in the world.

Article 1: Mother Earth

  1. Mother Earth is a living being.

  2. Mother Earth is a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.

  3. Each being is defined by its relationships as an integral part of Mother Earth.

  4. The inherent rights of Mother Earth are inalienable in that they arise from the same source as existence.

  5. Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as may be made between organic and inorganic beings, species, origin, use to human beings, or any other status.

  6. Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.

  7. The rights of each being are limited by the rights of other beings and any conflict between their rights must be resolved in a way that maintains the integrity, balance and health of Mother Earth.

Article 2. Inherent Rights of Mother Earth

  1. Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights:

(a) the right to life and to exist;

(b) the right to be respected;

(c) the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions;

(d) the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being;

(e) the right to water as a source of life;

(f) the right to clean air;

(g) the right to integral health;

(h) the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste;

(i) the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning;

(j) the right to full and prompt restoration the violation of the rights recognized in this Declaration caused by human activities;

  1. Each being has the right to a place and to play its role in Mother Earth for her harmonious functioning.

  2. Every being has the right to wellbeing and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by human beings.

Article 3. Obligations of human beings to Mother Earth

  1. Every human being is responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth.

  2. Human beings, and all States guarantee peace and eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;

(a) act in accordance with the rights and obligations recognized in this Declaration;

(b) recognize and promote the full implementation and enforcement of the rights and obligations recognized in this Declaration;

(c) promote and participate in learning, analysis, interpretation and communication about how to live in harmony with Mother Earth in accordance with this Declaration;

earth mother

Figure 22: The earth is our mother.

mother earth

Figure 23: Love and respect Mother Earth.

(d) ensure that the pursuit of human wellbeing contributes to the wellbeing of Mother Earth, now and in the future;

(e) establish and apply effective norms and laws for the defense, protection and conservation of the rights of Mother Earth;

(f) respect, protect, conserve and where necessary, restore the integrity, of the vital ecological cycles, processes and balances of Mother Earth;

(g) guarantee that the damages caused by human violations of the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration are rectified and that those responsible are held accountable for restoring the integrity and health of Mother Earth;

(h) empower human beings and institutions to defend the rights of Mother Earth and of all beings;

(i) establish precautionary and restrictive measures to prevent human activities from causing species extinction, the destruction of ecosystems or the disruption of ecological cycles;

(j) guarantee peace and eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;

(k) promote and support practices of respect for Mother Earth and all beings, in accordance with their own cultures, traditions and customs;

(l) promote economic systems that are in harmony with Mother Earth and in accordance with the rights recognized in this Declaration.

mother earth1

Figure 24: We need reverence for all life, and even reverence for inanimate nature. We need respect and love for Mother Earth. She will return out love.

Article 4: Definitions

  1. The term “being” includes ecosystems, natural communities, species and all other natural entities which exist as part of Mother Earth.

  2. Nothing in this Declaration restricts the recognition of other inherent rights of all beings or specified beings.

Suggestions for further reading

  1. Lise Busck Jensen, The First Manifesto of the Woman’s Movement, https://nordicwomensliterature.net/2011/10/06/thefirst-manifesto-of-the-womens-movement/

  2. E. Sylvia Pankhurst, The Sufferegette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals, (1931)

  3. Christobel Pankhurst, Ubshakeled: The Story of How We Won The Vote, (1959)

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  5. Elizabeth Robins, Votes for Women, (1907).

  6. Tracy Chevalier, Falling Angesls, (2001).

  7. Joyce Marlow (editor), Votes for Women: The Virago Book of Sufferagettes, (2001).

  8. Ian McDonald, Vindication! A Postcard History of the Woman’s Movement, (1989)

  9. Kate Charlsworth and Brian Talbot, Sally Heathcote, Sufferagette, (2014).

  10. Diane Atkinson The Sufferagetts in Pictures, (2010).

  11. Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism and the Climate, Simon and Schuster, New York, (2014).

  12. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Knopf Canida, (2007).

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  14. Noam Chomsky, Democracy and Power: The Delhi Lectures, Open Book Publishers, (2014).

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  16. Noam Chomsky, Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe, Seven Stories Press, New York, (2013).

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A freely downloadable book

A new 418-page book entitled “A World Federation” may be downloaded and circulated gratis from the following link:


John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. During his tenure The Pugwash Movement won a nobel peace prize.  Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988-1997).

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