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Human Rights and Group Rights: He may think there can be a philosophical or moral and legal case for group rights but has yet to learn of a plausible version of same. Be that as it may, I want to offer an all-too-brief case on behalf of the normative necessity for a moral and legal concept and thus various conceptions of group or collective rights to supplement or complement current doctrines of individual human rights.
As a consequence, group rights are intrinsically linked to the idea of collective self-determination insofar as that has been denied to such peoples. They are an historical by-product of the sundry and sordid effects of the more fervid if not violent ethno-nationalist ideologies that motivated the genesis of particular nation-states around the planet.
None of this implies that a conception of group rights should trump individual human rights including the fundamental idea of human dignity which in several important respects is at the core of the notion of human rightsindeed, it might be morally and legally parasitic upon the latter, assuming the fundamental metaphysical and moral priority of human rights as conventionally understood.
Like human rights generally, they are subject to the constraints of political legitimacy and ultimately justice. Put more positively, this is the claim that the conception of justice appropriate for international law must include group rights, as well as individual rights.
In discussing the group right of self-determination, the UN Human Rights Committee distinguished this right from individual human rights: It is for that reason that States set forth the right of self-determination in a provision of positive law in both Covenants [above] and placed this provision as article 1 apart from and before all of the other rights in the two Covenants.
The common thread running through these worries is the threat that group rights may pose to individuals and their rights. Sometimes the concern is for those inside, and sometimes for those outside, the right-holding group.
One concern is that, if we give moral standing to groups as such, we shall lose sight of individuals within the group. If a group can have standing as a group independently of its individual members, those individuals will have no standing on any matter on which the relevant standing lies with the group.
On those matters, the separate wills of individuals cannot count. They will not be overridden; they will simply pass unrecognised.
When we concede that a group has rights, those may be rights that it holds against its own members and that it can use to regiment their lives. Thus, once again, the rights held and wielded by a group may be rights exercised at the expense of those who fall within it.
In one respect, that seems an unnecessarily invidious way of representing the relationship between groups and their members.
So why has there been so much angst about allowing that groups can have rights over their members? The answer is that, in recent years, group rights have been discussed primarily in relation to groups that have an involuntary membership: Concerns about the potential for oppression implicit in group rights often have an empirical dimension.
Demands for group rights are often looked upon most favourably when they are made by indigenous peoples, cultural minorities and religious groups whose way of life is threatened by external influences. But frequently, it is alleged, the real effect of conceding rights to these sorts of group is to reinforce the power of conservative elites whose wishes and interests clash with those of others in the group.
Typically, an elite will want to use its power to maintain the traditions and integrity of the group and will be unwilling to tolerate dissent, deviance and demands for reform.
It will also seek to maintain the position of those within the group who have traditionally been subordinate. In short, while according rights to a group may enhance the position of some of its members, it may seriously diminish the freedom and well-being of others.
One of the strongest motivations for ascribing rights to individual persons is to provide them with safeguards.
Individuals as individuals are vulnerable to those who wield power in all of its many forms and to the might of numbers. Individuals who hold unpopular views or who live unorthodox forms of life or whose existence proves tiresome or objectionable to others, are in constant danger of being crushed by the many who view them negatively.
When we give rights to individuals, we provide them with moral shields that protect them from the excesses of power, including the excesses of collective power. But, if we ascribe rights to groups as well as to individuals, we might find that the rights of individuals are met and overtaken by those of groups, so that rights lose their potency as safeguards for individuals.
We might fear that, when the rights of a mighty group conflict with those of a mere individual, it is Goliath rather than David who will more frequently emerge as the victor.
Group rights conceived collectively may seem less threatening to individuals than group rights conceived corporately. On the corporate conception a group has a moral standing independently of its members; the standing of the group can therefore displace that of its individual members so that their separate wills or interests or voices as individuals count for nothing.
By contrast a collective right is held jointly by the individuals who make up the collectivity and is grounded in the standing and interests of those individuals.
Thus, on the collective conception, there can be no question of individuals disappearing morally into a group in which they cease to have any independent status. It is possible to invest individual rights with a content that would make them unsavoury, but that would not discredit the very idea of individual rights; similarly, the possibility that we might find some group rights objectionable is no reason to dismiss group rights altogether.
Secondly, it would seem strangely arbitrary, given the moral significance that we give to rights, to insist that the objects of rights can be only goods that individuals can enjoy as independent individuals and never goods they can enjoy only in association with others.
Some theorists of rights seem to think just that. But we cannot take for granted that no good, whose shared nature was such that it could be the possible object only of a group right, could ever have the significance that would justify its actually being the object of a right.
Thirdly, there is no reason why individual rights and group rights should not both figure in our moral thinking.In addition the essays in this volume address current debates on the fundamental issue of defining a minority, the complex arguments for expanding existing definitions and the legitimacy of claims by specific groups to qualify for minority status.
determination, respectively Self-determination and rights of minorities were linked in the legal arrangements accompanying nine- teenth-century examples of nations becoming States.
Self–determination – Wikipedia –determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law Neither does it state what the delimitation between peoples should be nor what constitutes a people.
Donnelly argues, for example, that the "people's" right to self-determination is an unnecessary right on the grounds that insofar as societies respect individual rights, the right to self-determination is virtually guar- anteed.
As Patrick Thornberry states in his definitive International Law and the Rights of Minorities, "Formally speaking. 5 Nazila Ghanea & Alexandra Xanthaki, (eds.) Minorities, Peoples, and Self-Determination: Essays in Honour of Patrick Thornberry (Leiden ; Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, ).
Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of report together with minority views (to accompany H.R.
) (including cost estimate of .