INFO on Values and Responsibilities

We should start with the re-examination of the Humanity’s system of values, e.g. those present in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is nearly 70 years old. Do these values need to be amended and the scope broadened? This is the question that has been examined by a number of philosophers and academic institutions, among them by the Future of Humanity Institute. Some of their work has already been embedded in important documents such as the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU in 2009.

It is obvious that we should begin with the new meaning of the three core principles underpinning the western democracy, established during the French revolution: liberté, fraternité, égalité. What does freedom really mean? People in western countries take it for granted that we are all born free. But that is not a universally accepted truth. In some countries, like in Iran or Saudi Arabia, which are religious states, a person is not born free, he belongs to God and thus his freedom is constrained by religion, which he cannot change under death penalty. Or, how could North Korea accept the western version of freedom? The same goes for equality. In an authoritarian or plain dictatorship regime, there is hardly any sense of equality either in material or status-related sense. But even in western democracies the question arises what do these values really mean in practice. Is freedom or equality defined as an absolute value, without any constraint? And if there are any constraints, then what is their justification, or the boundary of expressing one’s freedom. What is the authority that defines those constraints – the state or judiciary? If this authority is the state, then how will it acquire such powers – through referendum or parliamentary elections or as part of the referendum on voting the new Constitution?

We also need new values e.g. on sanctity of life in whatever form, including non-human intelligence? We would need that in order to identify key changes to the democratic system, which is largely based on those values and rights. Furthermore, why is there not a single word in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that would define our responsibilities? We need this, to balance citizens’ rights with their responsibilities. These include, for example, protection of the environment and adhering to ethical standards that would be beyond the legal system, such as good neighbourhood behaviour, not abusing the benefits system, aligning oneself with the country’s values (“waving the flag”) or participation in elections.

We would also need to redefine the coexistence of the majority and minorities in a society and their respective rights. What are the limits imposed by the majority on the minorities? After all, the rule of majority reflects only one aspect of justice that may create at the same time, as many other democratic principles do, other injustices.

These are all the questions that need to be answered when redefining the Universal Values of Humanity. If the EU starts acting at some stage as the European Federation then it must consider the questions of values from the point of view of the whole Humanity. These redefined Universal Values of Humanity should be the basis for the new EU Constitution, which effectively will become the Constitution of Humanity. The reason for that is that there is probably no other practical way to get the agreement on the Universal Values of Humanity by all nations, e.g. members of the UN. Just the very act of establishing a new body that would have created and approved such a Constitution would have taken many years. Even if such a new body to redefine Universal Human Values is somehow established, there could be no realistic prospect that it would ever come to an agreement because it is precisely the difference in the interpretation and more importantly, practice of some core human values, such as freedom, which would make such an agreement impossible to ratify by all nations. That, by the same token, also excludes the existing organisations such as the International Court of Justice.

Anybody who has been watching the UN ineffectiveness in resolving many conflicts like the most recent war in Syria, Iraq or in the 1990’ in Yugoslavia (the massacre of Srebrenica that was supposedly be under the protection of the UN), will probably have the same view that an organisation such as UN is too ineffective in passing such a new charter. In this area, UN is probably polarised more than at any other time. To get an agreement by all nations on Universal Values of Humanity and subsequently on the ‘Constitution of Humanity’ would probably never happen, mainly because top human values are dependent so much on culture and religion.

Therefore, it should rather be an existing organisation such as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whose judgements are applied within a more uniform cultural area, than the International Court of Justice. It is the ECJ, which should take upon itself the task of re-defining Universal Human Values, creating a proposal for a new constitution, which could one day become the Constitution of Humanity. Such an EU constitution would of course cover other areas of political and social order that would need to be ratified by the EU citizens.

Then the next question is what would be the binding legal scope of such a Constitution. In my view, if it is to become the Humanity’s Constitution at some stage, i.e. applied to all humans, it should have extraterritorial and supranational powers. In this respect, the role of the European Court of Justice should be seen as transient and as soon as possible a new International Constitutional Court should be created that would have an oversight role pertaining to individual countries’ constitutions. In that way, through countries’ constitutions, universal human values would be implemented around the globe. Unfortunately, this is a much longer perspective than one generation. Therefore, we will mainly be talking about Europe as the first continent to adopt such universal values.