"Project 2048": Restatement of the Law of Human Rights

Promoting the "Project 2048", the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) organized two side-events during the Human Rights Council's 16 session on 11 and 12 March 2011.  The panels were hosted in cooperation with Berkeley University under the title:  "Berkeley University's Project 2048 and the International Court of Human Rights" at the Palais des Nations, United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Among participiants were Professor Alfred de Zayas (ISHR, Geneva), Professor Bruna Molina (Webster University), Professor Carlos Villan-Duran (Universidad de Alcala de Henares, Justice Jakob Th. Möller (Iceland), Professor Joshua Cooper (University of Hawaii), Hillaire Bell (Cameroon).

The Panels on 10 and 11 March dealt with the "Restatement of the Law of Human Rights" undertaken by Berkeley University's Project 2048 (www.2048.berkeley.edu).

Human dignity is the source of all human rights, which must be interpreted in its light and ultimately serve human dignity as the all-encomapssing right. No codification of human rights has ever been complete, and the absence of a human right in any given list does not mean that the right does not exist. Thus, for instance,  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) only has thirty articles.  It is silent on the right of minorities, on the fundamental right to one's own identity, to be exactly who we are and to reach our potential through the exercise of other human rights, such as the right to access to information. Nor does the UDHR stipulate the human right to peace, a right which is obviously indispensable for the enjoyment of all other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Because no positivistic list of human rights is exhaustive, we have witnessed the on-going process of standard setting over the past 63 years, as numerous new Conventions and Declarations have been adopted. Positive codification is important, because it serves the purpose of more clearly identifying the particular expression of human dignity that  must be protected by law, which must be ensured by States and which individuals can directly invoke before the local courts.

Recently the civil society has launched a campaign to codify the human right to peace, and an important workshop of experts was hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, leading to the adoption of a resolution in the Human Rights Council conferring the task to the Advisory Committee to start the formal process of defining this right in its individual and collective manifestations. Another civil society initiative is Berkeley University's Project 2048 which aims at a restatement of the law of human rights, abandoning the artificial distinction of so-called first, second and third generation rights, and regrouping all rights under the umbrella of human dignity and reorganizing them functionally into enabling rights, like the right to peace, immanent rights like the right to equality, and end rights like the right to identity.

Human dignity must be understood as the over-arching principle, in the sense of article 38, paragraph 1c, of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, which identifies "general principles of law" as a fundamental source of law.