Monday, July 08, 2019

Pompeo Announces New Commission on Inalienable Rights

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced today that he has created a Commission on Inalienable Rights which, he says, will engage in "one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration." He intends that the Commission engage in "an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy."

His statement sets out the reasons for creation of the new Commission:
Today the language of human rights has become the common vernacular for discussions of human freedom and dignity all around the world, and these are truly great achievements.
But we should never lose sight of the warnings of Vaclav Havel, a hero of the late-20th-century human rights movement, that words like “rights” can be used for good or evil; “they can be rays of light in a realm of darkness … [but] they can also be lethal arrows.” ...
It’s a sad commentary on our times that more than 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gross violations continue throughout the world, sometimes even in the name of human rights. International institutions designed and built to protect human rights have drifted from their original mission. As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another, provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect.
Pompeo outlined the issues he wants the new Commission to tackle:
I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity belong to us? Is it, in fact, true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings, we – all of us, every member of our human family – are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?
The Commission will be chaired by Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon.  Its other members include: Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen, and David Tse-Chien Pan.

Politico reports on the mixed reaction to Pompeo's announcement.