In policy and legal circles, human rights and human well-being are often referred to as "universal" concepts. The human rights outlined in the 1946 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) have been viewed as the embodiment of fundamental international standards for human well-being. The UDHR principles start with the absence of cruel punishment and freedom from torture, but move on to other rights like freedom of movement, right to marriage, property ownership, freedom of religion, and right to education. Human rights have since been described in terms of "generations," each subsequent generation extending human rights into more and more arenas of human activity and experience.
First generation rights include civil and political rights such as free speech and conscience and freedom from torture and arbitrary detention. In other words, first generation human rights command governments to stand back from the citizen; they are "non-derogable," meaning that they establish bright line rules about which governments have no discretion. Second generation rights are social, economic and cultural and include the rights to reasonable levels of education, healthcare, and housing and minority language rights. Second generation rights require governments to take affirmative action; they are incremental and discretionary because they have a direct financial bearing upon the provision of government services. Most recently third generation rights have shifted focus from the individual person (first generation rights) and the communities in which they live (social, economic and cultural rights) to the natural world, such as the right to a clean and healthy environment, and the right to species biodiversity.
Building on the foundation of 2009-10 workshop, the 2010-11 interdisciplinary research workshop will extend the examination of human rights discourse and institutions in Africa to broader questions around second and third generation rights. The workshop will canvas human rights insights from a broad sweep of disciplinary expertise, such as history, science, engineering anthropology, sociology, philosophy, law and political science. The goal of the workshop is to broaden human rights scholarship beyond single disciplinary domains.
Because the field of second and third generation human rights is broad, we have narrowed the discussion topics to the most urgent ones that are well suited to interdisciplinary analysis by anticipated workshop participants. Initial sessions will lay the foundation for the generational framework of human rights in Africa and the recent progression beyond civil and political rights. The workshop will proceed to discuss a wide range of the most significant and timely second and third generation human rights challenges in Africa. These include:
Using these issues as the starting point, Second and Third Generation Human Rights in Africa with undertake a broad and interdisciplinary analysis through readings, occasional outside speakers, and faculty and student provocations.