Human rights : a Third World perspective
Title: Human rights : a Third World perspective
Author: YUSUF, Abdulqawi A.
Series/Number: EUI AEL; 2013/01; Distinguished Lectures of the Academy
First, let me take the second part of the title and consider the etymology of the expression ‘Third World’. The origin of the expression lies in the French phrase ‘Tiers Monde’, coined in 1952 by Alfred Sauvy as a play on the French revolutionary term ‘Tiers Etat,’ or the ‘Third Estate’. In using this phrase to describe the world of the 1950’s, Sauvy compared the Cold War confrontation between the West and the Communist world to the fight in pre-revolutionary France pitting the clergy against the nobility. According to Sauvy, what mattered to both of these groups of States, each fighting for the domination of the planet, was to conquer the Third World, or at least have the Third World on its side. The challenge, therefore, was how to deal with this Third World, which, like the ‘Tiers Etat’ in pre-revolutionary France, was slighted, exploited and despised by the other powers but simultaneously sought out as an ally. In order to do this, they had to understand what it was exactly that this Third World, this ‘Tiers Etat’, wanted. It is my view that during that period, that is, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, this Third World wanted to regain its human dignity and to enjoy the ‘human rights’ which were long denied it. I will now turn to the first part of the title: ‘Human Rights’. What do we mean by that? These are rights which are due to every human being by virtue of his or her humanity, without any requirement of membership of any group or other qualification. As such, they have to be distinguished from citizens’ rights or the rights of the inhabitants in a specific territorial State, or the rights of a group of persons belonging to a certain race, religion, sex or nation. The English Bill of Rights or the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, for example, applied only to the metropolitan citizens of the colonial power. They did not apply to the citizens of third world countries which were colonized, discriminated against and oppressed by these European powers. Therefore, in my view, they did not qualify as human rights instruments.
Subject: Third World; Human rights; Development; Decolonization; Self-determination; Africa
Distinguished Lecture delivered on the occasion of the XXIII Human Rights Law course of the Academy of European Law, on 26 June 2012.
Type of Access: openAccess