You are on page 1of 3

- Are human rights “excessively individualistic”? Are group rights needed as a remedy?

Donnelly: internationally recognized human rights to be restricted to individual rights with only a few rare
- group based suffering exists – individual rights approaches usually capable of accomodating the legitimate
interest of oppressed groups; group rights rarely capable of providing an effective remedy
How do individual rights protect group rights:
*nondiscrimination – protecting members of disadvantaged groups against discrimination based on group
membership; three approaches
- toleration – not imposing special legal burdens or disibilities based on a group membership
- equal protection – active efforts to ensure that members of all groups enjoy equal rights; sometimes
includes affirimative action and “reverse discrimination (positive discrimination); problem: allows a neutral
and even negative evaluation of diversity
- multiculturalism – promotes positive value of diversity, includes policies that recognized, celebrate,
preserve or foster group differences
Problem, depends on the state’s willingness, it may decide to commit itself to a promotion and protection of
one or more nations, religions and cultures, with a bare minimum provided for the others

*freedom of association and participation – allows for individuals to act to realize their vision; it models
group membership as voluntary – problematic because there are cases where identity is externally imposed
or determined by biology (skin color, sex)
challenging imposed identities and denying naturalness of difference

group rights

defines group rights as rights held by a corporate entity – state, corporation, family, trade union, NGO, not
reduciable to their membership
one group human right explicitly recognized – right of peoples to self-determination (recognizes it as a
legacy of the necessity of decolonization); suggests decolonization as only a first step toward introduction of
internationally recognized human rights (it takes more effort)
other strong candidates:
- indigeneous rights
- right to cultural heritage
Donnely skeptical of the concept of group human rights, as opposed to group rights
7 questions:

1) How do we identify the groups that ought to hold human rights? - not all the groups could use them
(would lead to proliferation out of control); minorities could have them, but how can we legitimately exclude
other groups; most likely criterion a long history of systematic suffering, but then would include women,
minorities, indigeneous groups, homosexuals, disabled, seniors, children, poor
2) if we manage to identify group as a potential holder of human rights what rights should it have? - claims
should be evaluated on case-by-case basis
3) who exercises group rights? - problem of large, heterogeneous and dispersed groups; are they really group
rights or collective exercises of individual rights
4) how to handle conflicts of rights? - clashing rights of groups and individuals
5) are the group rights necessary? - is it related to inadequate implementation of individual rights?
6) why should group rights work if individual have failed? - if states don’t respect individual why would they
respect group; would difference (us-them) lead to even worse treatment?
7) are group rights the best way to protect interests of a group? -

Indigeneous rights as an exception – if individual rights don’t help.
Necessity of protection of fragile communities; preserving life style in the context of the modern
UDHR and the Covenants provide a framework – authoritative and definitive model, but not the final word

Self-identification remain important (even in the West – family, nation, gender), for some groups more than

” group rights seem to go against the liberal beliefs in freedom and equality – represent collectivist or communitarian views collective rights include variety of rights (rights of trade unions and corporations. reducing the vulnerability of the smaller group They are labeled as collective rights but involve different issues Internal restrictions exist in culturally homogeneous countries.g.g.exemptions for some Christian sects – Amish. “ethnic group may seek to use the state power to restrict the liberty of its own members in the name of group solidarity”.g. but should reject internal restrictions. and value. rights of all citizens to clean air) often confusion – collective rights seen as in conflict with individual rights two types of rights that ethnic or national groups make: . simply being a group” “there is a real loss when a community dies out. involved intra- group relations. military service. polyethnic rights (protect specific religious and cultural practices). decision of individual members not to follow traditional practices or customs) . however – it does not have to create such injustice. which limit the right of group members to question and revise traditional authorities and practices three types of group-differentiated rights: self-government rights (share power with smaller political units. where they promote fairness between groups. special representation rights (make it less likely that the minority is ignored in decision making on a country-wide basis). risk of unfairness between groups – one group may be marginalized or segregated in the name of preserving another group’s distincitveness (e. compulsory voting .“Only individual autonomy gives rise. women). economic and political decision of the larger society) . jury duty. change: “there should be no active state support for a thretened or declining group. arranged marriage. not provided for immigrant communities . Mennonites. let alone our respect or support Kymlicka “a liberal democracy’s most basic commitment is to the freedom and equality of its individual citizens”. so minorities cannot be outvoted by the majority). “Indeed. it is unlikely to deserve even our toleration. If a group’s survival requires the systematic denial of the internationally recognized human rights of its members.“internal restrictions”. first two can be used for internal restrictions (affect individual rights) example of Native American self-governance and individual rights.“external protections”. domestic violence – as examples) . concern over discrimination (e. Apartheid in South Africa – minority group demanding special protection from the larger society).claim against the larger society – protecting the group from the impact of external decisions (e. no group should be entitled to such support. using examples of theocratic and patriarchal cultures where women are oppresed and religious orthodoxy legally enforced all governments expect something (civic responsibilites) – taxes.concerns over the misuse of polyethnic rights (FGM. some groups can be put on a more equal footing. danger of individual oppression – often used by the critics of collective rights. to identities that must be respected by others. used for external protections. liberal democracy emerged in part as a reaction against the way that feudalism defined individuals' political rights and economic opportunities by their group membership. involve inter-group relations. Hutterites (example of not sending kids to school) (predate the immigration policies). e. fear of cultural bias by non-Native courts . others look for both liberals should endorse certain external protections. but if its members freely choose another way of life we must be prepared to accept that loss.g.claim against own members – protecting the group from a destabilization (internal dissent.” conflict of identities. external protections in multinational and polyethnic states some groups seek for only one of the two.

Collectivists. and defend them in a parallel way . by contrast.“Individualists argue that the individual is morally prior to the community: the community matters only because it contributes to the well-being of the individuals who compose it. then the community has no independent interest in preserving those practices. deny that a community's interests are reducible to the interests of the members who compose it. and no right to prevent individuals from modifying or rejecting them. They put collective rights on a par with individual rights. Hence individualists reject the idea that ethnic and national groups have any collective rights. If those individuals no longer find it worthwhile to maintain existing cultural practices.