Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law



Most people spend most of their time on their economic activities of producing goods and services and exchanging the fruits of their labor for other goods and services that are necessary for their survival and personal development. Also international trade and investments are never ends in themselves, but means for increasing individual and social welfare through voluntarily agreed and mutually beneficial transactions involving the exercise of liberty rights and property rights. Even though the economy is no less important for citizens and their human rights than the polity, the interrelationships between human rights and economic welfare - notably the enormous opportunities of the international division of labor for enabling individuals to increase their personal freedom, real income and access to resources necessary for the enjoyment of human rights - are neglected by human rights doctrine. The "Global Compact", launched by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1999, calls upon business to "support and respect the protection of international human rights within their sphere of influence and make sure their own corporations are not complicit in human rights abuses." This contribution calls for a complementary "Global Compact" between the UN and UN Specialized Agencies, as well as with other worldwide public organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), so as to integrate universally recognized human rights into the law and practice of intergovernmental organizations, for example by requiring them to submit annual "human rights impact statements" to UN human rights bodies and to engage in transparent dialogues about the contribution by specialized agencies to the promotion and protection of human rights. In view of the inherent tendency of liberty to destroy itself ("paradox of freedom"), human rights need legislative, administrative and judicial protection in the national and international economy no less than in the polity vis-à-vis private as well as governmental abuses of power.

Such an "integration approach" differs fundamentally from the 1945 paradigm of "specialized agencies". It takes into account the regional experiences in Europe that respect for human rights in integration law enhances not only the protection of human rights across frontiers, democratic legitimacy and rule of law at national and international levels of governance, but also economic and social welfare. The article argues that the universal recognition of human rights as "inalienable birth rights" of every human being entails "constitutional primacy" of the inalienable core of human rights vis-à-vis national and international legislative, executive and judicial activities that serve "constitutional functions" by operationalizing and balancing human rights. As in European integration law, human rights should be recognized also in global integration law as empowering citizens, as constitutionally limiting abuses of national and international regulatory powers, and as requiring governments to protect and promote human rights in all policy areas and across national frontiers. The article criticizes UN human rights law for neglecting economic liberties, property rights and freedom of competition because - as legal preconditions for a mutually welfare-increasing division of labor among free citizens that promote efficient use of scarce resources - economic human rights are essential for enabling individuals to acquire, possess, use and dispose of the resources necessary for enjoying human rights. A UN Action Program for integrating human rights into the law of worldwide organizations is necessary so as to render the "indivisibility" of human rights, and their instrumental functions for promoting economic and social welfare and "democratic peace", more effective. The article concludes with case-studies on the need for integrating liberty rights and social rights into the law of the WTO so as to render human rights and also WTO law more effective.




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