T.J. Coles: Human Wrongs--British Social Policy and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Author:Klikauer, Thomas
Position:Book review

T.J. Coles

Human Wrongs--British Social Policy and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Winchester and Washington, DC: Iff Books, 2018; 158 pp.: ISBN 9781785358647, 12.99 [pounds sterling], $19.95 (pbk)

The year 2018 is the year we should celebrate. All 7 billion of us living on earth should be celebrating the 70th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) designed to protect us from evil. Sadly, when looking around the place, there isn't much to celebrate. We have created a world still suffering from global hunger and poverty. We see torture and, more recently, the reappearance of slave markets in Libya. Today, the incarceration of refugee children in so-called detention centres occurs around the world. Neo-Nazis are called 'very fine people' by a US president. The list is, indeed, endless. The year 2018 is also the year when we should measure all our achievements and non-achievements against what was laid out 70 years ago. Human Wrongs does exactly this, using the example of the United Kingdom. Focusing on the United Kingdom is surely justified, but the book is by no means solely about the United Kingdom. The violations of even the most basic human rights are not unique to the United Kingdom.

'The UDHR was hardly a gift from elites' (p. 2), writes T. J. Coles. Indeed, many of the elites everywhere would be happy if human rights would simply disappear. There is a stark contradiction between the elite's human rights rhetoric and the reality many experience. First, there is the fact that 'virtually all states have accepted' the UDHR (rhetoric) and the reality that human rights are all too often 'accepted on paper only; and even then, barely' (p. 5). How human rights are turned into a propaganda tool for public relations, business ethics and corporate social responsibility is outlined in Coles' book. Cole examines article after article. A few examples illustrate the case he is making.

In UDHR's Article 1 we read that 'all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights' (p. 13). This is contradicted in the case of one of Britain's overseas islands. In Diego Garcia, between '1968 and 1973, the islanders were forcibly removed by the British military and deported to the slums of the Seychelles, Mauritius and London, where they have remained ever since' (p. 15), even though Britain has signed up the UDHR and claims to honour human rights. To add insult to injury, even the islanders 'pet dogs [were put] into...

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