This paper will examine the way in which UK judges have relied on human dignity to structure the political relationship between the individual and state, with a particular focus on the place of trust in establishing a respectful relationship. In several key judicial decisions, it has been highlighted that the denial of equal dignity can lead to a loss of self-esteem and a sense of alienation from society. This sense of alienation is seen as capable of undermining the trust of the citizen in state institutions and government. That mistrust is further related to a loss of social cohesion and cooperation that are essential to a democracy. It has thus been recognised that a denial of equal dignity may undermine the social fabric that is vital to sustaining a democratic society.
This article explores how ‘everyday’ lawyers undertaking routine criminal defence cases navigate an authoritarian legal system. Based on original fieldwork in the ‘disciplined democracy’ of Myanmar, the article examines how hegemonic state power and a functional absence of the rule of law have created a culture of passivity among ordinary practitioners. ‘Everyday’ lawyers are nonetheless able to uphold their clients’ dignity by practical and material support for the individual human experience and in so doing, subtly resist, evade or disrupt state power. The article argues for a multilayered understanding of dignity going beyond lawyers’ contributions to their clients’ legal autonomy. Focusing on dignity provides an alternative perspective to the otherwise often all-consuming rule of law discourse. In authoritarian legal systems, enhancing their clients’ dignity beyond legal autonomy may be the only meaningful contribution that ‘everyday’ lawyers can make.
Environmental outcomes and human dignity – that is, the recognition that every human being has equal worth that is inherent and inalienable – are inexorably linked. Adverse environmental conditions can adversely affect realization of the spectrum of civil, political, and socioeconomic rights that advance human dignity. Lack of access to potable water, for example, diminishes the ability to work or learn, care for family, or participate in governance.
International law has danced with environmental dignity, but only episodically and perfunctorily without much benefit to either the environment or those adversely affected by it. Yet these accords haven't managed to make a difference. Most progress at the junction of dignity and the environmental has been jurisprudential. Instead of languishing somewhere offstage, I argue that human dignity ought to play a more prominent role in influencing environmental policy and outcomes internationally, regionally and domestically.
No pillar of modern constitutionalism is immune from tribalization nowadays. Rather than creating boundaries for politics, constitutionalism has become a political issue. Such tensions have caught dignity in the quagmire. This concept loads disputes on human rights with additional weight. It reinforces clashes among public powers. It boosts social conflicts and deepens cultural rifts.
The presentation argues that the ambiguities surrounding the concept of dignity do not stem from the concept itself but from the current state of constitutionalism as a discipline and as a hermeneutical tool.
Dignity can be of use to address contemporary tribalization, however, as long as it is understood for what it conveys. The presentation argues that dignity should be understood as a means through which people communicate the value that they attach to their claims. Such a reconsideration of dignity could help social and political reconciliations.