Including the non-humans in the political community

If dignity is the right to have rights, then what is the basis for according rights to non-humans? There has been a long tradition in common law of recognizing the rights of non-humans including animals and, increasingly, of other natural elements including rivers (Colombia, New Zealand) and ecosystems (India, Colombia). On the other hand, non-human but human-created elements, from corporate entities to robots, are also being accorded constitutional and other types of rights. This presentation explores whether our anthropocentric notions of dignity justify the recognition of rights of non-humans or if the common understanding of dignity—as immanent in the human person – needs to be adjusted to conform with the recognition of the rights of others. Ultimately, this presentation will ask whether and if so on what basis non-humans are entitled to admission in the political community.

Recognising the unrecognised? The opportunities of dignity for new and emerging transgender rights

Across Europe dignity has been used to find and develop transgender rights. But what is it about dignity that works for transgender rights? And what could this mean for new and emerging rights for transgender people?
In the UK, non-binary people – transgender people who do not identify as men or women – cannot obtain legal gender recognition. In this paper I present empirical research findings related to non-binary legal recognition and analyse these issues through the lens of dignity. I discuss the opportunities of dignity to understanding and guiding rights claims to legal gender recognition for non-binary people.
I contend that dignity is valuable in capturing the specific harm of legal non-recognition and offering an aspirational guide for future law reform.

Climate Displacement with Dignity: Moving Beyond the Paradigm of Refugee Status

Over 1.2 billion people will be displaced by 2050 due to environmental change, conflict and civil unrest (IEP, 2020). This threat is particularly existential in low-lying island nations, many of which face the gradual extinction not only of individualized communities, but of entire nations. Without conflict, persecution, or governance failure, however, those displaced by climate change cannot call themselves “refugees”. The global community faces a stark choice: either wait for these climate displaced persons to be subsumed by violence and social instability or change the definition of what it means to be a “refugee,” thus creating for millions an off-ramp from the predictable chaos that would otherwise ensue. One might even conceptualize an entirely new legal framework to handle climate displacement. Focusing on island nations in the South Pacific, this paper paints the contours of such a framework built around the human dignity of climate-displaced populations and communities.

3Ds: dignity, democracy and development as foci for local and global governance

Dignity, Democracy and Development have been key demands in popular political protests around the world. The concept of dignity is a catch-all demand for multiple human rights’ needs, including democracy and development, particularly in the global South. First, the paper surveys a multitude of scholarly works in social studies on the politics and instrumentalisation of dignity. Then, the paper presents the findings of a 2017 global survey on understandings of dignity laying down the foundation for a new index of dignity. The key argument in this study is that the concept of dignity is a valuable tool for policy-makers to make sense of communities’ needs in terms of development, peace-building, and other measurement for well-being. Ultimately, this research lays the foundation for a companion interface to map understandings of the concept of dignity from all over the world in order to grasp their differences and similarities for a variety of people and in a global context.

Human dignity, life, death and democracy

This paper reflects on the significance for democracy of the promise made in Article 1 of the 1948 UDHR that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. This issue is especially relevant today, as the Covid 19 pandemic tests human rights frameworks and war rages within the Council of Europe. The paper makes three points: 1. that the right to life has to be envisaged as a right to life with dignity; 2. that death and dying have to be integrated into any understanding of such a right to life and that the finite nature of human existence has to be addressed both as a dimension that all individuals experience and, at the level of humankind, as a prospect that has to be acknowledged; and 3. that this re-thinking of the right to life with dignity transforms our understanding of liberal democracy. Drawing on a range of theoretical and empirical materials, this paper explores some of the ways in which such a human dignity-based democracy may be conceptually imagined.