Can Conflicting Rights be "Balanced"?



A recurring theme in the UNESCO contributions is the question whether or not rights can be "balanced" against each other so as to accommodate a plurality of views about what constitutes a right.

A number of contributors however argue that human rights cannot be “balanced” at all if this is meant to suggest that there are different concepts of rights or an incoherent approach to rights. A society can only thrive where there is respect for a unified and coherent approach to rights and what it means to be a person.

The UNESCO Courier of February 1948, for example, quotes Maritain as putting it plainly: "What makes UNESCO's task seem at first paradoxical is that it presupposes unity of thought among men whose conceptions are different and even opposed. However deep we go there is no longer any common basis for speculative thought. In these conditions, is unity of thought conceivable?”

Conflicting rights cannot be balanced because they represent two fundamentally different concepts of a person, and what constitutes the freedom of each person. "Balancing” competing rights, such as competing civil and human rights, ultimately means championing one concept of rights over another. If this process of championing conflicting versions of rights (and, by extension, conflicting philosophies of the person) becomes the basis on which governments pass laws, there invariably follows the violation of authentic human rights.

#Conflict #UNESCO #JacquesMaritain #UDHR