Why should Universal Basic Income be regarded as a human right?

08.09.2020 - Madrid, Spain. - Juana Pérez Montero

Why should Universal Basic Income be regarded as a human right?

Because it would provide something vital: the people’s survival.  And, it would have huge physical and psychological effects, individually as well as collectively.

This extract is from the first part of the author’s contribution to the virtual event called “Universal and Unconditional Basic Income, an unresolved right”, organized by the Centre of Humanist Studies New Civilization last July 23rd.

If livelihood is not guaranteed then all the other human rights will be in question. We must ensure that the body we inhabit will live be in good health. Only a universal and unconditional basic income, individualised and appropriate, would allow us to secure ourselves the main basis for survival. It would also provide a way to enforce other rights, so that they do not remain written, locked in a wonderful Declaration full of good intentions, to the detriment of most of the world population.

We have to be serious. If we claim ourselves to be human rights defenders, we must act to put them into practice.

At best, it is charity that brought us to the current state. Certainly, charity has been providing food and still does, to a great number of people (not all the hungry and not the whole planet, though), while the governments, prisoners of big international capital, sometimes try as they can to make laws to give out the crumbs of the capital in the fairest way.

Human rights should overcome the charity that has led us to the current state of things.

 But to be serious, let’s talk about rights.

 The first thing to doubt about is the level of wealth. In fact money has been piling up in an outrageous immoral way in the hands of a few, while many others suffer from hunger. Most of the world population haven’t got the slightest chance to live with dignity and this chance is being denied by the ones who accumulate that wealth. It is absolutely immoral that even a single human being, right now, could suffer from hunger, given the amount of wealth available.

If a universal basic income is achieved, world hunger will no longer exist and the articles 22, 23 and 25.1 of the UN Human Rights Charter will of course be implemented and developed. This would be an advancement in terms of wealth redistribution and as a result, we would gain social justice.

Aside from stopping world hunger, a universal basic income would help promote other human rights around the world: the right to health, to education, to retirement, etc..

In other terms, we would be moving forward towards giving equal opportunities for all and while doing this, we would achieve freedom.

The knock-on effect that would initiate the enforcement of other rights which are known to be worthless paper for most of the world population is evident.

If we were entitled to the right of subsistence (food, water, lodging, energy…) we should feel free to debate about the working conditions, for example.

Just think of how the status of women would change. Not only because they will not have to depend on their current partner or ex-partner (sometimes brutal, by the way) which would be in itself a great success, but also because they would be gratified for their priceless supporting role, usually underpaid or unpaid at all. Care work is essential for life. It is usually women’s or young girls’ work.

I think and hope that those who defend work don’t mean that children will have to find a job to live decently or to deserve the right to survive.

 We are now coming to the question of child labour. We have just talked about care work, often carried out by young girls.

But there is also the work done by children. I am talking about child exploitation.

I suppose and hope that the enthusiastic defenders of work as a means of livelihood (because they say inaction brings laziness or because work gives dignity to the human being, etc) do not think that children will have to find a job to live decently or to deserve the right to survive.

Or, do we believe that black children or children born in some unlucky areas of the world, should have fewer rights?

Can we just imagine how many chances a child would have if he could benefit from a basic income? A child working for a living maybe 10, 12, 14 or 16 hours daily and being paid one dollar a day?

How many chances would a young girl have, a girl who is bound to get married to a man twice or thrice as old as her? Even getting pregnant once she has grown up enough. How many opportunities would she have if she had a guaranteed income from birth?

It seems that the phenomenon of child marriage is perceived as a cultural thing. It is clearly cultural, not natural; cultural practices, of course, but it is strongly related to the girl’s poor status that forces her to get married because her family cannot support her or because her family itself needs support.

Can you imagine all those children living their lives to the fullest as sacred beings?

But let’s leave aside this painful matter of human history now, unfortunately still ongoing and creating wealth. Let’s talk about other rights, instead, that could possibly be developed if a basic income should be implemented.

….Without the right to subsistence, all the other human rights come into question.

 I’m talking about the right of freedom of thought and religion, freedom of expression and information… all these rights depend on whether you get a guaranteed basic income or not.

As you see, without the right to subsistence, all the other human rights come into question.

We may also mention other rights, like the right to humanitarian reparation, referred not only to women and children but also to the world populations and countries. Enslaved and plundered populations, doomed to be born, grow, live in poor conditions and die in wars that foster this looting and condemns them to misery, illness and death.

How different people’s lives would be if they had a guaranteed subsistence income!

My friends, wealth- that grows more and more every day thanks to everybody’s contribution- would allow humanity to live in decent living conditions, with greater opportunities for all in every field, with greater social justice and greater freedom. This would help us, as a worldwide society, to build a world that most people strive for.

Part of this purpose was written in the paper in 1948. The Declaration of Human Rights may start to take shape for all humanity if we begin by assuring its survival. And this can be done through a remedy like an individual, unconditional, universal and adequate basic income.

Today we can do it. There is enough wealth for everybody and it belongs to all.

That Declaration of intent, the Charter of Human Rights, is not exactly about the ideal world which we aim for. But should it come true, it would be the beginning of the drafting of the first chapter of that world. A world where a human being can look back and find that it was a miscalculation for someone to own what belongs to everyone. A world where one can make with history. A world where each human being achieves the Purpose to feel complete, supporting the community to a greater extent and building the concept of ourselves. A more peaceful and rational world, with the highest level of consciousness. A nonviolent world, equal to the human being…the world that we desire and deserve.

 

 Translation from Italian by Roberta Mereu from the voluntary Pressenza translation team. We are looking for volunteers!

 

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