Celso Lafer underlines the historical relevance of Human Rights in opening lecture at FGV class
Professor and former Chancellor Celso Lafer spoke about Human Rights at the opening lecture of FGV’s Sao Paulo Law School (Direito SP) undergraduate course on February 19. Building upon the reflections of legal experts Goffredo Telles Junior and Miguel Reale, Lafer briefly recounted the historical construction of Human Rights and concluded that they are the “result of a process of integrating values of the human experience”.
The professor spoke about the legacy inherited from Greek and Roman civilizations, Christianity, socialism and liberalism, which laid the foundations of our current Human Rights framework, culminating with the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the 1776 U.S. Declaration of Independence, and later reaffirmed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This legacy was ultimately reflected in the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, whose chapter on Human and Social Rights is one of the largest sections in the charter, not to mention collective rights, which include the right to a solid cultural environment and a healthy environment.
Lafer also reaffirmed the teachings of Norberto Bobbio, who spoke about restructuring individual protections against the power of the State in the book “The Age of Rights”. “The fact that Human Rights are a part of our Constitution sets a hierarchy: constitutional standards outweigh common laws”, said Lafer.
The professor also explained why the translation of Human Rights into legal standards means respecting a process of generalization – recognizing all citizens as equals before the law – along with a process of specificity, acknowledging the need for specific legal treatment to more vulnerable groups.
To illustrate his point, Lafer talked about refugees, currently estimated at 65 million worldwide. According to the professor, these people are currently vulnerable, which demands a set of specific rules that can address the issues separating them from a nation, a people and a territory.