U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this week announced the creation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” comprised of scholars and activists interested in various dimensions of human rights, law, and religion, to provide him with “advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Among the dozen individuals named as members of the committee is University of South Carolina Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Department of Philosophy Chair Christopher Tollefsen.
The commission will be led by Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law) and also includes Russell Berman (Stanford, Hoover Institution), Peter Berkowitz (Hoover Institution), Paolo Carozza (Notre Dame Law and Political Science), Hamza Yusuf Hanson (Zaytuna College), Jacqueline Rivers (Seymour Institute), Meir Soloveichik (Rabbi, Congregation Shearith Israel), Kiron Skinner (State Dept.), Katrina Lantos Swett (Lantos Foundation), David Tse-Chien Pan (UC Irvine), and Cartright Weiland (State Dept.).
I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity belong to us? Is it, in fact, true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings, we—all of us, every member of our human family—are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights? Each of these is an important question, and the mission of the commission is to provide advice on them and others not as purely abstract academic matters, but in a manner deeply informed by the timeless truths embedded in the American founding with a view to guiding our nation’s foreign policy.
The full announcement is here.