The People’s Rights

“As if anyone could forget that the sovereign power resides in my person only... that public order in its entirety emanates from me and that the rights and interests of the nation, which some dare to regard as a separate body from the monarch, are necessarily united with my rights and interests, and repose only in my hands.”

King Louis XV of France, 1766

Today our principles say that governments get power from the people, and that each country ultimately belongs to its citizens.

The two Human Rights Covenants are the world’s most important human rights treaties. They make The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) into law binding on all parties.

Article 1 is the same in both Covenants.

More than 170 countries are parties – is yours?

Afghanistan • Albania • Algeria • Andorra • Angola • Argentina • Armenia • Australia Austria • Azerbaijan • Bahamas • Bahrain • Bangladesh • Barbados • Belarus Belgium • Belize • Benin • Bolivia • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Botswana • Brazil • Bulgaria • Burkina Faso • Burundi • Cambodia • Cameroon • Canada • Cape Verde • Central African Republic • Chad • Chile • China • Colombia • Comoros • Congo • Costa Rica • Côte d’Ivoire • Croatia • Cuba • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea • Democratic Republic of the Congo • Denmark • Djibouti • Dominica • Dominican Republic • Ecuador • Egypt • El Salvador • Equatorial Guinea • Eritrea • Estonia • Ethiopia • Finland • France • Gabon • Gambia • Georgia • Germany • Ghana • Greece • Grenada • Guatemala • Guinea • Guinea Bissau • Guyana • Haiti • Honduras • Hungary • Iceland • India • Indonesia • Iran • Iraq • Ireland • Israel • Italy • Jamaica • Japan • Jordan • Kazakhstan • Kenya • Kuwait • Kyrgyzstan • Laos • Latvia • Lebanon • Lesotho • Liberia • Libya • Liechtenstein • Lithuania • Luxembourg • Madagascar • Malawi • Maldives • Mali • Malta • Mauritania • Mauritius • Mexico • Moldova • Monaco • Mongolia • Montenegro • Morocco • Mozambique • Namibia • Nauru • Nepal • Netherlands • New Zealand • Nicaragua • Niger • Nigeria • Norway • Pakistan • Panama • Papua New Guinea • Paraguay • Peru • Philippines • Poland • Portugal • Republic of Korea • Romania • Russian Federation • Rwanda • Samoa • San Marino • Sao Tome and Principe • Senegal • Serbia • Seychelles • Sierra Leone • Slovakia • Slovenia • Solomon Islands • Somalia • South Africa • Spain • Sri Lanka • St. Vincent and the Grenadines • Sudan • Suriname • Swaziland • Sweden • Switzerland • Syria • Tanzania • Tajikistan • Thailand • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia • Timor Leste • Togo • Trinidad and Tobago • Tunisia • Turkey • Turkmenistan • Uganda • Ukraine • United Kingdom • United States of America • Uruguay • Uzbekistan • Vanuatu • Venezuela • Vietnam • Yemen • Zambia • Zimbabwe


Today world leaders all say that they believe in the people’s rights…

Morales of Bolivia: “Oil belongs to the people.”

Lula of Brazil: “[Brazil’s] oil belongs to 190 million Brazilians.”

Albufaz of Azerbaijan: “[Azerbaijan’s] oil belongs to the people of Azerbaijan.”

Khamenei of Iran: “[Iran’s] oil belongs to the people.”

Calderon of Mexico: “[Mexico’s] oil is ours and will continue to belong to all Mexicans.”

Chavez of Venezuala: “[Venezuala’s] oil belongs to the Venezuelan people.”

Blair of the United Kingdom: “Iraq’s natural resources remain the property of the people of Iraq.”

Bush of the United States: “[Iraq’s] oil belongs to the Iraqi people. It’s their asset.”

Graham of the United States: “It is a fundamental fact that the oil and gas off our shores is an American asset. It belongs to the people of the United States of America.” Senator Bob Graham (2011)

Clean Trade shows how we can change our rules of trade to respect the people’s rights – instead of might makes right.

Great moments in the history of
the people’s rights

“The rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom… all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all time to come.” (1689)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” (1776)

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (1787)

“The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body, no individual may exercise any authority that does not emanate expressly from the nation.” Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

Independent states replace the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, while Woodrow Wilson declares the principle of self-determination of peoples.

Allied victory over the authoritarian Axis powers. In their post-war constitutions Japan, Italy and Germany declare the people’s rights.

“We the Japanese people… do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded.” (1946)

“Sovereignty belongs to the [Italian] people and is exercised by the people…” (1947)

“The German people, in the exercise of their constituent power, have adopted this Basic Law…”  (1949)

“We the Peoples of the United Nations determined… to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…

The Purposes of the United Nations are… To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” (1945)

After World War II dozens of former colonies declare independence, increasing the number of independent states from 51 to 192. Popular sovereignty becomes the foundation of national constitutions throughout the world.

“We the People…”
Constitution of Egypt, Bangladesh, Samoa, Namibia, Micronesia, etc.

“The Congress is unconcerned as to who will rule, when freedom is attained. The power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India, and it will be for them to decide…” Gandhi (1942)

“We the People of India…”  Indian Constitution (1949)

“(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” (1948)

“By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.

The participating States reaffirm the universal significance of respect for and effective exercise of equal rights and self-determination of peoples for the development of friendly relations among themselves as among all States.” (1975)

“ All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case shall a people be deprived of it.” (1981)

“Ours is a time for fulfilling the hopes and expectations our peoples have cherished for decades: steadfast commitment to democracy based on human rights and fundamental freedoms; prosperity through economic liberty and social justice; and equal security for all our countries…

We are convinced that in order to strengthen peace and security among our States, the advancement of democracy, and respect for and effective exercise of human rights, are indispensable. We reaffirm the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination…” (1990)

“We have fought for a democratic constitution since the 1880s. Ours has been a quest for a constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa, reflecting their wishes and their aspirations.” Mandela (1994)

“We the people of South Africa…”
South African Constitution (1996)