The state must think about the fulfillment of human rights, including the right to go to court

  • 2023-01-11
  • Elīna Junolainena

The society of the world has realized how important a role human rights play and that they are the basis of a democratic state. It is the task of both Latvia and Europe to strengthen the most essential human rights, thereby strengthening society as a whole. This was concluded in the discussion “European fundamental rights – the future of Europe” held on December 14, 2022.

One of these fundamental rights that the “Everyone Foundation” invites to include in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU) is globalization and the right to receive goods and services produced and provided in accordance with general human rights. The President of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aigars Rostovskis, opened the discussion with the recognition that the benefit of globalization is the opportunity to access various sources of information, knowledge, services or goods, which allows to improve one's own level of well-being and economic development, to apply solutions that provide world-proven results. "Globalization affects the Latvian environment in the most direct way. I believe that the prosperity of our country and society is based on exports. This is almost the only way for entrepreneurs to create goods and services to sell to others, thus receiving resources that can be further redistributed through wages and taxes," said A. Rostovkis.

The panelists agreed that we, as a society and as individuals, can gain a lot from global processes, but it is essential to educate and explain where to look and how to distinguish true information. By developing the concept of truth, everyone's right to trust the statements of public office holders should be ensured.

"There are facts and there is an interpretation of the facts, it is not always possible to draw a clear line or say that the interpretation is positive or negative. That's when digital content analysis and monitoring tools come in handy, helping to separate facts from fiction and untruths, as well as allowing you to follow public sentiment or attitudes on current issues. Language and words are neutral, meaning is given, and understanding of the truth is formed by attitude and everyday content," explained Kaspars Kauliņš, director of business development of “Tilde” company.

Gunta Anča, chairman of the board of the “Sustento” organization, continued the conversation with a rhetorical comment that we would live in an ideal world if we knew how to change political responsibility, how to encourage elected politicians to listen to the needs of people and change course. “We need to talk about real and specific things – many people think that the issue of fundamental rights is far from them individually, it is complicated and does not apply to us, but we must show examples of how it does apply to us, what are the benefits, how respecting fundamental rights can change life. We must start with the public level and then we have to talk to the politicians, not the other way around,” she added.

The discussion concluded that there is a direct correlation between society's well-being, quality of life and willingness to actively engage in solving socially important issues. Until each of us is safe and has our basic needs met, it is difficult to engage the public to think about human rights issues. “The human rights framework is engrossing to everyone, including politicians. Human freedom, human self-determination and the protection of dignity are the basis for being able to speak, think and work freely. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen a human rights-based approach to what we do both in health care, business and cooperation with other countries. It is necessary to keep in mind that all this is possible and available to us with the Constitution and other internationally defined human rights,” emphasized Solvita Olsena, Dr.iur., associate professor of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Latvia.

Continuing the discussion on fundamental rights, it was explained that everyone has the right to live in a healthy and protected environment. Baiba Vitajevska-Baltvilka, policy coordinator of the Latvian Nature Foundation, presented the 2021 Eurobarometer survey on attitudes towards climate issues. In it, 90% of citizens agreed that climate change is a serious problem on a European scale, while 29% think it is the most important problem facing our society today. “In Latvia, the situation is different – in these matters we are constantly in the last place together with Bulgaria and Romania. We are least aware of the seriousness of this problem. Perhaps we are tired and have become skeptical of calls to action, perhaps we are overwhelmed by apathy, that nothing helps. Therefore, the Latvian Nature Foundation advocates that these issues should be resolved at the political level. The goals of nature protection and climate improvement will be difficult to achieve only by changing our individual practices. They should be gradual and planned steps, which will also be less painful and felt by society as a whole,” stated B. Vitajevska-Baltvilka.

S. Olsena agrees and adds: “Climate change is not only a phenomenon of nature and physics, it is human action and its impact. Data from world scientists show that social inequality should also be kept in mind when talking about climate issues. People who are less protected will suffer more from climate change. It is the responsibility of each country – how to reduce inequality, so as to reduce the negative impact of climate change. Scientists are talking about it, but there are no political steps.”

The participants of the discussion admitted that the European Union wants to move towards a socially fair “green” course, but the implementation directions depend on each country and politicians. Unfortunately, these issues are currently not in the first place for Latvian society, because there are many other, more important issues that affect the satisfaction of basic needs. The materially more prosperous a society is, the more interest and opportunities to think about climate, environment and sustainability issues it has.

In the 21st century digital self-determination, data manipulation and a personal safety are important fundamental rights, as well as a political issue. K. Kauliņš explained: “Everyone has the right to choose how data about us is being collected, stored and used. Digital traces remain on the web, which are not so easy to erase – it is an expensive and complicated process. The challenge is to achieve a balance, because on the one hand, the consumer wants to receive personalized offers, including medical and other services, but to be able to provide this, we need data that we do not want to allow to be used. It is essential to prevent the misuse of sensitive information.”

Currently, large corporations and companies widely dictate how we use technologies available to the public, unfortunately for their own private purposes. The European Union's challenge now is to find solutions to regulate the big groups and entrepreneurs who have the technology in their hands, so that people who are less protected are not exploited. This is a typical task of human rights, the legislature and the democratic state.

The use of artificial intelligence is also a field that is developing rapidly and in a wide variety of areas, but the ethical issues are noteworthy. Are the applied algorithms transparent, verifiable and fair and whether the most important decisions are made by a human and not a machine.

S. Olsena said: “Artificial intelligence is a well-known phenomenon in the field of medical technology, but attention should be drawn to the fact that such tools are often developed for groups of society that already have many opportunities but are not easily accessible to vulnerable groups of people. It is not financially profitable for large companies to think about solutions for people with disabilities or mental disorders.”

Concluding the discussion on fundamental rights, the right to bring forward a claim in European courts was discussed. The “Everyone Foundation” believes that everyone has such a right, because the court is one of the prerequisites for the development of a democratic state. It is a supervisor who takes care to protect society and has the power to enforce the rights established by the law. We must ensure that rights protection is particularly accessible to vulnerable groups in society who do not have the necessary means of protection. G. Anča concluded: “Until countries and governments think about the ways in which everyone can fulfill their human rights, the judicial system will be needed in the meantime. It should become the last instance to deal with violations of rights.”

The participants of the discussion “European fundamental rights – the future of Europe” were:

- Aigars Rostovskis, President of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

- Gunta Anča, chairman of the board of the organization “Sustento”

- Kaspars Kauliņš, Director of Business Development of company “Tilde” 

- Solvita Olsena, Dr.iur., associate professor of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Latvia, leading researcher in the project “Human rights-based approach to the treatment of patients with mental disorders and limited decision-making capacity: legal, ethical and clinical perspective” (Lzp-2020/1-0397)

- Baiba Vitajevska-Baltvilka, Policy coordinator of the Latvian Nature Foundation

The recording of the discussion can be viewed at the link 

The “Everyone Foundation” initiative (“Stiftung Jeder Mensch e.V.”) is an international organization founded in October 2020 to support the implementation of the fundamental rights outlined in Ferdinand von Schirach's book “Jeder Mensch” and the European Constitutional Convention. 14 countries have joined the movement, including Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

The organizers of the initiative are convinced that the challenges of recent years clearly show that Europe is at a crossroads, where democracy, the rule of law and common values and rights are tested more than ever before, therefore the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union should include six new articles for the successful development of the future of Europe:

Article 1 – Environment. Environment Everyone has the right to live in an environment that is healthy and protected.

Article 2 – Digital self-determination. Everyone has the right to digital self-determination. Excessive profiling or the manipulation of people is forbidden.

Article 3 – Artificial intelligence. Everyone has the right to know that any algorithms imposed on them are transparent, verifiable and fair. Major decisions must be taken by a human being.

Article 4 – Truth. Everyone has the right to trust that statements made by the holders of public office are true.

Article 5 – Globalization. Everyone has the right to be offered only those goods and services that are produced and provided in accordance with universal human rights.

Article 6 – Fundamental rights court proceedings. Everyone has the right to bring a lawsuit before the European Courts when the Charter’s fundamental rights are systematically violated.

More about the initiative