Books—2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together

By Catherine Pelling

The year 2048 will mark the 100th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and what will we have to show for it?

J. Kirk Boyd provides an answer in his book 2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together, in which he proposes the drafting and implementation of an International Convention on Human Rights, supported by an International Court of Human Rights. At first glance this may seem like an unreachable ideal. However, Boyd succeeds in outlining a hopeful yet realistic method in which a Convention could be achieved.

Boyd asks us to challenge the generally accepted worldview that war, poverty and other violations of human rights are inevitable. He asks us to move out of our own way and allow ourselves to imagine a world in which human rights are globally guaranteed—and then he shows us how it could be done.

Boyd asks us to challenge the generally accepted worldview that war, poverty and other violations of human rights are inevitable.

Boyd uses simple and effective language, as well as great analogies, to outline how a Convention could be achieved by 2048. The book begins with a realistic timeline before charting the history and achievements since 1948. Boyd then contemplates the 2048 movement and what it consists of before considering what still needs to be done and how the Convention can be realised.

Throughout, the book relies on some basic premises. Firstly, that in order for the Universal Declaration to be fulfilled, all people everywhere need to be educated about the human rights that we all share and that a document needs to be drafted for the realisation of these rights. Secondly, that for this document to have some authority, legal legitimacy is essential and thus, this document needs to be enforceable in every country. Thirdly, that there are five fundamental freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment and freedom from fear—which “establish a framework within which other rights can flourish”. Finally, the Convention needs to go beyond the desire of governments and businesses; that it needs to embody “humanity’s agreement to live together”. Thus, the Convention should be a product of the will of the people.

Therefore, this is not a one-man plan. The 2048 Project, as it is known, encompasses not only the book, but an entire social movement—behind which is a growing number of people and organisations. This book is merely a means of communicating the message, of educating people about their rights and inspiring others to get involved in the actual drafting process. Boyd invites everyone to go online, or handwrite if need be, and participate in writing the Convention. Contributions can range from discussions about certain articles, to debates on wording and the inclusion or exclusion of certain elements. Boyd, the executive director of the Project, aims to get as many people involved as possible, to truly make the Convention humanity’s agreement.

The 2048 Project, as it is known, encompasses not only the book, but an entire social movement …

As a US lawyer and professor, Boyd and his Project are undoubtedly influenced by the American tradition of “for the people, by the people”. Similarly, the legal perspective certainly informs the viewpoint that without laws and courts to enforce these laws, human rights will continue to lack authority. Yet, the argument that what is portrayed is solely the view of the West cannot be levelled at this book, or at the Project itself. The communal nature of the Project, aided by the internet, means that the resulting Convention will have been influenced and drafted by people the world over. Similarly, Boyd addresses issues of national sovereignty by taking us back to the very premise of who is the sovereign. His answer? The people. “All power emanates from the people; therefore, the government is not giving up anything if the people decide that they wish to revise their social contract”.  A simple, yet basic truth: we allow those in power to govern in exchange for them creating the society in which we wish to live.

But perhaps the main criticism of the book and the Project is that it simply is not possible. Yet Boyd has an answer for this too. Transnational human rights documents like the European Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the American Convention on Human rights, demonstrate that “a melting pot of nations, with enforceable fundamental rights for all, is possible”.

“a melting pot of nations, with enforceable fundamental rights for all, is possible”.

Undoubtedly we are still far from attaining an International Convention. But 2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together reveals that it is possible, that it will take time but that, together, it can be achieved. If anything, this book leaves the reader with hope.

Click here to learn more about the 2048 Project, or to contribute in some way.

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