Volume 11, 2008
João Cardoso Rosas
The Very Idea of a Short List
In this paper I submit that, if one takes seriously the distinction between citizenship rights and human rights, the list of the latter must be minimized. Many of the rights that we are used to call human rights are, in fact, citizenship rights and they belong to a history of citizenship in some specific states around the world. The
list of human rights must be much shorter than the list of citizenship rights, whatever that list may be in accordance with the grounds attributed to human rights by different philosophical approaches. My plea for a qualification of which rights should count as human rights and the idea of a short list challenges the consensus among international lawyers. Nevertheless, it does not aim at a critique of human rights as such. On the contrary, the general intention of the very idea of a short list is to strengthen the moral force of human rights in order to make them meaningful in different political contexts.