Wolfgang Kaleck was born and raised in Germany He is a lawyer and the Secretary General of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights ECCHR an NGO that helps enforcing human rights worldwide through legal means Ms Sowa in 1981 the African states passed the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights in Banjul What is the role of collective rights in Africa meaning the rights of groups of families of peoples Why are they so important Sowa It s always difficult to generalize because Africa is such a huge conti nent with different cultures that have different priorities but on the whole collective action has been a deeply engrained part of African culture So while the individual is valued so is the family unit in the sense of an extended family and different communities Actually you can t have individual human dignity if you are not also considering collective human dignity But then it does come back to that issue of which holds precedence and I think in many situations it is on a case by case basis as crises and specific issues happen Mr Kaleck from a Western per spective if you start weighing individual human dignity against the rights of collectives I think many would say that is the begin ning of the end of freedom What do you think Kaleck Sorry but I want to come back to your assumption that in the West especially in Germany human dignity is always understood as the uncondi tional value of individual persons But that s not true We can look back on a decades long history of how the German constitutional court regards human dignity and we can see that there are two lines One is the line you mentioned that is human dignity as a protection tool of the individual against a potentially oppressive state But there s also another line which deals with collective rights and that is among others human dignity in the context of moving on the Internet without being surveilled all the time The second line of understanding human dignity is also a claim of individuals or groups towards the state to guarantee a minimum subsis tence level So what you have been referring to is the very conservative position within the German legal community That is exactly what my organization the ECCHR strongly opposes Also in your introduction you construct a difference between the so called Western view and the so called non Western or global Southern view and I think this assumption is wrong It is very important to make this point in this discussion because especially in Germany there has been a ridiculous development in the recent past stating that we cannot impose our idea of human rights on the rest of the world as they have another understanding of it In fact what drives these people is not the respect for other cultures but the fear of the cost of respecting universal human rights all over the world We need collec tive action of people in order to hold states and private sector companies accountable Theo Sowa 29THE MAGAZINE 1 19 Le ad in g th e de ba te M ar tin P et er se n

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