Human rights as an element of social justice: A means to an end and self-contained guarantees.
In a democratic society human rights, in addition to serving as important barriers against arbitrary state interventions, play a major role in the implementation of social justice. From a human rights perspective social justice means that the necessary basic conditions are created that allow all people to exercise their human rights. This requires among other things the fulfillment of the basic needs of the citizens as well as adquate social security.
However, human rights are not only a tool for implementing social justice, but they should also guarantee social justice directly. The right to a minimum wage and to assistance when in need (Art. 12. Constitution) are directly tied to the concept of human dignity. Further examples are the right to education or the right to health. On an international level, in times of financial and food crisis as well as climate change challenges, the interest is mainly focused on the human rights aspects of the fight against poverty. In this context particular importance is attached to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which includes the right to food.
Why is it important to understand social justice from a human rights perspective?
The human rights perspective on social justice changes the distribution of roles: the needy become entitled, donations turn into (legally enforceable) claims. In practical terms, this means that for example social benefits shall be based and distributed in accordance with the fundamental principles of the rule of law and that everybody who meets the requirements has a legal claim to such benefits.
A description of the research projects in the area of social justice can be found here
Prof. Dr. Thomas Gächter, Prof. Dr. Christine Kaufmann