Document Type



The passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly marked the beginning of global collaboration on the issue of human dignity and freedom. Over the years, countries have been scrutinized over their ability to ensure all the rights listed in the UDHR; some have been very successful, some have been able to protect a few, and some have utterly failed.

A free global society makes for a more productive and equal one; human rights allow people to have safer housing, food, and education, which in turn allows them to pursue better opportunities and live free of tyranny. Where human dignity is protected and upheld, there are reduced civil unrest and extreme violence, as well as less spread of diseases caused by poor health and hygiene. Understanding the patterns that lead to abuses of human rights allows scholars to produce theoretical work that can be provided to global entities and policy makers who have the ability to pursue the interests of the oppressed, such as the United Nations.

The study of human rights often faces the issue of non-compliance. “Most governments swear to pursue, promote, and protect human rights. They make legally binding promises, which they break when convenient” (Hafner-Burton 2013). It used to be conventionally believed that economic development would lead to democratization and, in turn, a better protection of human rights (Streeten 1994). However, as history has shown through countries like China and Russia, this theory is faulty. As authoritarian regimes perpetuate and grow more powerful, it has become clear that economic wealth cannot be used as a measure of freedom. The question then becomes: if wealth does not necessarily lead to democracy, and the belief is that democracy is fundamental to global stability and peace, why do economists keep focusing on the financial development of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)?

This paper will break the question into several components. First of all, is wealth the way by which economic development should be measured? But most importantly, is development mainly an economic issue? Amartya Sen, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1998, believes that development is not a matter of economic stability, but one of capability and opportunities. His view will be discussed in the first part of this paper. The second part will dispute the idea that democracy and human rights are an unbreakable duo by presenting the rhetoric of “interdependence and mutual reinforcement.” Furthermore, it will discuss the importance of databases such as Freedom House and Polity to track countries progresses in these two fields and how they relate to Sen’s Capabilities Approach. The third part will break down two financial tools of foreign policy, aid and sanctions, to analyze their impact on development and human rights protection; additionally, it will introduce Preferential Trade Agreements as the ideal tool to ensure protection of freedom. The fourth part will unite the concepts analyzed in the previous parts in a country-specific analysis of China, Russia, Venezuela, and Tunisia. The fifth and final part of this paper will offer a review and a conclusion.

Publication Date

July 2019

Journal Title

Proceedings of the Jepson Undergraduate Conference on International Economics






©2019 by Proceedings of the Jepson Undergraduate Conference on International Economics



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Economics Commons


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