Welfare state and Poverty in Flanders #3 Right to Human dignity

Poverty evolution in Flanders

Right to Human dignity

Universality – the idea that human rights apply to all people, in all places, at all times – was the basic principle underlying the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with...

Former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with a post of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

From the 1976 law ““each human being has the right to social care” which should “enable people to lead a life of human dignity” is not left over much.”

But there is also a loophole in that law because the Public Centres for Social Welfare are obliged to give a reasoned answer to each request and as such cannot decide arbitrarily on the needs of those that ask for assistance, or clients of the social services. Focusing attention on “human dignity” as an autonomous value fundamentally implies an expression of respect towards people who ask for assistance and their recognition as citizens. But the last few years we got masses of immigrants coming into this land of milk and honey.

A civilized society should have the dignity of the human person as its foundation of its moral vision. It does not only concerns the sanctity of human life including euthanasia, human cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for research, but also the ability to live in a healthy natural habitat where there is respect for the environment and where is taken care of all citizens without racism and attacks against non-combatants, torture unjust war, and the use of the death penalty. In a society with human dignity everything is taken care of in the best interests to prevent unhealthy situations, to prevent genocide; to oppose; and to overcome poverty and suffering. There should be guaranteed the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources.

Poverty in Flanders - an analysis by Marcus Ampe

In Flanders the government should take care as every nation to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort, always seeking first to resolve disputes by peaceful means. In first instance shall thy have to combat criminality, which includes also the small crimes of making the environment dirty by throwing waste everywhere. All habitants of the community should be active and responsible participants in the political process. Even those who cannot vote have the right to have their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and the common good.

Flanders has to work towards a society based on values of human rights, to be different, and at the same time being equal before the law, protected from any sort of harm or violence and ensuring that all people can enjoy equal opportunities.

By not enough taking care of the protection of those human rights for everybody and persistent violations of human rights the country undermines stability, and the consequences – corruptionterrorism, international crime, forced migration – are no longer restricted, in today’s world, to certain countries or regions, but extend right into the heart of all our societies.

The conviction that everyone is equal in terms of their rights and dignity should for example be the driving force behind efforts to secure equal rights for men and women, to prevent cultural and religious traditions being used as a pretext for not respecting certain rights, and to ensure that everyone in the world is free to express their views.

The protection of life and the person, guaranteeing physical integrity, is one of the most fundamental human rights, relevant to everyone on the planet.

We may never forget that freedom is respecting the freedom of somebody else. We should not only think of our rights to do as we please but also recognize our duties or our human dignity to our self and to others. Our humanity is not exhausted by our autonomy or by our ability to make claims or to exercise rights free of governmental interference and therefore we should have Flemish and European codes of ethics and specific legislation speaking readily of preserving and protecting human dignity.

We should also be aware of undignified and dehumanizing consequences of a medicine that seems always to choose in favour of life—longer life, more life, life regardless of its quality and of the burden laid on the members of the family. In his Discourse on Method, Descartes called for a new kind of social contract between modern philosophy (science) and modern society, in which better health and, ultimately, the conquest of mortality would be offered to the populace in exchange for and as a result of giving scientists full freedom to pursue their experiments and inquiries, free from the intrusions of Church and other moral strictures. His provisional morality, presented in part three of the Discourse, foreshadows the preferred morality of modern scientists: respect the laws and customs of your country, except when they interfere with your right to pursue your research and to seek the truth. Certain households come into poverty by the many medical costs which our brought to them by the expenses to keep somebody further in life, not taking in the quality of that person’s life and considering if he really wants that sort of life. There should also be next to a “right to live” a “right to die” or a “right to death with dignity”. Our scientific knowledge still requires appealing to a sense of human dignity, tied not to our weaknesses but to our strengths as god-like and generous beings.[1] Biotechnology has brought us marvellous things and progression and we should be deeply grateful for the gifts of human ingenuity and cleverness, and for the devoted efforts of scientists, physicians, and entrepreneurs who have used these gifts to make those benefits possible. But we should not allow this advancement bring a burden over people.

Affiche voor Open Erfgoeddag Armoe troef - Poster for the open Inheritance Day Poverty trumps

For we recognize that the powers made possible by biomedical science can be used for non-therapeutic or ignoble purposes, serving ends that range from the frivolous and disquieting to the offensive and pernicious. These powers are available as instruments of bioterrorism (e.g., genetically engineered drug-resistant bacteria or drugs that obliterate memory); as agents of social control (e.g., drugs to tame rowdies or fertility-blockers for welfare recipients); and as means of trying to improve or perfect our bodies and minds and those of our children (e.g., genetically engineered super-muscles or drugs to improve memory). Anticipating possible threats to our security, freedom, and even our very humanity, many people are increasingly worried about where biotechnology may be taking us.[2] The Dutch liberty to allow the so called ‘coffee shops’, the free provision places for legalized drugs and the Belgian allowance for free drugs for personal use brings a lot of people to poverty because they are spending lots of money to a destroying product. In 2004, the ‘National health interview survey’, carried out among the general population aged 15 years and older, included questions on cannabis use. Lifetime prevalence of cannabis was reported by 13 % of respondents aged 15–64, compared with 10.8 % reported in 2001. Overall, last year prevalence of cannabis use was reported by 5 % of respondents, with last year prevalence reported at 12 % for those aged 15–24 years and 11 % for those aged 25–34 years.[3] Cannabis was the drug most frequently reported by students aged 15 and 18: 24.6 % (15–16 years) and 43.5 % (17–18 years) in the Flemish community, and 29.6 % (15–16 years) and 47.0 % (17–18 years) in the French community.[4] In July 2000 in Flanders as an action plan for illegal drugs, based on a health perspective and on the harm reduction philosophy, the necessary legislative adaptations were made and in 2001 syringe exchange programmes were officially implemented. Access to methadone is provided by a broad range of services (low threshold services, GPs, outpatients’ specialised units, mental health facilities) but costs the general community. Regional data concerning hepatitis show HCV is still the most frequent type of hepatitis among drug users. The abuse of drugs is related to an overall increase in the abuse of psychoactive substances (including alcohol and tobacco). This common trend is particularly evident among young people, a possible indicator of future abuse among the general population with enormous health and social costs.[5]The illnesses of the drug users bring higher costs to the user but also to their families who become pulled into poverty by the growing Medicare costs. In the frame of the Federal Police “Road safety action plan”, controls focusing on drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs are performed. The 2008 results are comparable to the previous years’ ones: a majority of the analysed samples were positive and the most important substance detected was cannabis. Also the accidents by drunken driving bring in so many costs, for revalidation, several years treatment of the victims, etc. that the community has to take care that such things cannot happen and the rights of all the road users is protected. So the freedom to use drugs has to be in the light seen taking into account what unconscious damage the user does to him or herself but also to others, who have to be protected.

There is something right or proper in the natural liberty each man has to use or to appropriate absolutely anything in the world in order to preserve his life, and especially to defend his life against his enemies. To have a right to everything is clearly (and massively) a moral assertion.[6]

The Belgian government is obliged to protect all its citizens, legal but also illegal inhabitants, but it has to be reasonable in its protection measurements. (For example giving an illegal 500€ per night he was not offered a logging far that night is totally unjustified and puts a burden on the rest of the community.)

Human rights have also to do with no restrictions placed on people in the name of religion. No religion may formulate its ‘own human rights’. This also means that every individual is free to practise his or her religion or belief, change his or her beliefs or choose not to have any religious convictions. More and more we find that people are not wanted at a certain work because their beliefs (either being an active Christian or a Muslim). Governments have a duty to protect this freedom, both in legislation and in practice. Inequality before the law, discrimination and the persecution of religious minorities are serious violations of the rights to which every individual is entitled.

The equality of women with men can be good if it is really taken to heart, but the government should take care that both do not come into a hidden ‘slave equality’. The rights of women and girls are still violated on a massive scale in Flanders whether in the form of rape as a weapon of superiority war, discrimination at work or domestic violence.

Children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and they therefore especially need support to achieve their rights. But in today’s world of divorced and poverised families we can notice that the rights of the children are often tread under foot.

In a community the parishes and churches can provide for consultation and collaboration with organisations, educational and health institutions, the training of pastoral leaders on life issues, and serving as a resource and referral network for specific inquiries. Every community has to provide the possibility for people to find a resource for individuals and groups seeking information on health matters, care and all sorts of care (household help, nursing, education, financial aid, etc.).

Generally work has to be made of creating a social feeling coming from gratitude to each other, concerned knowledge and work and to a balanced distribution of reward, without extravagant excesses which now still occur.

On 25 March 2011, the Flemish Government has given her approval at the progresses report[7]. According Article 4 of the decree of 21 March 2003 regarding the poverty fight the Flemish Government has every year at the Flemish Parliament to present a report which communicates over the progress of the execution of the action plan. Let us hope that the word does not make a hit and that they can deliver the goods, so that it not remains words on paper and that they learn of the “experiences experts”.

With expressions of concern we stay on the look out to see how the Flemish authorities will accept and settle the challenge. The Flemish government can make work to collect all different kinds of knowledge over poverty and social exclusion lasting. Further must they broadly spread this knowledge over poverty and make the explicit choice to fight poverty and to get together in collaboration for co-ordination of the poverty fight via administrations networks trying to do everything until ends meet.

Provided poverty is a network of social exclusions in various areas which are deeply intertwined, such as education, work, leisure, housing and health, we must ensure that everyone can be guaranteed his or her fundamental rights.

The activation steps of the Flemish government have a disciplining effect and are aimed at a reduction in public spending. The social rights are special stipulations and rights are no longer just that. Duties are strongly connected with the reduced rights. This is extended to the social services with the result that the entitlements to benefits or the living wage and the right to social services (“Every person is entitled to social services. It aims citizens with the opportunity to live a life that responds to human dignity. “Article 1 of the ‘CPAS Law” from 1976) is been eroded.

We must join together to bring forth not only a small regional society but a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Together we must look into it that benefits of development are shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor which is widening, shall be called to a halt. Also a task to keep the human rights in order is to make others also aware of the injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict which are widespread and the cause of great suffering.

Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.[8]

Poverty barometre

[1] Too often men wants to play for God.

[2] Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls, Leon R. Kass, 2003

[3] 2004 – Belgium – adult lifetime cannabis use

[4] 2006 – Belgium – youth lifetime cannabis use

[5] Drugs and crime trends in Europe and beyond, UN Report Vienna, 2004

[6]The right to life and human dignity, Leon R. Kass, 2007

[8] From The Earth Charter

Een analyse van de Armoede in Vlaanderen door Marcus Ampe - Poverty in Flanders, an analysis by Marcus Ampe


To remember:

”Human rights rests on human DIGNITY. The dignity of man is an ideal worth fighting for and worth dying for.” Robert C. Maynard.


Governments must be transparent and may only curtail freedom of expression (and the right to receive and impart information) to promote respect for the rights or reputations of others and to protect national security, public order and public health or morals. The claims by governments that national security is a carte blanche to restrict information is never justified – especially when the restriction appears to be covering up human rights and humanitarian law violations. [From the web] Annual Report 2011 The state of the world’s human rights – amnesty.org

  • Human Dignity (3quarksdaily.com) Is human dignity underwritten by human uniqueness in the strong sense that humans are partly divorced from the natural order?
  • Substantive Dignity-Dwarf-throwing, Burqa Bans, and Welfare Rights (volokh.com) Should respect for intrinsic human dignity favour individual choice and not take into account safety matters, by for example not allowing burqa’s because somebody can hide in them?
    => Freedom is not the same as dignity.
    + What if a person’s conception of dignity is in conflict with other values such as public safety? For example, what if a person wears a burqa with the intention of concealing identification in committing a crime?
    + Conception of dignity used to defend dwarf throwing, burqa wearing, prostitution, or pornography is not that of human agency and freedom of choice, but rather represents a particular moral view of what dignity requires.  These laws do not purport to maximize individual freedom, but instead regulate how individuals must behave in order to maintain dignity (and in the case of criminal prohibitions, stay out of jail).
    + Positive conceptions of dignity bring us away from the dignity of individual autonomy.  Inherent dignity focuses on a universal and equal quantum of dignity in each person and leaves open the question of what constitutes a good or dignified life—it seeks to maximize liberty and individual choice.  By contrast, positive conceptions of dignity focus on specific views of the good life.  We have to measure up to substantive dignity—it can be gained and lost.  Substantive views of dignity may constrain choices and thereby fail to respect the individual agency of those who have a different view of the good.
  • [From the web] The right to live a life of human dignity (CHR on RH Bill) – www.chr.gov.ph (hronlineph.wordpress.com) Reproductive Health is about the right of every person – regardless of sex, gender, age, social status, political or religious conviction – to the highest attainable standard of health.
  • Are We Really Helping? (missed60b.wordpress.com) “The measure of our compassion for the poor should not be how much we spend on federal antipoverty programs. Compassion must be effective. We ought to define success by how many escape dependence on welfare to pursue their full potential as human beings.”
    “As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare,” argues a statement on Circle of Protection’s website. “Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut.”Protecting the status quo, however, isn’t in the best interest of the poor.” says Jennifer A. Marshall, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation and author of “Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century.”We ought to define success by how many escape dependence on welfare to pursue their full potential as human beings.” “we also have to account for our overall stewardship of resources, commitment to the next generation, protection of national security, and respect for the proper roles of family, civil society and various levels of government.”

  • Understanding Poverty in America
    For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 35 million persons classified as “poor” by the Census Bureau fit that description.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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