It is apparent, in examining the list below, that the items nearer the top of the list are absolutely essential to life itself and that items lower in the list we may be deprived of to some extent and still survive. We may debate their relative rankings, and perhaps refine the definitions and boundaries of each, but I believe that each must be included.
If we hold that these items are necessary then how do we obtain them for ourselves? Can we, and must we, ensure them for others? Certainly if we each have a right to these essential elements of life we must also have a duty to guarantee them to others. My use of clean air and water must not degrade them to make them less usable for others. My taking must be balanced by my giving.
I am certainly not the only person who has thought along these lines. Here are links to others I've found:
Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man and Citizen (1795)
[Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man and Citizen (1795) [web]
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948)
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) [web]
[The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)]
[International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] (UN) General Assembly resolution 2200A XXI (1976)
[International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] (UN) General Assembly resolution 2200A XXI (1976)
This one is very close to my own thinking on this subject:
[Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities (1997)]
"Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and implies obligations or responsibilities.
"The exclusive insistence on rights can result in conflict, division, and endless dispute, and the neglect of human responsibilities can lead to lawlessness and chaos.
"The rule of law and the promotion of human rights depend on the readiness of men and women to act justly.
"Global problems demand global solutions which can only be achieved through ideas, values, and norms respected by all cultures and societies.
"All people, to the best of their knowledge and ability, have a responsibility to foster a better social order, both at home and globally, a goal which cannot be achieved by laws, prescriptions, and conventions alone.
"Human aspirations for progress and improvement can only be realized by agreed values and standards applying to all people and institutions at all times."
The document then continues with 19 Articles describing the responsibilities we each must accept.
Unfortunately the variability and distinctive temperaments and personalities of individuals and the various social units we are members of will almost certainly result in some who reject any sense of responsibility toward others. Such people also must be accommodated in our thinking and planning; can we simply insist that they live in isolation from the rest of society?
It must be recognized too that persons and their social units do not exist solely at the polar extremes of hypersocialism (where the interests of the individual are entirely subordinate to the interests of society) or narcissist lone-wolf anarchists who care only for their own interests -- in fact, the vast majority of us will be found near the center of that continuum.
The list of documents continues:
[Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1998)]
[Declaration of Responsibilities and Human Duties (2002)]
[Universal Declaration of Human Duties] - World Philosophical Forum, strange stuff! (2003)
[Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse (2007)]
[Human Responsibility Movement Initiatives: A Comparative Analysis] Volume 7 Number 1 (2013): 1-26 -- (PDF)
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