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Should trade be considered a human right?

‘Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.’
– The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 60th anniversary on 10 December 2008. This declaration has served as a foundation of international law in the intervening years and also holds the record as the most translated document in the world; it is available in over 360 languages. One of the main areas of focus of the declaration is on economic rights, which has been further detailed in the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Ensuring the right to work is a central tenant of both these documents, but never do they explicitly mention trade as a mechanism for ensuring this fundamental right. And yet trade plays a key role in promoting the economic growth and stability that jobs and workers rely on. The Trade and Poverty in Latin America (COPLA) programme has therefore taken this anniversary as an opportunity to pose the question: ‘Should trade be considered a human right?