What It Means to Be a Person


What is a person? Is it a human being? A collection of cells and tissues all doing their part? Although it seems like an obvious question, when broken down to its core, the idea of personhood becomes a lot more complex. In addition to being a person, what does it mean to be a citizen? Sidney Hillman coined the study of politics as who gets what, when, and why but before that process can even begin we must define who exactly is included in that “who”. This makes the the concept of personhood and citizenship an essential part of the study of politics.


Being considered a person, under the law and in politics, provides certain universal rights. In many ways, governments are responsible for protecting the basic human rights of their citizens. When the government is the party violating those human rights, inhabitants are often forced to flee their country for survival. This has made the question of refugee rights increasingly more relevant.


People who have been displaced and are fleeing an oppressive government should still be entitled to at least basic human rights. However, the role that wealthy countries should play in the protection of these rights has become increasingly controversial over the years, especially in the wake of current events. In the coming months I will research the responsibility that the United Nations and wealthy countries have in protecting the rights of refugees.


In Gabriel Koehler’s article “The fundamental rights of refugees – Where have they gone?”, Koehler explores this notion of the decreasing commitment of high-income countries to ensuring refugee rights. Koehler argues that despite many of these countries supporting various UN Human Rights campaigns, when it comes to protecting refugees, high-income countries, particularly in Europe, have been very restrictive in their policies towards refugees. Koehler goes on to explain that while these countries support the idea of human rights for refugees, economic and social factors such as job competition, cost of supporting refugees, and potential ties to extremist groups, make the actual enforcement of these rights more difficult.



  1. Koehler, G. 2016. “The fundamental rights of refugees – Where have they gone?” Global Social Policy 16(3): 311–14. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1468018116666144.






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