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Universal Declaration Of Human Rights Essay

1898 words - 8 pages

From the beginnings with the Cyprus Cylinder to the establishment of the formal International Bill of Rights, the concept (and acceptance) of human rights have come a long way. In the long and varied history of the process, it has not only been ‘Western’ individuals that have advocated for a formal adoption of human rights. Gandhi, a young lawyer from India argued for and insisted upon the validation of rights for all human beings. Even so, criticisms surrounding the Bill of Rights have centred around the idea that human rights are a western concept, and one that has been imposed upon other nations. Summed up neatly, ‘a group of nations is seeking to redefine the content of the term human ...view middle of the document...

Otto makes a valid point regarding this debate, saying that both sides are employing dualized and hierarchicized concepts of difference. That is, the form of the debate is itself problematic because it structures the discussion in terms of polar claims which suit the competition between dominating global regimes of power by silencing transformative alternatives. As a result, important issues of global diversity are clouded and silenced, and the dichotomy between universality and cultural relativity is confirmed as a true antithesis. (Otto 1997-8:17) Further, as Rao says, geopolitical borders are thus erased and a multitude of cultures are collapsed into two falsely unified packages, one bearing the stamp of human rights and the other lacking it. (Rao 1995:168) Perhaps more fitting, rather than splitting the globe into Western and non, would be to adopt the concepts of secular vs. non-secular, and in conjunction with that, developed vs. developing. The nations in question from where a majority of the criticism arises, particularly those in South and East Asia, are wont to pursue economic development, and it is plausible to see how such nations may perceive the voice of such a power as the United States as an attacking force in this endeavour. In essence, the true argument, rather than focusing on the real issue of human rights, becomes lost in political play. A part of the criticism is that the wording of the human rights covenants are individualistic and this individualism is perceived to contain within it an emphasis on democratic values. The idea of democracy does go hand in hand with individual rights, and we can see why it may be a point of contention - it is contrary to the communal values inherent to the nations in question. But is this really an argument for the lack of universality of human rights?

What must be understood, first and foremost, is that cultures are a product of outside influence and not peculiar to one geographical region or country. Cultures develop over centuries and have been part of a mutual exchange of ideas and values. A significant portion of the criticism relates to the values specific to a region. When it is considered that culture is, in fact, not specific to one region but instead something that has developed organically, much of this criticism is rendered invalid. They are subject to outside influence, and grow as a result of their interactions with the surrounding environment. For example, the idea of degree-granting institutions was actually conceived in the Muslim world. However, it quickly grew to become a concept widely adopted by humanity. There are numerous examples of aspects of one culture that actually had their roots in another. Therefore, it must be accepted that cultures, while possessing unique characteristics, are actually comparable to living breathing organisms and tend to take what is appealing and positive from other cultures and adapt them to their own. The human rights process is simply an...

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