We'll see that a mediate position can be found between what Donnelly has identified as radical cultural relativism (a) and radical universalism (b). Thus, it seems that a cross-cultural consensus can be found on the universality of some basic rights contained in the UDHR, whereas some other articles may be susceptible of cultural adaptation. But in the first place we will examine the position of cultural relativists and its potential weaknesses and hidden rationals
[...] This jurisprudence, emanating from a typically “Western” court (even if its composition has now been extended to Eastern European countries), shows that the Western conception of human rights does not ignore collective values and interests. Nor does it ignore the notion of duties. Indeed, art.29(1) stresses that Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. Thus, even if the UDHR can be said to represent Western values, it could turn out to be more adaptable than expected. [...]
[...] Silk reminds us that very idea of human rights means nothing if it does not mean universal human rights”. As a result, it appears that, if we are to preserve the notion, we have to narrow its scope. Hence the resort to the notion of basic rights. The concept has been defined in many different ways, which has led authors to give each their own list of basic rights. For a dominant trend, however, the notion refers to a set of principles embedded in a few common moral values: the respect for human life, dignity, physical integrity and personal liberty are often cited as basic rights. [...]
[...] But the adoption of competing regional texts on human rights (such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981 or the Bangkok Declaration of 1993) that sometimes sweepingly differ from the 1948 version tends to show that the UDHR may not be as universal as it pretends to be. At this point, a serious theoretical problem arises, linked to the concept of human rights. The characteristic of human rights, as opposed to contingent legal rights, is in theory that they are held by all human beings, as such. [...]
[...] Bibliography Basic Readings Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in theory and in practice Cornell University Press 1989 Alison Dundes Renteln, International Human Rights: Universalism Versus Cultural Relativism Sage Publications 1990 Articles or short developments In “Human Rights in Africa: Cross-Cultural Perspectives” The Brookings Institution 1990, edited by An Naim and Deng: F.M. Deng, A cultural approach to human rights among the Dinka (chapter 11, p.261) Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Current Muslim Thinking on Human Rights in Human Rights in Africa (chapter p.133) James C. [...]
[...] Madjid of the Indonesian Human rights commission, “Islam too recognises the right to found a family, the right to privacy ( freedom of religion”[x].But, as Donnelly argues, these rights actually derive from religious duties imposed on rulers and individuals by the Q'ran. Thus, the right to life derives from the duty not to kill anyone, the right to freedom is merely a duty not to enslave unjustly, and “economic rights turn out to be duties to earn a living and to provide help for the needy”[xi] Accordingly, Donnelly concludes that these are not proper human rights, but rights that a consequence of one's status or actions, not the simple fact that one is a human being”. [...]
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