On 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the Third General Assembly of the United Nations. In the aftermath of WW2, nearly every state that had fought with the Western Allies wanted the atrocities of Nazism and Fascism to be prohibited. To do this solemnly, the concept of Human Rights hold by every human being seemed to be a good way of preventing such horror to happen again: it was condemning Nazism and Fascism as well as every other doctrine that would aim at the destruction of any population, individual, or culture. It was defending each person from aggression, torture and discrimination, only because of his or her being human, regardless of his/her nationality, religion, sex, and so on. At the time of writing, no one objected that it was a purely Western set of values, nor was it viewed as a kind of cultural imperialism. Criticisms emerged later. Today, the denying by some state of the existence of human rights occurs on a regular basis. Indeed, many states have tried to justify their practice by asserting that the right they apparently violate does not exist at all, with regards to their culture, customs or beliefs.
[...] Bibliography Susan Waltz, Universalizing HRs: the role of small states in the Construction of the UDHR, Human Rights Quaterly, 23/01/2001, 44-72 John Baylis and Steve Smith, The Globalization of World Politics, Oxford University Press http://www.ceu.hu/legal/ind_vs_state/Osiatynski_paper_2002.htm http://www.du.edu/gsis/hrhw/volumes/2001/1-2/morsink-eckert.pdf The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Wiktor Osiatynski (Central European University) explains these traditions in his speech the Universality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” that opened the 1Oth annual conference on “Individual vs. State”, Budapest, June 2002. Louis Henkin, Gerald L. Neuman, Diane F. [...]
[...] Indeed, their insistence on that point led to the final Article 2 which not only entitles everyone to rights and freedom [ ] without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex language, religion, political pr other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status”, but also stipulates that distinction shall be made on the basis of the [ ] status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” It is made clear that the Declaration is Universal, and it is interesting noting that the largest extent of such a notion was achieved thanks to non- Western states, given that Western Empires could obviously not sincerely support such a threat to their imperialistic power. [...]
[...] Second, does the fact that Human Rights are primarily rooted in Western values question the universal applicability of such rights? How far did the great Western powers influence the writing of the UDHR, and how far did the weaker non-Western states? It is commonly said that the UDHR finds its roots in Western philosophy, which first seems to have fostered Human Rights. However, it is worth mentioning that there is no single Western philosophy, and thus there can be no unilaterally imposed set of values. [...]
[...] More, regarding all HRs shortcomings of the Great Powers, human rights project was peripheral, launched as a concession to small countries and in response to demands of numerous religious and humanitarian associations that the Allies live up to their war rhetoric." For all these reasons, the claim that the universality of the Declaration is questionable because of the exclusion of too much people from the process of drafting and writing seems not much relevant to me. What may be more accurate is the claim that the UDHR is contradictory to other cultures, as claimed by cultural relativists. [...]
[...] “There were representatives from a number of predominantly Islamic states (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen as well as India and Lebanon where Islam is strong) ; largely Buddhist China, Burma, and Siam ; Hinduist India, as well as Ethiopia and Liberia from sub-Saharan Africa.” Such a coalition did press for the adoption of the Declaration, and its very composition denies the idea of a purely Western UDHR, or all these states and individuals would not have stood for it. [...]
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