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Critical Analysis_Should_Human_Rights_Be_Universal

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Critical Analysis_Should_Human_Rights_Be_Universal

  1. 1. Business Administration and Economics Department CBE 2006: International Politics Essay on the topic: “A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal?” Prepared by BS15028, BS15051, BS15079
  2. 2. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 2 | 13 Human rights as a concept, in the form it is nowadays regarded worldwide, emerged admittedly in a politically unstable environment. Predominantly, it was not spread until the anti-colonial notions’ abatement and the end of World War II, with the threat of the Cold War looming on the horizon that this notion became the focal point (Ashfari, 2015, p. 885; O’Connor, 2014; Posner, 2014; Donnelly, 2007, p. 290). Thus, in the 20th Century, more precisely in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (further referred as the UDHR) was developed by the United Nations (UN) and signed by a plethora of countries, both Western and Eastern states which voluntarily voted for and ratified, at an 86 percent rate, the terms and stipulations of this pronouncement (Ashfari, 2015, p. 886; O’Connor, 2014; Donnelly, 2007, p. 288; Silverman and Ruggles, 2007, p. 3). The nature of human rights is described as an innate, inalienable characteristic that is available to every individual on the planet, regardless of his or her distinctions from other people, simply based on the inborn essence of humanity (ohchr.org, 2016a). Subsequently, in 1966, intended to act as the legitimate and mandatory adaptation of the UDHR, the UN generated two treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which advocates the so- called negative human rights, meaning the restrictions imposed on the government, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), promoting the positive rights, the required state provisions to its citizens (Mangini, 2016; Ashfari, 2015, p. 886; Donnelly, 2007, p. 288; Silverman and Ruggles, 2007, p. 4). Whilst the specification of human rights is almost affirmed, an employment of them remains to be the subject of debates (Gordon, 2015, p. 115). Convictions about human rights were and persist on being divided between those who support the uniform concept of universalism and their opponents that struggle for an existence of diversity among different cultures, otherwise called as moral relativism, their rights and the methods by which they can be interpreted (Le, 2016, p. 203; Melé and Sánchez-Runde, 2013, p. 682). Aside from these positions, the neutral side in this polemic was occupied by the proponents of a balanced cumulative foundation (Melé and Sánchez-Runde, 2013, p. 682). It is considered that disputes between these stances were reinforced with the development of globalization and the amplified interconnectedness of states (Chin, 2015, p. 1). Similarly, Melé and Sánchez-Runde (2013) elaborate on this notion by stressing the vital significance of finding a mutual basis among communities (p. 681). Consequently, the focus of the present debate shifts from the contention over the actuality of
  3. 3. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 3 | 13 human rights’ universalism, and deliberates on whether they ‘should’ in effect be universal or not (Dan, 2015, p. 151). The Debate From the perspective of relativists, the recognition of the 'universal' rules, as well as the adoption of the UDHR, will lead to the acceptance of Western ideas and beliefs which failed to define boundaries among societies, while more crucially, this ‘universality’, according to the supporters of the adverse notion, will lead to a devaluation of communitarian morals and loss of cultural identity in a world where the individual will lead the way and not the society in which he or she resides, associates and consorts within (Dan, 2015, p. 151; O'Connor, 2014, Posner, 2014). In this way, cultural relativism raises a range of questions relating to its particular application (p. 682), due to the fact that the sense of morality is differentiated vastly from country to country (Melé and Sánchez-Runde, 2013, p. 681). What is ratified in one commune, may be entirely unacceptable or inhumane in another one (Melé and Sánchez- Runde, 2013, p. 682). Furthermore, the political repression that such activities could produce is another response of the universalists to such allegations, say the treaty outlawing inequity against women in Saudi Arabia, that was validated in 2007, when, nevertheless, legally, they are dependent on men in all aspects of life, claiming their religion, morals and values which are supported by the Quran and Sharia law, can be reviewed, however, to force the Arab world means to disrespect their human rights, therefore, it is a coin with two sides (Dan, 2015, p. 152; O'Connor, 2014; Posner, 2014; fmreview.org, 2012; Tascón and Ife, 2008, p. 308). Comparably to this, the incidents of female genital excision in African countries, as a standard traditional custom, and the possibility that even radical conduct like Ku Klux Klan practices can be reflected as a cultural expression, thus considered salient for a country’s people (Dan, 2015, p. 152; O'Connor, 2014; Tascón and Ife, 2008, p. 308; Logan, 2007, p. 37). As was mentioned by Melé and Sánchez-Runde (2013), further issues with this concept are based on the belief that moral relativism can be efficiently used across the world by relying on what is considered to be right in a particular country without paying attention to the circumstances (p. 683). Additionally, these rights signify the most efficacious reaction yet conceived to an assortment of standard hazards to human self-possession that bureaucratic nations and market economies have caused (Donnelly, 2007, p. 287).
  4. 4. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 4 | 13 The array of explanations and, thus, realizations of the human standards add particularity to the relativists statements, since contending notions, such as religious tolerance, restrict the execution of the ‘universal’ human rights in a country per specific social, economic, political and time-related circumstances (Ashfari, 2015, p. 885-886; Dan, 2015, p. 153; Hopgod, 2014, p.71; Johansson Dahre, 2010, p. 641; Donnelly, 2007, p. 294; Logan, 2007, p. 39). Such arguments have their roots from the post-war period of 1945, when due to the influence of the West, the United Nations, as an international entity with a focus on advocacy of human rights, was established (Deng Dau, 2014, p. 20). Yet, the basic needs of citizens and the foundational principles throughout religions, the Golden Rule, per Ashfari (2015, p. 888), Donnelly (2007, p. 290) and Dan (2015, p. 151), namely the ones backed in the ICCPR, even through these socio-cultural disparities observed, still maintain their universal nature, mainly since conceptions such as protection of life, essential liberties, and legal security transcend cultural and national characteristics (Mele and Sanchez-Runde, 2013, p. 683). It is further supported, that several human rights, involving genocide, torture, forced disappearances, the rights of aboriginal peoples, emancipation and security of person, have reached the universal acknowledgement in both non-Western and Western societies as people have rallied and demanded recognition in their favour (Chandran, 2015, p. 154; Golder, 2014, p. 79; Donnelly, 2007, p. 299). Supporters of moral universalism, which is called moral objectivism, consider the statements of Westernized ideas erroneous as the creation of the UDHR was delegated to experts from non-Western countries as well, and was aimed to exceed cultural diversity in order to create a single postulate that would be able to proclaim and defend rights of every person notwithstanding his or her origin (O'Connor, 2014; Mele and Sanchez-Runde, 2013, p. 684). Nevertheless, consistent with Ashfari (2015) and Donnelly (2007, p. 290), albeit the input of the “small nations” (Ashfari, 2015, p. 857) was considerable, the notions being forwarded and approved were liable to their flawed perceptions that this concept was an invention for the Western reality and had neither projected nor realised that they would, in the future, be largely directed to the states they represented. Moreover, even if their participation is irrefutable, the Global South believes the leaders guiding the process at the time, for instance, Egypt’s Nasser or Iran’s Shah, were neglectfully circumventing their own nation’s philosophical and societal rules and omitting their vital protections, thus they were convicted of Westernization (Ashfari, 2015, p. 859) and of a form of cultural imperialism or “hegemony” (Dan, 2015, p. 151). This,
  5. 5. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 5 | 13 ultimately led to the creation of other pronouncements, as the Bangkok Declaration in 1993 in the South-East and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in 1990, based on Sharia law and perceived as another viewpoint on human rights, which is considered to have divested the securities that an individual ought to enjoy under global human rights (Ashfari, 2015, p. 866; Mayer, 2004, p. 354). Nonetheless, these interpretations are still strikingly similar in essence, say the moral and religious values which protect the human dignity and the need for objectivity, to the UDHR and henceforth, proving the universal basis and application of them (Chandran, 2015, p. 153; Donnelly, 2007, p. 284). The multilateral universal approach to human rights has no particular definition and its perceived as a combination of elements with the inclination to global adoption of unified human rights (Rainer, 2013, p. 1). The idea of human rights' universality lies in the foundation of related legislation, including the UDHR, which was established to protect these rights (ohchr.org, 2016a). Equality in terms of the fair distribution of different types of rights was embedded in such legal documents to guarantee that all human beings would be treated identically, despite cultural differences (Donnelly, 2007, p. 283; Franck, 2001). Whether everyone, or even anyone, however experiences these rights is another concern. Currently, in unreasonably numerous states, the government not only vigorously rejects their execution, but wholly and methodically infringes upon the most universally identified human rights, and in all countries, substantial breaches of at least some human rights ensue on a daily basis, although which rights are abused and at what level of seriousness fluctuate noticeably (see Figure 1 and Figure 2) (Donnelly, 2007, p. 283). Figure 1: States with a high level of case-count (more than 1,500 applications pending before a judicial formation) (European Court of Human Rights, 2016).
  6. 6. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 6 | 13 By contrast, opponents of universalism insist on its incomplete framework which does not consider peculiarities among cultures (O'Connor, 2014), which, according to another source, impact businesses on different levels, especially, on the international scene where the intercultural interaction takes place (Melé and Sánchez-Runde, 2013, p. 681). Moreover, the ambiguity of the UDHR legislature, that allows governments to justify virtually anything with this excess of inadequately defined obligations, is highlighted (Posner, 2014; Foley, 2009; Logan, 2007, p. 44; Kennedy, 2001, p. 105). In most republics, the international human rights of their citizens formally amount to 400, such as to employment, holiday, freedom of expression and religious veneration that, eventually, offer no assistance to governmental officials with regulated funds, thus only some human rights ensure protection (Posner, 2014). Hence, the cultural and communitarian values, as well as the needs of each country are the factors that contribute over which human rights are to be exercised (Posner, 2014). For instance, in the United States of America (USA), the right to freedom of expression ranges even to ‘hate speech’, while, at the same time, in Europe this is not tolerated (Posner, 2014). Such a vagueness has led to exploitation of universal human rights by various lobbies that use them as political vehicles according to their own priorities, which can be illustrated in the proclamations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the USA that the privilege to bear arms is a human right (Smith, 2016; Melé and Sánchez-Runde, 2013, p. 685). Consequently, relativists contradict the universal appropriateness of these rights based on the fact that they may be employed in cases of political authority, manipulation and force (Johansson Dahre, 2010, p. 646). Figure 2: Human Rights Risk Index in 2014 (Verisk Maplecroft, 2013).
  7. 7. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 7 | 13 For instance, the issues bounded to gender discrimination and tortures, specifically, across the Arab civilization, are still affecting the universal human rights as well as considered to be far from the international norms (Franck, 2001). Referring to the analysis that was made by Franck (2001), the Islamic order breaches what was already recognized at the global level. The tension in this region was additionally intensified by a militant group that is known as Islamic State and which is currently involved in extremist acts that violate various kinds of human rights (hrw.org, 2016a). Apart from such an exposure on the global stability, questions related to the human rights infringement were raised in the United States as well (hrw.org, 2016b; Kerry, 2015). The fluctuations in this respect were caused by the newly elected President of America, Donald Trump, due to his statements that were associated with racism and prejudices against many, including women (hrw.org, 2016b). In this term, specifically, the prevalent unease lies not on what the future president might do in office, but to the outcomes of the frictions that have been incited during his presidential campaign (Carpenter, 2016). Trump’s triumph might bolster not only extremist parties against minority groups such as Muslims, African- Americans, participants of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) society and Hispanics, but also leftist radicals against supporters of the future president and other right- wing personalities (Carpenter, 2016). Lastly, it is supported by the challengers of universality of human rights that these declarations are endorsed by elitist and affluent groups of people, men and women from both Western and non-Western nations, such as politicians, legislators, scholars, and a few individuals from Non-Governmental Organizations, as the Human Rights Watch (Tascón and Ife, 2008, p. 319; Kennedy, 2001, p. 105). Table 1: Expected Human Rights Infringements by the Future President of the USA, Donald Trump (Carpenter, 2016; United Nations, 2016).
  8. 8. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 8 | 13 Likewise, it is stated that it is them that effectively are in command of the outlines and prioritizations of these rights for the rest of the world in addition to being the ones world- widely heard and accepted in the related academic literature, thus rendering this a study of the mighty about the powerless. (Hopgod, 2014, p. 73; Tascón and Ife, 2008, p. 319; Kennedy, 2001, p. 105). For instance, the Human Rights Watch recognizes that developing of the Third- World countries, such as Laos or Madagascar, cannot conform to all the rights recorded in the treaties that were ratified, therefore, they opt and rank the ones deemed worthy, essentially dictating the way that governments around the world ought to operate, often even affronting Western misinformed civilians who have contributed financially to the NGO (Posner, 2014). Therefore, the question arises of how can the Human Rights Watch or its contributors understand to the greater extent the priorities needed per country than the people residing in them (Posner, 2014). The notion supporting the universality of human rights is to promote a neutral structure, instead of favouring any specific value or culture, as well as to obtain aid from political and non-political actors in these terms, not to be exploited by them (Johansson Dahre, 2010, p. 643). As an example, human rights in India are seen as an inherently politicized language, thereby, many are sceptical about them for this particular reason (Hopgod, 2014, p. 71). Findings The disagreement relating to the origin of human rights and the legal bodies that enforce them seems to be endless (Baylis et al, 2014, p. 475). While one side affirms the West's influence in the human rights evolution, another party asserts that this development was based on a voluntary participation (p. 475), consequently, the thorough and complex approach is required to estimate this question (Baylis et al, 2014, p. 476). The foregoing evaluation of cultural relativism and universalism, also, establishes the differences between both sides and emphasizes the growing ambiguity in relation to the human rights enforcement (Lower, 2013). Based on Franck's suggestions (2001), issues regarding cultural distinctions can be eliminated efficiently with the help of combined forces across the planet. Whilst, at the same time, in accordance to Ramcharan (No date), while approaching human rights, cultural attributes need to be considered as a modification to practical implementation and an addition to the general rights (p. 423) that should be defended all over the world (p. 428). The author emphasizes that cultural relatedness does not contradict to the
  9. 9. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 9 | 13 existence of universal principles but rather strengthens and accompanies them (Ramcharan, No date, p. 426). While human rights are universal in character, it is now largely accepted that their manifestation and execution in the national context should continue being each government’s jurisdiction, meaning that the predominant multifaceted variation of problems of different sociocultural and economic nature, and the distinctive belief systems should be taken into consideration (Dan, 2015, p. 154). This national competence in this regard not only originates from the doctrines of autonomy of states, but also is a logical outcome of the beliefs of independence as well as acquiescence with globally outlined standards, including varied mechanisms of international actions, such as multilateral, bilateral and transnational (Dan, 2015, p. 154). In spite of the fact that the UDHR has drawbacks, mostly, in terms of the global application, the major significance lies in objectives of human rights and their impact on the protection of people across all regions of the world (O'Connor, 2014). Recognition of human rights by states needs an adherence of linked laws as well as an application of them on the domestic scale (ohchr.org, 2016c). In case the inner governance failed to fulfil its responsibilities, the external forces, such as the Human Rights Council, will be involved (ohchr.org, 2016b; ohchr.org, 2016c). In addition to the preceding justifications, in terms of acceptance the universalism of human rights, it is also crucial to take into account today's blurring of frontiers among societies and their interdependency which were induced by the deeply globalized world (Melé and Sánchez- Runde, 2013, p. 682). Furthermore, trans-border movements of people have given a rise to the growing number of weak, defenceless and vulnerable non-citizen populace (Hopgod, 2014, p. 70). Globalization "from above" is stripping workers off their rights and societal protection, globalization "from below', on the other hand, has formed a growing worldwide civic society, while claims that international society is forming new rules that permit aggressive intervention to halt any breach of fundamental and essential human rights are emphasized (Hopgod, 2014, p. 70; Johansson Dahre, 2010, p. 650). Since, therefore, human rights are a global phenomenon, and prompt but also long-term universal change in favour of the humane is the goal, then the discourse of human rights should disentangle itself from politicization and embrace the peoples voice (Hopgod, 2014, p. 67).
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  13. 13. A Critical Analysis: Should Human Rights Be Universal? 13 | 13 Smith, S. (2016) Gun ownership is not a human right. [online] theguardian.com. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/29/gun-ownership-is-not- a-human-right [Accessed 20th November 2016]. Tascón, Sonia and Ife, Jim (2008) Human Rights and Critical Whiteness: Whose Humanity?. The International Journal of Human Rights, 12(3), p.307-327. Un.org. (2016) Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations. [online] Available from: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ [Accessed 20th November 2016]. Verisk Maplecroft, (2013) Human Rights Risk Index 2014. [image] Available from: https://maplecroft.com/themes/hr/ [Accessed 20th November 2016].

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