What Are Human Rights? (7): Universal Rights

I believe we should try to move away from the vocabulary and attitudes which shape the stereotyping of developed and developing country approaches to human rights issues. We are collective custodians of universal human rights standards, and any sense that we fall into camps of accuser and accused is absolutely corrosive of our joint purposes. The reality is that no group of countries has any grounds for complacency about its own human rights performance and no group of countries does itself justice by automatically slipping into the victim mode. Mary Robinson

The claim that the acceptance of human rights means the introduction of the culture of the West, can only be true if human rights are part of the essence of western culture and totally alien to other cultures. But this is obviously wrong. All cultures have values and principles that reflect the values embedded in human rights. And the West probably suffers just as many rights violations as any other culture. It has, for some centuries now, been struggling against certain of its own cultural practices which, from a rights point of view, are or were unacceptable.

If human rights policy is not the introduction of the culture of the West, then it cannot be criticised for being an expression of a belief in cultural supremacy and universality, at least not in principle. Some westerners may believe that human rights promotion is part of the promotion of western culture, the development of the underdeveloped, and the replacement of barbaric cultures with a superior one. But they are wrong. Only individual violators or certain kinds of practices may be barbaric, inferior or underdeveloped, and these violators and practices can be found everywhere, in every culture. A culture as such is never inferior and the equality between culture is something which human rights promoters must and do accept, first of all because violations occur in more or less equal measure in all cultures, and secondly because rights require equal tolerance and respect for diversity.


1 thought on “What Are Human Rights? (7): Universal Rights”

  1. “All cultures have values and principles that reflect the values embedded in human rights”
    i totally agree with u, you summered the matter up in perfectly formed sentences.
    we must fight for humains rights in all the countries, diffrences play no role in this matter.


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