Posted on January 23rd, 2023


The UN Human Rights declaration has evoked a range of attitudes from uncritical admiration to utter contempt. Admirers of Human Rights praise them extravagantly. Human Rights are the inalienable fundamental rights which a person is entitled to simply because he/she is a human being. They are universal in the sense of being applicable to everyone, everywhere. They are egalitarian as they apply equally to everyone and they are inalienable as they cannot be given away, said loyal Human Rights defenders.

Human Rights are rights that apply to everyone because they are human, explained Human Rights defenders. They are based on the notion of a shared humanity, not on the citizenship of a particular country. Human rights are interrelated and indivisible. No one right is more important than another and no one right can be claimed as a reason for violating another, they said.

Human rights are legal rights. They are legal entitlements and the state has a legal obligation to protect Human Rights. There must be remedies where there are violations of human rights, a human right without an effective remedy is not a right at all,   announced Human Rights defenders.

They pointed out that  Human rights are part of international law as well. International law was earlier limited to activities between states. Once Human Rights came in, international law  was extended to cover not only   state to state relations, but also  relations between the individual and the stat. This was  earlier considered the private domain of the sovereign state. Today, International law provides remedies for rights violations said Human Rights defenders, happily.

However, there was no universal applause for universal Human Rights” . The UN Declaration implies absolute human rights set in a perfect society. But life it not like that analysts said. Human Rights started as a Judeo Christian view. The Christian doctrine has shaped the human rights law, therefore it is not universal.  Further, the UN Declaration tends to be legal in its wording, individualist in emphasis and lacked a community perspective, critics concluded. Human Rights need to link with democracy, social justice as well as the market because economic progress is important, especially for developing countries.

Human Rights continued to garner criticism. Some  critics were contemptuous. We are now witnessing the birth of an age which knew all about its rights but had forgotten its responsibilities, they said. Human Rights is the new religion. It is adopted by those who do not have any other religion, they added.

Others were skeptical. ‘There’s a new thing been started called Human Rights’ . I was reading about it in the news paper. It means that people have got a right to have what they need, ‘said William Brown, the fictional schoolboy created by Richmal Crompton.[1] 

There is open opposition. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Husseinsaid at the opening of the 32 session of UN Human Rights  Council in 2016,  that a  growing number of countries are refusing to cooperate with the UN on Human Rights .

Thanks to the criticism, the west has now started to look more critically at the  Human Rights agenda. In 2008, London School of Economics started a Human Rights futures project. This project seeks to explore and analyze the future direction of human rights in the UK and elsewhere. Analysts in Asia also said the time has come to reevaluate the Declaration and covenants of the UN in the light of the cultures of other countries, particularly those of Asia and Africa.

Everybody wants rights for themselves, but not for the others, moaned Human Rights devotees. People turn to rights only when they are in trouble.   That is not enough, they said. They want a ‘rights based approach’.  But in such an approach, you move from spontaneous assistance to legal rights, warned critics.

Human Rights should be careful in its use of the law, they said. Human Rights should never become a subject which is rooted so deeply in the law that the only correct Human Rights actions are those  decided by this or that document  or by this or that  judgments in the law courts. An over emphasis on law in Human Rights will drain the subject of life, energy, and ethics. Already, rights law has been interpreted in law courts in a manner removed from its original intent.

Human Rights has its negative side. Human Rights creates much friction. By placing the individual at the centre of the universe it drives a wedge between individual members of society. It detracts from the community and social bonds of solidarity that play a central role in many traditional societies.

Human Rights is today used as a political tool, observed many critics. The UN Declaration has become a useful tool for political manipulation. It was used by activists who wished to destablise sovereign states. Samantha Power, head of USAID spent her early years hopping onto different lily pads in the human rights pond, said TIME.

 It is not easy to administer Human Rights .Human Rights supporters assume that all human conduct come under Human Rights. They forget that the range of human rights given in the UN Declaration is vast   and a common yardstick does not exist with which to measure violations of Human Rights all over the world.

Also, Human Rights defenders assume superiority. They seem to think that they are the only people truly concerned about man. That is not so. Human Rights supplies an important perspective but it is not the only thing.

Human Rights does not have the same following in Asia, as in the west. Asia saw Human Rights as a western implant. Human Rights attitudes are ideas developed in the west and then thrust on Asia. Asians consider this interference to Asia’s sovereignty. Traditional society also had elaborate system of duties, concepts of justice and human dignity, said Asia.

Asia has a different approach to Human Rights, said analysts. Asian states said that people function within societies, and the individual must be seen as a member of a wider social group. Asian values do not regard freedom to be important in the same way as it is regarded in the west.

Asian is more concerned with order and discipline than freedom. Many civil and politic rights given in UN Covenants are not considered to be relevant or suitable for Asia either.  Asia feels that development needs must be addressed first before civil and political rights can be tackled.  (Continued)

 [1] Richmal CromptonWilliam catches his trains” in Wlliam the  Lawless.”’

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