Final Examination, Part II: a Reflection on Status of Human Rights
Table of Contents
Since the passage of the UDHR (1948) analysis has been rife on the legal character, which has threatened to eclipse its power and normative character. The largely positivist and legalistic debate can be regarded as redundant, but the UDHR should be evaluated based on what it has achieved. Indeed, the normative values embodied in the declaration reinforce its authority in the international community, which hinge on people’s collective expectation, as well as legal procedures and legal institutions.
Some of the course materials draw parallels and provide inspiration to the UDHR. For instance, Abraham argued against slavery or servitude in his speech at Peoria (1854) and Gettysburg Address (1864), mirrored Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that prohibits the slave trade and slavery. Similarly, Angela Grinke in her 1837 letters on the inequalities of women featured in the anti-slavery press demonstrated the unconstitutionality of slavery, which she claimed was so weighty that it demanded civil disobedience against the present constitutional order.
The Magna Carta qualifies as the most prominent early influence document informing the rule of constitutional law. The Magna Carta enumerates provisions that inform the basis of human rights, such as the liberty detached from the government intervention. The UDHR, as a review of the natural justice principles detailed in the Magna Carta, qualifies as a restatement of the fundamental rights that are critical to safeguarding individuals against tyranny based on the premise that human beings are an end in themselves, rather than a means.
The Status of UDHR: Sixty-four Years Later
Universalists contend that human rights draw from liberal traditions, in which rights are guaranteed by virtue of being human. Cultural relativists, on the other hand, stipulate that values draw from the specific communities, rather than personal issues. The consensus that human rights are universal is often opposed by critics within other areas of the world. Cultural differences manifest significant implications on the human rights with some critics arguing that some human rights are irrelevant to their societies. Critics question whether women rights qualify as universal in the face of evident divergences in social practice, especially in the cultures, where marriage is an alliance connecting lineages.
Other critics assert that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mirrors the ethnocentric bias prominent in 1948, and that the notion of human rights is a plot to justify Western interventionism as an instrument of Western political neocolonialism. However, the outlined objections to the universality of human rights mirror a phony and damaging opposition to the primacy of the human rights. The objections are no more than sweeping stereotyping of civilizations or regions, which have been broadly discredited by the fact that regions comprise of the diverse cultures and all the societies enjoy conflicting and multiple ethical perspectives. The perspective questioning the universality of human rights is entirely erroneous and ought to be rejected, since human rights represent a justification of the best of the values held by humanity. Moreover, cultures continually evolve and there is nothing sacrosanct about culture.
The last six decades have been characterized by the human rights flashpoints across the world with the most prominent today being Darfur, Iraq, Syria, and Gaza. The failure in human rights protection has mainly been at national level, rather than on the international one. As such, governments must re-commit themselves, so as to deliver concrete enhancements within the protection of human rights. It is also pertinent to recognize the reluctance or ambivalence of the international community to tackle some of the global worst human rights that draw from growing inequalities and deep conflicts. The international community must put more effort in order to foster collective leadership and a shared vision to tackle human rights violations.
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Most Significant Documents
I can outline the three documents that I find most significant to present and future generation. The first document relates to Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg (1863) that calls for preservation of liberty. Lincoln urged his generation to further free Republic. Abraham Lincoln urges all lovers of liberty to join and re-adopt the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln urged the audience not to allow those, who have given the ultimate sacrifice, to die in vain, and let American democracy flourish and enjoy its new birth of freedom.
The Iron Curtain Speech is also highly significant to present and future generations in its expression of the dangers that still menace the world, namely: war, tyranny, communism, poverty, and privation. Churchill highlighted the rise of the Soviet power, and the apparent failure of the West to respond to the danger. Churchill bemoans the failure of the world to prevent the Second World War through timely action and spare the miseries brought upon the mankind by the war.
In the speech, Churchill highlights the supreme task and duty of America and its allies in guarding people against the miseries and horrors of war. Churchill also points out the danger posed by tyranny in other areas of the world, where liberties enjoyed in democratic countries are not valid. Churchill also speaks about an iron curtain that has descended across the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe that found self increasingly under the grip of Moscow. He highlighted the danger of prominent Communist parties seeking totalitarian control and expelling true democracy, which is contrary to the liberated Europe that the allied forces struggled to build up. Moreover, such an arrangement does not guarantee permanent peace in Europe. The speech is highly relevant to present and future generation, especially in light of the current crisis in Ukraine, a country torn between the East and the West. The growing crisis rekindles memories of the Cold War, as Moscow attempts to reinstate its sphere of influence and reaffirm its territorial ambitions.