International Political Theory on Human Rights - Dictionary of Arguments
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Human rights/International political theory/Brown: (...) an account of universal principles based on
the rights of individuals rather than on the rights of collectivities was instituted by the UN Charter of 1945, and, more specifically, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
There is, as might be expected, a very large literature on the international human rights regime; (...) (Dunne and Wheeler, 1999)(1). (...) one important feature of the human rights regime[:] although it purports to impose universal standards upon states, it has been, until very recently, itself statist in origin and modes of operation. It comprises declarations made by states, covenants signed and ratified by them, and institutions subordinated to them. Only in one case, that of the European Convention on Human Rights, can it be said that effective mechanisms exist for ensuring that states live up to their treaty obligations.
Interventions/Problems: In the last decade or so practices have emerged that have challenged this situation.
1) In the first place, groups of states have, on occasion, taken it upon themselves to intervene forcibly in the internal affairs of another state, in the interests of its inhabitants;
2) second, more radically, developments in international law have begun to undermine the prin-
ciple of sovereign immunity. As to the first of these changes - humanitarian intervention - the record of the 1990s has been mixed (Mayall, 1996(2); Moore, 1998(3)).
(...) although there have been developments of international law in this area, it may be premature to talk of an emerging norm of humanitarian intervention, as Nicholas Wheeler does (2000)(4) in the best book on the subject. >Inequalities/International political theory.
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Economic rights/social rights: Economic and social rights are often described as 'second generation', political rights being 'first'. 'Third-generation' rights are the rights of peoples,
which include such general notions as a right to self-determination, but also more specific sets
of rights such as those of indigenous peoples (Crawford, 1988)(5).
Problems: There is a conceptual problem here; the notion of human rights is associated with
the promotion of universal standards and equality of treatment, but the rights of peoples can only be meaningful if they endorse a right to be different. Indigenous peoples, for example, demand the right to be governed in terms of their own customs and mores, which may well not sit easily with universal norms; this is a well-recognized issue in the politics of multiculturalism (Kymlicka, 1995(6); Parekh, 2000)(7) (...). However, in international
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relations, the most striking manifestation of this problem arises in the context ofa wider challenge to the notion of human rights: the argument that the international human rights regime is based on specifically Western values, an argument most clearly articulated by a number of East Asian states, hence often referred to as the 'Asian values' debate (Bauer and Bell, 1999(8); Bell, 2000(9)).
Religion/family: The core argument is that the human rights identified in the 1948 Declaration and subsequently are related to a specifically Western conception of the individual and the public sphere; Asian values, it is argued, are oriented towards the family and the collectivity, stress duties and responsibilities rather than rights, and place a greater emphasis on religion.
1. Dunne, T. and N. Wheeler, eds (1999) Human Rights in Global Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2. Mayall, J., ed. (1996) The New Interventionism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3. Moore, J., ed. (1998) Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
4. Wheeler, N. J. (2000) Saving Strangers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Crawford, J. , ed. (1988) The Rights of Peoples. Oxford: Clarendon.
6. Kymlicka, W. , ed. (1995) The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
7. Parekh, B. (2000) Rethinking Multiculturalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
8. Bauer, J. and D. A. Bell, eds (1999) The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
9. Bell, D. (2000) East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Brown, Chris 2004. „Political Theory and International Relations“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
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Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004