Are human rights universal
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Liu Hiaqui at the Second World Conference on Human Rights:

‘Sovereignty is the foundation and basic guarantee of human rights. The rights of each country to formulate its own policies on human rights protection in light of its own conditions should be respected and guaranteed.’


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‘When poverty and lack of adequate food are commonplace and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

‘The major criteria for judging the human rights situation a developing country should be whether its policies and measures help to promote economic and social progress.’


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Mahathir Mohamad and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

The West’s interpretation of human rights is that every individual can do what he likes, free from every constraint by governments. Individuals soon decided that they should break every rule and code governing their society...

Western societies have witnessed an almost completed separation of religion from secular life and the gradual replacement of religion with hedonistic values.’


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Lee Kwan Yew and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.:

‘The expansion of the right of the individual to behave or misbehave as he pleases has come at the expense of orderly society.

In the East the main object is to have a well-ordered society so that everyone can have maximum enjoyment of his freedoms. This freedom can only exist in an ordered state and not in a natural state of contention.’


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Suharto and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

In Indonesia, as in many developing countries, the rights of the individual are balanced by the rights of community, in other words, balanced by the obligation equally to respect the rights of others, the rights of society and the rights of the nation.

Indonesian culture as well as its ancient well-developed customary laws have traditionally put high priority on the rights and interests of the society or nation.


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Opposition to Human Rights and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

  • Development should take precedence over human rights.

  • Sovereignty should take precedence over human rights.

  • Human rights encourage lawlessness and individualism.

  • ‘Human rights’ is a Western idea which is not applicable to some cultures.


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A. J. Langlois: The Politics and Justice of Human Rights and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

‘For as long as human rights is centred around Western liberalism it cannot be universal: it fails on its own terms. For while espousing universality it is limited by a particularist rationality; while espousing egalitarianism it judges other ways of thought and practice as unequal; while espousing freedom it forces silence on non-liberal voices.’


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Assumptions of Human Rights Theories and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

  • Equality. From a moral point of view, all humans are equal and each is entitled to respect.

  • Reasonableness. People ought to be prepared to justify their moral beliefs to others.

  • Agency. To be able to pursue goals that they find worthwhile is important to all individuals.

  • Dignity and Respect. To be treated with dignity and respect is important to all individuals.


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Ethical Relativism and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

Ethical standards differ from one culture to another and from one time to another.

Ethical Relativism is the view that there are no ethical standards that all people at all times ought to accept. Ethical standards and, therefore, ethical truth are relative to a culture.


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Problems for Relativism and people’s needs are not guaranteed, priority should be given to economic development.

  • Relativism does not allow that criticisms of another culture can ever be justified.

  • Relativism does not allow for the ways in which people criticise the standards of their own culture.

  • Relativism cannot explain moral change.


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‘Human rights are not suitable standards for judging the conduct of people of non-Western societies or their governments.’


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Michael Ignatieff conduct of people of non-Western societies or their governments.’

‘Rights are universal because they define the universal interests of the powerless, namely that power be exercised over them in ways that respect their autonomy as agents.’


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Amartya Sen conduct of people of non-Western societies or their governments.’

‘One of the remarkable facts in the terrible history of famines in the world is that no substantial famine has ever occurred in any country with a democratic government and a relatively free press.’


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‘The spread of money politics throughout the Asian region, which increasingly distances people from rulers and makes politics not merely venal but predatory, raises serious questions about the future of even minimal good government in regimes that do not open themselves to the often adversarial popular scrutiny of “Western” human rights (Jack Donnelly).’


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‘Human rights are alien to non-Western cultures. People should not be required to accept moral standards that are alien to their culture.’


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Michael Ignatieff should not be required to accept moral standards that are alien to their culture.’

‘A universal regime of human rights protection ought to be compatible with moral pluralism.

That is, it should be possible to maintain regimes of human rights protection in a wide variety of civilizations, cultures, and religions, each of which happens to disagree with others as to what a good human life should be...

Human rights can command universal assent only as a decidedly “thin” theory of what is right, a definition of the minimum conditions for any kind of life at all.’


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‘In this way of thinking, human rights is only a systematic agenda of “negative liberty,”a tool kit against oppression, a toolkit that individual agents must be free to use as they see fit within the broader frame of cultural and religious beliefs that they live by.’

‘All that can be said about human rights is that they are necessary to protect individuals from violence and abuse, and if it is asked why, the only possible answer is historical. Human rights is the language through which individuals have created a defense against the oppression of religion, state, family, and group.’


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Universal Declaration of Human Rights individuals against serious oppression.

Article 16: Men and women of all ages, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

Article 21: The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage...


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Universal Declaration of Human Rights individuals against serious oppression.

Article 22: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 24: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitations of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.


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Charles Taylor: Is there a morally valid distinction?

‘Can people who imbibe the full Western human rights ethos which reaches its highest expression in the lone courageous individual fighting against all the forces of social conformity for her rights ever be a good members of a “Confucian” society?

How does this ethic of demanding what is due to us fit with the Teravada Buddhist search for selflessness, for self-giving and generosity?’


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‘What we are looking for is a world consensus on certain norms of conduct enforceable on governments. To be accepted in any given society these would in each case have to repose on some widely acknowledged philosophical justification...

What variations can we imagine philosophical justifications or in legal forms that would still be compatible with a meaningful universal consensus on what really matters to us, the enforceable norms?’


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Toward a Consensus on Human Rights norms of conduct enforceable on governments. To be accepted in any given society these would in each case have to repose on some widely acknowledged philosophical justification...

Western

Buddhist

Humans have a special status

Non-violence toward others and nature is of utmost importance

Autonomy and agency are of utmost important

Seeking Enlightenment is important

Individuals are independent from each other and from society


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Disagreements About Particular rights norms of conduct enforceable on governments. To be accepted in any given society these would in each case have to repose on some widely acknowledged philosophical justification...

  • Marriage Rights - the right of individuals to choose their partners

  • Rights of Women - to be equals in marriage

  • Reproductive Rights - the right of couples to choose how many children to have.

  • Homosexual Rights - the right of people not to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.


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