Thisessay aims to evaluate the above statement that suggests that human rights arecreated solely on western values which are imposed on non-western societies. Tocritically asses this statement there will be a debate formulated on whetherthis is a fair assumption or not.
To formulate the argument, examples based onboth sides will be considered from points such as; western values within humanrights law are not universal to non-western countries as well as the introductionof human rights to non-western societies is not a disadvantage and not asimposed as the statement suggests. To begin the essay there will be a brief discussionon the birth of international human rights law in the past 70 years followingWorld War 2 and why they are considered a western creation. Following thisthere will be an expansive discussion on whether human rights are entirelyuniversal to non-western cultures which will be accompanied by examples to backthis up.
To counter this argument, the benefits of western human rights in non-westernsocieties will be discussed. Throughout reference will be made to relevant internationalhuman rights treated and charters which have developed in the past 30 years. Toconclude, an evaluation of all the points made within the essay will be laidout and assessed on whether or not the above statement is a fair account ofwestern human rights.Thenotion of human rights within international law as a protection for all individualsis a relatively new concept. Emerging from the ashes of World War 2, human rightshit a pinnacle when the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) wasestablished in 1948. The purpose of this was to bring about safeguards for all individualsand to ensure the same atrocities of genocide and torture that Europe had justfaced, didn’t happen again. The UDHR was adopted by the General Assembly of theUnited Nations in December 1948 and at the time 48 of 68 member states of theUN voted in favour.
33 of the 48 member states who signed where Latin Americanand countries to be considered non-western. This meant that more than 2 thirdsof the signatories where not of typically western societies. Votes against theUDHR included the Soviet Union, Poland and Saudi Arabia. 1Sincethe adoption of the UDHR, there have been a number of conventions brought forwardin recent years in order to further protect the human rights within the declarationand in an attempt to further enhance the rights of everyone. Examples includethe UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC), the UN Convention onthe Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1999 (CEDAW) and the UN Declarationon the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (UNDRIP).
Following the 1993 UN World Conference onHuman Rights, the UN also created the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights whose duty it is to coordinatehuman rights activities and works to protect the human rights laid out withinthe UDHR.2Althoughthe above mentioned conventions and declarations are signed by many countriesof different cultural societies separatefrom western ideologies, it has been argued that the values within them are consideredto be based of off western concepts and values. It is a fair assumption thatthis is the case as the wording within many conventions and the UDHR itself arevery individualist and secular, disregarding collective and religious societies.Such communist states as the Soviet Union who are collectivist, did not signthe UDHR and following conventions as they were more focused on collectiveeconomic and social rights. The declarations and conventions can also beconsidered solely western in their interpretation of gender and religiousconcepts which in countries such as Saudi Arabia, who also voted against, are differentdue to religious laws (Sharia Law) and cultural norms.
Saudi Arabia opted outof the UDHR due to its stance on gender as they felt it violated thefundamental principles of Islam.31 ‘UniversalDeclaration Of Human Rights’ (www.un.org)