International Human Rights: A Western Construct?

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News Article

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Over sixty-eight years after the universal declaration of human rights was adopted by the UN, the debate continues as to whether the document truly reflects universal values.

Upon its adoption on December 10, 1948, former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the commission on human rights, expressed her hope it would become “the Magna Carta of all mankind.” Ironically, as was the fate with the “great charter” of 1215 (which only applied to free white men), the declaration has not fully lived up to its name.

The declaration was challenged from its very inception. The commission’s first draft attracted 168 amendments from various countries. However, the final document was almost unchanged from the initial draft tabled. Forty-eight countries voted in favour, while eight — Poland, Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union — abstained and expressed reservations.

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The Express Tribune