There are times when you just need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Considering the Ukraine Crisis, South China Sea Crisis, the threat of globalized terrorism, growing poverty, civil unrest fueled unresponsive government, and a whole host of other issues, it is clear the International Community lacks vision and a commitment to the aspiration it once pursued. Frankly, the Countries and Peoples of the world seem to lack faith in global cooperation for the betterment of mankind.
Because the International Criminal Court (ICC) threatens to undermine US sovereignty and subjects Americans to foreign law, the United States does not subject itself to the ICC. Although South Africa does, South African President Jacob Zuma decided to override the ICC and give Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC, immunity at the 2015 African Union summit. Choices to ignore the international interests in favor of African interests like this one demonstrate formal support of international efforts is done more out of convenience than conviction.
Following the Second World War, world leaders stepped back and saw the human race was on the verge of extinction. Instead of focusing on every grievance and the pursuit of punitive measures, they chose to transform the world. During this time, the United Nations was born. Unfortunately, the lofty aspirations of the UN have often fallen short. Not only has the UN failed to create enforcement mechanisms for violations of “International Law,” aspirations as basic as human rights continue to be violated with impunity.
Throughout the entire Ukraine Crisis, for example, Russian President Vladimir Putin has essentially treated the notion of International Law as the product of politicians and diplomats. When others call the conflict an illegal war, Putin just laughs. Looking at the aspiration of human rights, most leaders accused of human rights and war crimes violations openly mock such allegations. It is because they do not respect them. It is because they know these things only matter when people are willing and able to enforce them.
In truth, the UN is not an actual governing body. The United Nations is a forum for diplomatic engagement and the arbitration of conflict while International Law is an agreement supported and upheld by a plurality of nations. Unless countries support the principles and efforts of the United Nations, or the notion of an International Community for that matter, International Law and human rights become little more than wishful thinking.
Because the UN has continually failed to address the interests and resolve the grievances of less powerful governments, many of them no longer see the value in the United Nation. Consequently, there needs to be an international commitment and concerted effort to renew the credibility of the International Community. International Law is based on treaty law and treaties must be recalibrated as the national interests of allies change over time.
A large part of the problem is that documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not universally supported. The Document in question invokes ill-defined cultural rights, which means it includes the cultural bias of the most influential nation of the 1940; whereas, human rights must be independent and universally embraced. In other words, human rights should transcend culture in order to be something all populations can respect and uphold.
By scrubbing the human rights doctrine of bias, there is an opportunity to reunite global support for human rights and afford the less influential a chance to have a say in how the International Community is run. Conflict arises when we try to enforce so-called “human rights” that violate the cultural practices and norms of others. A history of European colonialism and abuse has left Africans particularly sensitive to the influence of Westerners. This is no more apparent than when Westerners try to use International National to force shifting cultures practices and norms onto Africans.
Gay marriage is one such issue. It is one thing to say LGBT individuals have the human right to be free of arbitrary imprisonment or discrimination for being LGBT and the human right to associate with whomever they choose, i.e. to form romantic relationship, but it is quite another to say LGBT individuals have a right to marriage, which is a cultural (religious) practice supported by legal privileges in the West. If International Law does not respect traditional cultural views on LGBT behavior, there will be backlash against those suspected of being LGBT.
Quite frankly, the failure to balance human rights with cultural rights discredits human rights. In other words, ignoring this failure undermines efforts to protect people from human rights violations. The Peoples of the world will not support human rights if upholding human rights means their cultural practices and beliefs are declared illegal.
“Article 16” states, “Men and women of full age, 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.”
Marriage is a part of one’s cultural (religious) identity); therefore, it is a cultural right and should be treated as such. The right to freely associate with others is a human right. Clauses like “full age,” which means younger individuals in nonwestern countries, and practices like polygamy mean Western restrictions on marriage and sexual consent are in violation of Article 16.
Looking at “Article 24,” which states, “…everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay,” only a handful of countries in the world honor this provision. In reality, there are economic (cultural) privileges, not human rights.
Furthermore, what country is not violating “Article 25,” i.e. “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.“
If the world expects human rights to be respected and upheld, genocide cannot be equivalent to labor rights.
“Article 26” states “(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. “ If a country does not provide education, for whatever reason, they are violating a human right, which undermines the value of human rights. It is not possible to gain universal support for human rights when nations condemn poor countries for falling short of this so-called human right. Failing to build an adequate education system is not equivalent to human trafficking.
Meanwhile, “Article 21,” states, “(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) 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 and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” For nondemocratic governments, the provision automatically means they are in violation of human rights. Democracy is part of culture and it is a cultural right afforded to those who abide by the principles of democracies.
Finally, “Article 22,” states, “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation 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.” The phrase “…economic, social and cultural rights….” is what really matters. It is a human right to be afforded economic, social, and cultural rights. These rights are not explicitly defined in this Document and they should not be defined here, because they are culture specific, not universal. A "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" must be about human rights and truly universal.
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