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Historical Remarks

Reading Review
INTL254 Introduction to International Human Rights
Nadya Nedelsky
JH, RN, NE

The reading begins by discussing the relationship between the human rights movement and international organizations. The UN Charter first declared rights to be universal. However, the Charter lacked specificity in its discussion of human rights, and therefore in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted first by the UN commission and eventually by the General Assembly. The Declaration is assertive in nature and in no way legally binding, depending solely on the moral character of its signatories.

Detailed and comprehensive agreements were meant to follow the initial declaration, but formal differences and ideological conflicts prevented a consensus from being reached. Eventually two treaties, the ICCPR and the ICESR were ratified by the General Assembly, with hopes of adding enforceability to the above mentioned declaration due to their binding nature. The covenants combined with the UDHR have come to be regarded as the International Bill of Rights. However, questions remain regarding the true universality of rights. Despite, attempting to unite the international community the aforementioned documents depend on state action for enforcement, and allow states to in specific cases interpret human rights in a manor that is most advantageous to the states themselves. This begs the question of whether sovereignty overrides other “universally” accepted rights outlined in the documents. In a larger sense, if these rights are truly universal, is it necessary to outline state exemptions?

Throughout the documents there are strong undertones of democratic ideology, specifically that of the United States constitution. It is blatantly asserted that democracy is not only superior to other forms of government, but a basic human right. That question that then arises is whether the rights outlined are truly universal after being framed in a Western context

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