Human Rights

Human Rights

The Bases of Human Rights Claims

Universalism or the Universalist theory is one of the most significant basis upon which human rights can be claimed. According to universalism, human rights are an inherent element of human nature, regardless of religion, culture, place or belief (Lesson Chapter 4, 2013). The theory is a derivative of western philosophies and religious traditions, which bred the Universalist concept of human rights, which emphasizes legalism, rationality and individualism. Morality and religion from western Judeo-Christian settings forms the first pillar of universalism. Work by early liberal thinkers as well as thinkers with a Christian basis such as Thomas Aquinas informed the development of the natural law notion, which inspired the development of human rights based on religious values (Lesson Chapter 4, 2013). These thinkers conceptualized that there was an existent universal and natural legal framework resulting from Christian doctrine that informed justice standardizations. Rationalism forms the second pillar and origin of universalism. The rational concept is that humans are rational, benefit maximizing entities. This pillar based on the principle of maximum utility was also proposed by Bentham (Lesson Chapter 4, 2013). According to the pillar, basic individual rights are required in all societies so as to allow individuals to maximally benefit from society and guard themselves against the powers of a predatory state. This pillar holds that the principle of sovereignty for the people should be upheld by the state, which should intervene when rights conflict with major interests of others (Lesson Chapter 4, 2013). The rationalism pillar is therefore a pillar based on utilitarian principles. This is similar to the consequentialist justification upon which rights can be claimed (Lesson Chapter 1, 2013). Under this justification rights are understood as means to a significant end. For example, respecting rights for political or social benefit entails upholding rights for greater good (Lesson Chapter 1, 2013). The third and recent pillar for universalism is legalism. This finds basis in documents and treaties drafted by international bodies with the aim of creating a legal framework to define the establishment of universal standards on rights. An example of these documents includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Lesson Chapter 4, 2013). The documents and treaties under legalism create a basis upon which rights are implemented and can be claimed under the general conceptual framework of universalism. In a nutshell, the three sources of claims on human rights assert that humans enjoy basic freedoms and rights by virtue of being human, and due to this universal essence their rights should upheld and recognized (Lesson Chapter 1, 2013). Other non-universalist perspectives include the deontological basis of human rights, which conceives rights as absolute and fundamental rules that must be upheld for their own sake, and also because it would be wrong to violate them.

Canadian Contributions to Human Rights Development

Canada and its citizens have significantly contributed to the development of human rights as well as institutions that support human rights across the globe. Perhaps the first and most significant contribution is by being signatory to treaties that support human rights as well as the establishment of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). Through this show of solidarity with the rest of the world Canada has helped establish a culture of human rights protection. The second significant contribution has been through individual Canadians within international bodies championing for human rights. The inception and development of the United Nations (UN) has been influenced by various Canadians including Nobel Prize Winner Lester B. Pearson, John P. Humphrey, Louise Arbour, and Lloyd Axworthy (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). As part of Canadian effort, Lester Pearson participated in the founding of the UN in San Francisco in 1945 and the signing of the UN charter. This was a great contribution to the development of the institutional framework that would support human rights globally. He also successfully championed for the creation of the UN’s Emergency Force after the Suez Canal crisis (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). This force has now become important in peacekeeping missions. Pearson is also known for arguing in favor of middle powers in the UN council, where he particularly recommended that permanent members to the council should not have veto powers over security and peace issues. John Humphrey is also another important Canadian contributor to the development of human rights (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). Humphrey is credited with the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human rights during his service as director of Human rights at the UN. Humphrey served the UN for a very long time as a Human rights director-a period within which he championed the development of human rights (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). In his tenure, Humphrey was also able to call for the creation of the UN’s High Commission for Human rights. This call did not succeed immediately, but it finally led to the creation of the body after his retirement. Another significant contribution in human rights development has come from Canadian Louise Arbour. Arbour has served the UN under various capacities. One among the appointments was as a Chief Prosecutor for International tribunals (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013). In the Prosecutor’s tenure Arbour was able to indict Serbian Slobodan Milosevic as well as Rwandan Jean Kambanda. As a further contribution to international justice through creation of bodies and legal frameworks, Arbour was able to participate in the creation of the International Criminal Court currently operating from Hague. Arbour has also served as a Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva. Under a collaborated effort initiated by Lloyd Axworthy, Canada was also able to champion for the ban against the use of landmines which succeeded in 1997 through the establishment of the Ottawa Convention. All these significant contribution show most, but not all of the important efforts that Canada and its citizens have taken in fighting for the establishment of institutional and legal frameworks that support human rights (Lesson Chapter 3, 2013).

 

 

References

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Part Two: Philosophical debates (Chapter 4: Universalist Theories of Human Rights: Origins and critiques)

Part One: The Globalization of Human Rights (Chapter 1: Introduction: Foundations of Human Rights)

Chapter Three: Promoting Human Rights: Individuals and Organizations

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