A Genealogy of Human Rights Seminar

6 months ago

On May the 31 Dr. Vahid Nick Pay from the Department of Politics and International Relations presented a general overview on various elements of Human Rights.

Universal principles of human rights are collectively regarded as the most basic prerequisites for building a fairer future for humanity regardless of their ethnic religious and other idiosyncratic peculiarities. The language of human rights is one of the most deployed discourses to criticize, defend and reform all sorts of socio-political behaviours across the globe. Yet application of human rights principles is almost always contested by a variety of stakeholders. From the outset, this could suggest that other law is inadequate or applied in an unfair way. Another line of argument are debates on the intractable prerogative of national security and national sovereignty. In addition, the international principles of human rights are sometimes claimed to be alien if not outright incompatible with local systems of values or even other competing sources of normativity.

This lecture was aimed at presenting a genealogy of the principle of human rights trying to trace their moral and normative foundations in an attempt to bring certain social and political aspects of these normative provisions into a better light of appreciation.

The presentation started by tracing several Western as well as Eastern currents of thought whose fundamental narratives could seamlessly be identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The presentation continued with an epistemological elaboration of various norms and injections underpinning such elements of right by highlighting important philosophical, normative and cultural criticisms raised against both formulation, promotion and implementation of such legal norms. The presentation developed into an exercise in identifying main local obstacles to a comprehensive deployment of such principles. Several implementation channels such as reporting, bilateral agreements and non-governmental organizations were presented by examining a historical track record of each. The final section was an argument for a more neutral reception of the principles of human rights detached from their predominantly Western genealogies, as rights of humanity reposing on moral principles of human dignity requiring no further qualification combined with a call for a more democratic institutionalization of such universal elements of right. 

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