Connect with us

International Law

The clash of human rights ideas between universalism and relativism

Nargiz Hajiyeva

Published

on

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Human rights from the prism of universalism

After the outbreak of the Second World War, maintaining and in particular, providing a universal set of rules and values of human rights were put forward as one of the basic duties. Universalist approach searches for what is methodical and systematic, tries to enforce the rules, laws, and norms on all of its members so that things can run more resourcefully. In order to promote democracy in terms of human rights should be a pivotal priority of each state. Certainly, the development of a state adequately depends on preserving, and especially the implementation of human rights in civil society. In our current world, human rights are based on two predominant approaches in accordance with regions-East and West, North and South. One of them is universalism, another is cultural relativism. The cutting edge universalism theory of human rights can be founded not only on common law, equity, response to dignity, injustice, and fairness of appreciation, but also capacities of a human being, moral agency, and self-ownership, among other peopleUniversal sets of standards, rules, and values are based on Western countries prospects. The history of universalism can be traced back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, as a pivotal guide to mankind. As a result, The Declaration expressed a novel denotation to the word “universalism.”

The fundamental values and principles highlighting the concept of human rights are of a universal character. Thus, these values and principles referred to the concept of individual liberty and freedoms, the belief in democracy and political rights, the acknowledgment of social and economic rights. “To a large extent, universality is one of the indispensable descriptions of human rights. From this perspective, human rights are civil rights that apply to all humankind and are therefore referred to universal values and rules. All human beings are the possessor of these civil rights, independent from what they actually do, where they come from, where they reside and from their national citizenship, their community, etc. “The universality of human rights is rooted in and also manipulated by the other characteristics of human rights: human rights are categorical (every human being has these rights, they cannot be denied to anyone), democratic (also called egalitarian-every human being has the same rights), individual (human rights apply to every human being as individual and protect the latter from violations by a collective recognizing at the same time the important role of a collective for the individual, they have their own rights to provide themselves sufficiently in social community, such as freedom of living, speech and etc), fundamental (human rights protect basic and essential elements of human continuation) and indivisible (the whole catalog of human rights must be respected, they are complimentary)”.[1]

It would be necessary to emphasize that promoting democracy, providing human rights, individual liberty, national self-determination, and the other values were noted on Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen-point program. The main crux of universalism is the implementation of universal sets of norms, and values along with not only Western countries, but also Eastern, Asian and The Middle Eastern countries, where cultural relativism (mainly moral relativism) dominates and contains its moral and ethical values over people of these countries. Universal human rights are based on Western ideology. It has been argued that universalism on human rights merely referred to Western Imperialism. It put forward some challenges in accordance with the main priorities and prospects of universal human rights. Unquestionably, we apparently realize that countries who reject the universal sets of standards as a policy of Western countries, form some basic values and ethical values based on cultural relativism. Universalism and cultural relativism cannot coincide with each other in terms of diverse moral and universal values.

In our industrialized world, the universal sets of values cannot be wholly implemented to all countries, because of the fact that strong dominance of primordial cultural and ethical values and standards which bolster their places among people within civil society, at the same time reject the universalism of human rights. On the other hand, cultural relativism cannot be accepted as universal moral values for countries. According to providing human rights, universalism is a pivotal approach that has more opportunities than cultural relativism. But, in more cases, we try to percept the today’s realities of the world. In general, as we understand that providing universal human rights have to base on the basic principles and rules within international law, but cultural relativism cannot refer to the rules and norms of international law, because of having predominant cultural and traditional values and norms within its own system. Thus, a related challenge is that the inspirations of human rights do not aid to solve the most disputable issues of non-Western societies. The extreme of which is that the idea of human rights is in many cases, as opposed to the ideas and values of non-Western countries.

In the case of the universality of human rights, there are some challengeable situations along with the implementation and perception of human rights. Since the publication of Pollis and Schwab’s Human Rights: Cultural and Ideological Perspectives in 1979, human rights universalists and cultural relativists have collided in regard to legality and applicability of human rights outside the West within civil society. In their confrontational lead essay, “Human Rights: as Western Construct with Limited Applicability,” the authors argued that “the Western political philosophy upon which the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are based provides only one specific elucidation of human rights, and that this Western notion may not be successfully applied to non-Western areas” due to ideological and cultural differences.[2]

Apart from these, it can be comprehended that Universality of human rights refers to Western cultures, in particular, traditional and moral characters, which can not be implemented to non-Western countries because of having their own cultural and ethical rules and norms. The implementation of universal human rights from the Western perspective to relativist non-Western countries cannot achieve any kind of success in terms of providing human rights sufficiently, because of the fact, universal human rights merely concern on the Western-cultural sets of norms. Thus, in the case of non-Western countries, cultural relativism and universalism can collide with each other in for a range of reasons, for instance, considering moral and ethical standards, attitudes toward human rights, implementation of these rights and etc.

The approach of cultural relativism

Relativism is characterized as a set of views about the connection between morals and culture or humanity. Apart from universalism, cultural relativism is based on morals, ethics, and customs of each human society and differs from one another. Thus, what is the crux of cultural relativism within civil society? Cultural relativism is the vision that all beliefs, traditions, and morals are in respect to the person inside of his own social setting. As such, “right” and “wrong” are society particular; what is viewed as good in one society may be viewed as morally wrong in another, and, since no worldwide standards of morals and ethical behaviors exist, nobody has the privilege to judge another society’s traditions. Moreover, we can not judge someone, or person with his or her cultural values, in particular ethics and morals in society.

Cultural relativism is an aphoristic standard created by Franz Boas and advanced by his successors of human sciences in the 1940s. It was blended with moral relativism during the Meetings of the Commission of Human Rights of the United Countries in setting up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1946-1948.  Thusly, the scholastic marvel of cultural relativism grew synchronously with the conception and development of the universal human rights lawful administration. Actually, discussion, cultural relativism within the order of humanities is a heuristic device reflecting the rule that an individual human’s convictions bode well as far as his own particular society, while moral relativism imitates the rule that all societies and all worth frameworks, while unmistakable, are just as substantial.

In 1887, Franz Boas first ascribed this principle as “… civilization is not something complete but is relative, and our thoughts and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes”, whereby, he formed an adage of anthropological research.[3]

According to some analysts, cultural relativism sees nothing naturally wrong with any cultural appearance. As a consequence, the primordial Mayan practices of self-mutilation and human sacrifice are neither good nor bad; they are simply cultural distinguishing, analogous to the American custom of shooting fireworks on the Fourth of July. Human sacrifice and fireworks -both are merely diverse products of separate socialization. Cultural relativism engenders in each human society differently.[4] Cultural relativity is an irrefutable fact that ethical rules and social institutions produce astounding cultural and historical variability. Cultural relativism is an authoritative opinion that holds that (at any rate some) such contrasts are absolved from legitimate criticism by outsiders, a precept that is firmly bolstered by ideas of mutual independence and self-determination.

Moral judgments, notwithstanding, would appear to be basically widespread, as proposed by Kant’s definite imperative as well as by the common sense difference in the middle of the principled and self-intrigued activity.  The perception of human rights in the modern world from the prism of both universalism and cultural relativism is entirely complicated. At the same time, they showed their assumptions and ideas with a radical approach. In this case, two extreme positions can be considered in each called radical universalism and radical cultural relativism. Radical cultural relativism holds the opinion that culture is the sole wellspring of the legitimacy of ethical rights and rules. Radical universalism emphasized that culture is unimportant to the legitimacy of moral rights and principles, which are universally lawful and valid.      

Furthermore, the main arms of the cultural relativism are typified as strong and weak cultural relativism. How were they considered under the rules of human society? –  Strong cultural relativism refers to culture as a vital source of the legitimacy of ethical rights, in particular, morality and rules. The standards of Universal human rights, however, serve in conjunction with ensuring on potential excesses of relativism. At its utmost extreme, just short of radical relativism, strong cultural relativism would recognize a few basic rights with virtual universal requests, but allow such a wide range of variation for most rights that two entirely reasonable sets might overlap only somewhat. Weak cultural relativism also cites that culture may be an imperative well of the legitimacy of an ethical right and rules.  Universality is at first assumed, however, the relativity of human instinct, groups, and rights serve as to verify on potential abundances of universalism. In some cases, weak cultural relativism would perceive an extensive arrangement of by all appearances universal human rights, but permit intermittent and entirely constrained neighborhood varieties and special cases. [5]

Hence, the cultural impacts on human civilization are unalienable, regarding the fact in civil societies had been formed by the effects of various types of moral and ethical powers, in particular, primordial traditions belonged to each human being. Thus, in today’s world, the realities of East and West, North and South are irrefutable. Moreover, there can be slight uncertainty that there are important, structurally determined cultural and in many cases, moral distinctions for example, between the basic “personality and natures “of men and particularly, women in modern western and traditional Islamic or Muslim societies. Thus, human nature formed the basic personality of each human being within his or her civil community.    Relativism centers on the thoughts of moral self-sufficiency and public self-determination.   Regarding cultural relativism, it also establishes the internal and external effects of morality.

The main features of internal evaluations were given by your own society, but the external evaluation focus would seem universal judgments that can be affected by western or other foreign societies. Furthermore, moral judgment by their society is normal and universal for its human nature. Because of the fact that he or she belongs to this civil society which is based on its cultural and moral characteristics and for this reason, moral judgments given by his or her own society center on their genesis and historically specific contingent.  

Pre-colonial African village, Native American tribes, and traditional Islamic or Muslim social community focus on the native morality of cultural relativism. Universal human rights are strange to their community, the reason why, they merely concern on their native traditional values, because of the fact that the communal self-determination, in particular, moral self-sufficiency engenders cultural and social variability of human nature within their own community.[6] Long-established traditional cultures of Africans for example, usually were powerfully constitutional, with compulsory major restrictions on civil society. These kinds of central limitations also deprived them of the main universal and identified norms and values of the contemporary world. Thus, it can lead to strong despotism and violence in this community.    According to cultural relativism, it can be essential to mention some Asian, the Middle Eastern and Latin American countries through considering their own conventional values and morality within the system of human rights.

Regarding Pakistan, the main reference in its National Report is contained in the schooling procedures underlined by the government, in which it proclaims that the “new National Educational modules has tried endeavours to incorporate standards, in particular values of human rights, maintaining assorted qualities and distinction  alongside universal human rights that In the case of Pakistan, CEDAW was unequivocally worried about not only pervasive patriarchal positions and attitudes but  deep-seated conventional and cultural stereotypes related to the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family, in the place of work and in civil society.[7]

In accordance with cultural values and traditions, in Iraq, young ladies are often deprived of education after 12 to 15 years in provincial areas; however, the country’s educational ministry still remains muted and latent with respect to the procedures of schooling to be taken to set up the compulsory law of education. Apart from this, the “violence against women and girls continues to be one of the critical problems in this region. Women in these areas are undergone some kinds of violence by armed forces, Iraqi policies, and militias. On the other hand, the extensive functionality of the death punishment, torment, and inhuman behaviors and standards are widely practiced in Iraqi prisons, therefore, the severe influences of the myriad breaches of the rules of war by Iraq armed forces, groups, and policies have lingered in civil society for a long time.[8] Thus, in the case of Iraq’s cultural values and morality, it can never be justified in terms of gender equality, because this country only validates itself to engender violence and antagonist actions toward its society, in particular women. Why? – Is the maintenance of human rights composed of these types of behaviors? In this region, promoting antagonist manners and behaviors toward society, rather than upholding universal sets of values and standards of human rights can not give meaningful benefits to this country.

In addition, it should be emphasized that at the same time, Israel articulated its anxieties regarding, severe methods of capital punishment, discrimination, violence, in particular, forced marriages methodically engaged against women and girls.

When it comes to Latin American countries, it can be useful to focus on the traditional manners and roots of Cuba. According to this country, the UN Compilation gives data to form autonomous human rights institutions and associations and boost contributions to the international system. Cuba experiences torture, discrimination, prison circumstances, arbitrary detentions, domestic violence, the conditions of prostitution and other forms of violence against women. In the instance of Cuba, the UN promotes basically substantial reforms on human rights. According to this situation, in 2006, “Cuba tried to mention its motivation in order to support cultural rights and the respect for cultural diversity and the promotion of peace for the satisfaction of all human rights.

However, Cuba stands in the same position in order to maintain conventional rights and international-third generation values and standards in human rights issues.”[9] Hence, basic cultural differences cannot justify the universal values and standards of human rights. In most cases, cultural relativism leads to the conditions of despotism and antagonism, in Asian, the Middle Eastern and some parts of Latin American countries, through these methods, it can not maintain human rights within society. If cultural relativism merely focuses on strong authentic moral and ethical basis rather than supporting the alternative methods of providing human rights universally, these types of roots can lead to colossal gaps between Eastern and Western societies in the contemporary world order. Eventually, we tend to realize that reciprocal respect and understanding between people can cause the inclusive implementation of human rights from both universalism and relativism perspective in civil society. Through reaching to reconciliation processes of the two main approaches of human rights, our civil society can create relative universal sets of values and behaviors by taking into account both relativism and universalism.

We try to comprehend that many Eastern and Asian countries will not justify the strong universal basis and sets of human rights in future life expectancy. Regarding the fact that their community, in particular, each human being depends on the authentic self-governing rules, traditional set of values and basis. Transmitting from these kinds of values into the burly standards of human rights can be arduous for them that how can they behaved under the rules of these common standards. Universalism is not about everything for them, but at the same time, if universal sets of values can be implemented in some Eastern and Asian countries, firstly, their social communities have to eager to alter their customary ethical and moral natures into the central standards of human rights take on universal nature of human rights.

[1] Universality of Human Rights,  Dr. Peter Kirchschlaeger, Co-Director of the Centre of Human Rights Education, University of Teacher Education of Central Switzerland – Lucerne, http://www.theewc.org/uploads/files/Universality%20of%20Human%20Rights%20by%20Peter%20Kirchschlaeger2.pdf

[2] Michael Goodhart*, Human Rights Quarterly 25 (2003) 935–964 © 2003 by The Johns Hopkins University Press Origins and Universality in the Human Rights Debates: Cultural Essentialism and the Challenge of Globalization, pp 4-5, http://hmb.utoronto.ca/HMB303H/weekly_supp/week-02/Goodhart_Cultural_Essentialism.pdf.

[3] Franz Boas 1887 “Museums of Ethnology and their classification” Science 9: 589

[4] http://www.gotquestions.org/cultural-relativism.html , what is cultural relativism?

[5] Cultural Relativism and Universal Human Rights Author(s): Jack Donnelly Source: Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 400-419 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/762182.

[6] Cultural Relativism and Universal Human Rights Author(s): Jack Donnelly Source: Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 406-414 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/762182.

[7] http://www.univie.ac.at/bimtor/dateien/pakistan_upr_2008_info.pdf, Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Second session Geneva, A/HRC/WG.6/2/PAK/1 of 14 April 2008, Para. 74.

[8] A/HRC/WG.6/7/IRQ/3 1, http://www.univie.ac.at/bimtor/dateien/iraq_upr_2010_summary.pdf,  Human Rights Council, Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Seventh session Geneva, 8-19 February 2010;

[9] A/HRC/WG.6/4/CUB/1 4 November 2008, http://www.univie.ac.at/bimtor/dateien/cuba_upr_2008_report.pdf  Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Fourth session, Geneva, 2-13 February 2009.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

Continue Reading
Comments

International Law

How To Get Away With Murder

Ankit Malhotra

Published

on

 The Enrica Lexie Case involved two Italian marines namely, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who were accused of shooting two Indian fishermen, Jalastine and Ajeesh Binki, off India’s southeastern Kerala coast on February 15, 2012. “We have not heard a word from the PM or the Government of India on the matter. It sends a dismaying signal that Indian lives don’t matter to the Indian Prime Minister and that justice can be sacrificed at the altar of diplomatic expediency,” said Shashi Tharoor, Congress Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram. On the contrary, India had detained the marines on board of the Italian tanker, Enrica Lexie for killing the fishermen on an Indian vessel, St Antony. The arrest and subsequent exercise of jurisdiction by Indian authorities had plagued relations with Italy for years.

Italy had alleged that India had violated United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions by ordering the detention of the Italian tanker, but this was rejected unanimously by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). During the legal proceedings, the foremost legal issue that was raised was on the question of Indian jurisdiction to conduct criminal trials. India argued that it had jurisdiction over the case since the deceased fishermen were Indian, therefore, the case must be tried as per Indian laws. On the other hand, the Italians argued that shooting took place beyond Indian territorial waters, marines on-board were Italian and flying under an Italian flag. Thus, Italy had jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Italians argued, the marines acted to protect an Italian oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission.

ITLOS, a Tribunal created as per the provisions of the UNCLOS, is aimed by the desire to settle, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, all issues relating to the law of the sea. Italy approached ITLOS and based on its request, ITLOS referred the Case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which was constituted under Annex VII of the UNCLOS on June 26, 2015.

ITLOS upheld the actions of the Italian marines, but in contrast, held that Italy was in breach of India’s Freedom of Navigation as per Articles 87(1)(a) and 90 of UNCLOS. On the question of jurisdiction, ITLOS observed that India and Italy had “concurrent jurisdiction” over the incident and a valid legal basis to institute criminal proceedings against the marines. ITLOS rejected Italy’s claim to compensation for the detention of the marines. Conversely, the Tribunal ruled that the accused enjoy diplomatic immunity that is granted to foreign State officials, which will act as an “exception to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts”. As a consequence, Indian courts cannot judge the case owing to diplomatic cover.

Furthermore, the PCA enabled India to seek compensation and asked India and Italy to consult on the amount of compensation due. In a close 3:2 vote, ITLOS President Jin-Hyun Paik and former President Vladimir Golitsyn and Professor Francesco Francioni voted in favour of Italy,  whereas Judge Patrick Robinson and Judge Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao voted in favour of India on the note of “commitment expressed by Italy” to resume a criminal investigation into the incident in Italy. ITLOS held India must cease to exercise its jurisdiction on the Italian marines.

Disclosing the details of the verdict, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava stated, that the court upheld the conduct of the Indian law enforcement authorities, declared that Italy had breached Freedom of Navigation and concluded that ITLOS rejected Italy’s claim for compensation for the detention of the marines. “However, it found that the immunities enjoyed by the Marines as State officials operate as an exception to the jurisdiction of the Indian Courts and, hence, preclude them to judge the Marines.” In a statement on Thursday, the Italian Foreign Ministry said, “Italian Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Indian courts concerning the acts which occurred during the incident of 15 February 2012. India is therefore precluded from exercising its jurisdiction over the Marines. The Arbitral Tribunal has therefore agreed on the Italian position that the Marines, being members of the Italian armed forces in the official exercise of their duties, cannot be tried by Indian courts.” Acknowledging the breach of freedom of navigation, it said, “As a result of the breach, India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the Indian fishing boat St. Anthony.” “Italy stands ready to fulfil the decision taken by the Arbitral Tribunal, in a spirit of cooperation,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

In reaction to the verdict, Senior Advocate K.N Balagopal mourned with distaste and said; “What happened was a cold-blooded murder”. Balagopal represented the State in the case before the Supreme Court in the matter. “Compensation is anyway granted in such cases; the marines should have stood trial in our courts for the crime committed”, he added. He called the verdict less than a victory “though there is some vindication to an extent”.

Continue Reading

International Law

Reassessing Sustainable Governance Models for the Post-COVID 19 World Order

Published

on

Authors: Manini Syali and Aaditya Vikram Sharma*

The Coronavirus pandemic is not the first occasion when human civilizations are witnessing the outbreak of a deadly disease. This becomes even more crucial in the present day era, dominated by technological and scientific advancement, when cures for a number of life threatening ailments have successfully been discovered. Yet, a virus, because of its highly contagious nature has brought human life to a complete halt and even specialised international organisations like the World Health Organisation, devoted towards the sole objective of maintaining health care standards worldwide, more or less appear to be helpless in containing it. The pandemic can be called a watershed moment, after recovering from which, the way human beings have been living in industrialist societies will change drastically. Signs of this change can be felt in the form of increased awareness towards environmental issues, which in spite of having been a subject matter of policy consideration for more than fifty years now, largely remained being seen as ancillary in front of ‘crucial issues’ like peace, security, poverty etc., which demand swifter actions. The need of the hour, therefore, is to broaden the horizons of ecological analyses, as it is being done traditionally, and to realise that pathogens need to be made an integral part of eco-system management.

Further, it is a well-known fact that the consequences of environmental degradation have always been seen in anticipatory terms, reducing the gravity of the situation further. Moreover, the environmental doctrines like ‘sustainable development’, themselves are worded in such a manner that they portray sufferings of the generations yet to come instead of being seen as a present day problem. It will also not be wrong to say that there exists a resemblance between environmental principles like the polluter pays principle, precautionary principle, transboundary environmental pollution etc. and the classic common law doctrines having their basis in the tort of negligence. This has further strengthened the perception that non-abidance with the said doctrines will merely give rise to claims of compensation which can be easily settled in monetary terms. Alternative jurisprudential theories like green-criminology, which advocate criminal remedies in case of environmental destruction, or imbibing sustainability in all kinds of regulatory frameworks, therefore, majorly remain limited to academic discussions.

An attempt will, therefore, be made in the present article to trace the evolution of the already existing models of environmental governance and give a critique, highlighting their non-applicability in the post-Corona world order, which would demand alternative models of sustainability and would not only help in containing the spread of similar diseases in the future but will also supplement effective implementation of the already existing environmental law instruments. 

Technocratic Progress and Altered Human Conditions

In the 18th century, the human kind encountered a life changing turn of events in the form of Industrial Revolution. The repercussions of the revolution were such that it did not remain limited to the economic front and left its impact on the social and cultural life of individuals as well. Moreover, the changes which the society underwent as a result of the revolution were rather quick and demanded implementation of regulatory frameworks, covering different aspect of human life. A few examples of the same are family laws for regulating altered family ties, alien to the pre-industrial society, establishment of a legal regime for intellectual property rights, banking and commercial laws for facilitating the contemporary financial activities etc. The way nation states interacted with each other also witnessed drastic changes due to increased dependence on technology.

The gravity of the situation, however, was only realised in the year 1962, in the aftermaths of the Cuban missile crises, when around two dozen experts met in Santa Barbara, California during a Conference to discuss the impacts of technology on human affairs. The conference ended on an optimistic note, but also received a highly sceptical submission from the side of French sociologist Jacques Ellul, who argued that human life had become dangerously dependent on Technology and no aspect of it had the capacity to escape ‘the technique’.

Early Years of Environmental Governance

The criticisms against the technocratic notions of ‘progress’, however, remained limited to sociological fronts for a long time despite emergence of early signs of Climate Change in the late 1950s itself.The United Nations (UN)-centric international legal regime also remained silent on these issues till the advent of the UN Conference on Human Environment (Stockholm Conference),held in the year 1972. The Conference was the first occasion when global environmental issues were discussed as a matter of concern at the global level. Before this also environmental treaties existed, but they largely remained limited to localised issues like wildlife preservation, migratory birds, conservation of wetlands etc. Multiple factors like extinction of the Blue Whale due to indiscriminate hunting, rampant nuclear bomb testings in the 1960s and use of chemical warfare during the Vietnam War which adversely impacted environment as well as human health, finally resulted in a proposal from the side of the Swedish government to organise the Conference.

It will not be wrong to state that the Stockholm Declaration, the legal instrument produced as a result of the Stockholm Conference appears more to be a Human Rights instrument rather than an environmentally oriented regulatory framework. Moreover, the anthropocentric nature of the declaration, which otherwise is popularly known as Magna Carta of environmental law, gets reflected in its preamble itself.

Evolution of Sustainable Governance Models

This spirit of the declaration, was further carried forward in the Brundtland Commission report, published in the year 1987, which gave the concept of ‘sustainable development’ a concrete shape. Through this concept it was realised that developmental activities cannot be given up in absolute terms and the need of the hour, therefore, was to adopt environmentally sustainable activities to create a balance. The next milestone in environmental regulation, achieved by the World Community, was the UN Conference on Environment and Development. The conference gave birth to three important environmental law instruments namely, the Rio Declaration, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Further, all three of the above mentioned instruments had ‘sustainability’ as their theme. 

Despite receiving a good response from nation states in the form of substantial number of ratifications, the objectives of the above mentioned international instruments has remained a distant dream and the natural environment continues to witness deterioration, so much so, that it is about to reach the stage of irreversibility. Further, rampant developmental activities, which are being carried out at a global scale have also totally disregarded the principles of ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainable use’, as enshrined in the preamble of CBD. The UNFCCC mandate of ‘stabilization of greenhouse gases’ has also not received a collective effort from the side of the World Community.

Sustainability in the Times of Coronavirus Pandemic

The significance of these issues increases multifold in the contemporary times when the World is witnessing a humanitarian crises in the form of the COVID19 pandemic. Establishing a connection between ‘development’, ‘environmental degradation’ and the Corona Virus pandemic is  important because in the roots of this virus spread lies the illegal wildlife trade in which China has remained engaged for decades. In the past also the scientific community has attributed origination of several contagious diseases to Chinese wet markets where exotic and vulnerable species are sold at commercial levels. This deadly disease outbreak is, thus, being seen as an eye opening moment, having the capacity to halt wildlife trade as well as habitat destruction. 

The other linking point between the Coronavirus pandemic and sustainability is the issue of sanitation and hygiene.  Insanitary conditions can be called both a cause and an effect of the pandemic. The connection between unhygienic practices and disease outbreak does not require much explanation, however, the bio-medical waste management and related issues have emerged as a major regulatory hassle in the present day crisis, which are demanding a detailed policy framework for proper management. This also gets reflected in the ‘Goal 6’ of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in the year 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, which talks about ‘Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.’

It has further been reported that due to the lockdowns imposed in several nation states, economic and industrial activities came to a complete standstill, which resulted in drastic reduction in greenhouse emissions worldwide. Certain reports were also rejoicing by citing positive signs being shown by ozone layer recovery and giving the Corona pandemic a credit for the same. In those moments of temporary happiness, the years which national jurisdictions spent in implementing the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depletion were discredited.  Moreover, if latest reports are to be believed catastrophic rise in greenhouse gases has further worsened the condition of ozone levels in the environment. This raises a very pertinent question with respect to how the mankind plans to deal with climate change, because of the simple reason that such arguments are simply based on devaluing persistent application of sustainable governance models, which will not merely improve the degraded environmental conditions but will also result in improvement of living condition of millions of individuals living under perilous circumstances.

*Aaditya Vikram Sharma, Assistant professor, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies.

Continue Reading

International Law

Kashmir conundrum and the international law

Abdul Rasool Syed

Published

on

The scrapping of article 370 and subsequent annexation and illegal occupation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by India has once again, brought the seven-decades-old Kashmir issue, a prime cause of friction between two nuclear states India and Pakistan into international limelight. Before this constitutional catastrophe, the state had special status, separate laws, constitution, and flag. This special status has been revoked in utter contravention of UNSC resolutions and international law.

This mala fide move by Modi government is indubitably aimed at eclipsing the importance of the issue of Kashmir by localizing it and thereby   putting it on backburner.  However, the irrefutable fact is that the Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, and recognized as such, without any reservation, by international community.

Amid Indo-Pak partition, Under Article 2 (4) of the independence act of India, the princely states were given choice to join “either of the new Dominions”. While it was an easy decision for some princely states due to their geographical proximity, territorial contiguity or political and religious affiliation of the rulers and subjects, the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir emerged as a chronic conundrum and a nuclear flash point between two nuclear countries India and Pakistan.

 To add, in the beginning, the ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, toyed with the idea of remaining independent. However, Indian machinations spearheaded by Congress leaders including Nehru and Patel created such circumstances for maharaja that left him with no option but to capitulate to their demand of  “ Accession of state of Jammu and Kashmir  to India”.  Hence, Hari Singh, due to unwarranted conditions, forged by the Indian Machiavellian masterminds, had to agree to sign the instrument of accession with India.  Thus, On October 27, 1947, the governor general of India approved the accession with the condition that “as soon as law and order were restored in Kashmir…the question of [the] state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people [of Jammu and Kashmir].”

The purported Instrument of Accession (which India has failed to produce) denies the authority of any unilateral action by India. The terms of this Instrument would not be varied by any amendment of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 without acceptance of the ruler of the state (clause 5). Further, nothing in the Instrument could have been deemed to be a commitment as to acceptance of any future constitution of India and nothing could affect the sovereignty of the Maharaja over the state (clause 7 and 8).

 So far as the internationalization of the issue of Kashmir is concerned, it is India that took the issue to international forum by knocking at the door of UN security council back in January 1, 1948, resultantly the Council, via UNSCR 38, called upon the contending governments to refrain from aggravating the circumstances and report any material changes on the ground. Thereafter, the Security Council over a number of years issued a total of 17 resolutions on the disputes status of Kashmir. UNSCR 47 of 1948, the most important of roughly all resolutions on kashmir, calls for the resolution of the dispute of Kashmir’s accession to either India or Pakistan through effecting the democratic means of a free and impartial plebiscite.

Simla agreement is another worth quoting document ,deemed as  the premier bilateral accord between the warring nations, it holds that “principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the countries”, hence shining light on the validity of the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. The disputed nature of the issue is further reiterated as, “In Jammu and Kashmir, the Line of Control resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side.

Moreover, the same Simla Agreement also forbids unilateral action to change the status of the state. Clause 1(ii) of the agreement specifically states that neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation. Clause 6 further emphasizes that both the countries should discuss modalities for a final settlement of the state through diplomatic means. Thus, India’s claim that the revocation of Occupied Kashmir’s ‘special status’ is its internal issue negates its commitment under the agreement.

 Additionally, the right of self-determination is the basic principle of the united Nation charter which has been reaffirmed in the universal declaration of human rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international issues. The concept played significant role in post-world war I settlement, leading for example to plebiscite in a number of disputed areas.

However, in 1945 the establishment of UN gave a new dimension to the principal of self-determination. It was made one of the objectives which the UN would seek to achieve, along with equal rights of all nations.

The principle of self-determination and the maintenance of international peace and security are inseparable. For example, the denial of this right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir has brought the two neighboring countries in South Asia — India and Pakistan to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

Apart from the specific UN resolutions which guarantee Kashmiris’ the right to self-determination, the UN Charter in Article 1(2) declared one of its purposes as, “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”. This serves as the biggest impetus to the said right under international law.

In 1952, the General Assembly further expounded this principle and stated in Resolution 637A(VII), that ‘the right of peoples and nations to self-determination is a prerequisite to the full enjoyment of all fundamental human rights’ and recommended that UN members ‘shall uphold the principle of self-determination of all peoples and nations’. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples enshrined in GA resolution 1514 of 1960 upheld the right to self-determination. The resolution explicitly says, “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

What’s more to say is that the principle of self-determination was given overwhelming protection in Article 1 of both International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In 1966, these two covenants enshrined the self-determination principle verbatim as was laid in GA resolution 1514. The Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations (GA Resolution 2625 of 1970) went further in recognizing that peoples resisting forcible suppression of their claim to self-determination are entitled to seek and receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter. Since the adoption of the Declaration in 1970, the ICJ has, on a number of occasions, confirmed that the principle of self-determination constitutes a binding norm of customary international law and even a rule of jus cogens- peremptory rule of international law. Thus, international law and the specific UNSC resolutions on Kashmir uphold and provide the Kashmiris with the overriding principle of right to self-determination.

Inter alia, by the revoking the state’s ‘special status’, the situation has now become an ‘occupation’ with an ‘unlawful annexation’. India is an Occupying Power and it has unlawfully annexed the state. From international legal opinion on the issue of self-determination, as developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the process of decolonization, the fate of millions of people cannot be left to the whims of India. Given the UN General Assembly’s resolution of 1960 concerning Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have every right to self-determination.

India has no title on the state under international law. India’s illegal occupation since 1947; denial of the right to self-determination of the people; application of India’s constitution by removing the state’s special status, makes India an Occupying Power and its army a hostile force. The BJP’s recent attempt to include the territory of the state within the Union’s territory of India is an act of ‘occupation’ and ‘illegal annexation.

 While commenting on Article 47 of the Geneva Convention IV, jurist Jean S Pictet explains that the Occupying Power is the administrator of the territory and is under various positive obligations towards the Occupied Population (ie the Occupying Power cannot annex the Occupied Territory or change its political status). Jean elaborates that the Occupying Power must respect and maintain the political and other institutions of the Occupied Territory. Therefore, India being an Occupying Power cannot annex the state’s territory and is bound to keep the state’s institutions and territorial boundaries intact till the conduct of plebiscite under the UNSC resolution 1948.

The International Commission of Jurists has categorically stated that “the Indian government’s revocation of the autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir violates the rights of representation and participation guaranteed to the people [of Jammu and Kashmir] under… international law”.

To cap it all, the world powers should take a leaf from the statement made on June 15, 1962 by American representative to the UN, Adlai Stevenson” the best approach is to take for a point of departure the area of common ground which exists between the parties. I refer of course to the resolutions which were accepted by both parties and which in essence provide for demilitarization of the territory and a plebiscite whereby the population may freely decide the future status of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Science & Technology1 hour ago

FLATOD-19 – Flexible Tourism Destinations: An innovative management tool for visitors and destinations

In the time of Covid-19 epidemic, the destinations of any kind, around the globe, must consider the probability of never...

Southeast Asia3 hours ago

Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia amid the rising tide of secessionism in the region

Secessionist tendencies in Indonesia’s province of West Papua have recently been attracting a great deal of attention from experts and...

Europe5 hours ago

Origins of Future discussed – Vienna Process launched

The first July day of 2020 in Vienna sow marking the anniversary of Nuremberg Trials with the conference “From the...

Middle East6 hours ago

Al-Kadhimi’s government in its first test

On June 26, 2020, Iraq’s prime minister, Mostafa al-Kadhimi (MK), demanded the counter-terrorism forces head to a place located on...

Americas8 hours ago

Socio-Economic Implications of Canadian Border Closure With U.S.

After doing a  detailed analysis of situation emerging from the closure of the border between    Canada and  US, it could...

Green Planet10 hours ago

Green Politics: What Drives Us and What Drove Us?

Authors: Aaditya Vikram Sharma and Anurag Mishra In the previous installment, the authors discussed the ‘discovery’ of damage to the...

South Asia12 hours ago

Sino-India Emerging Rivalry: Implications for Stability of South Asia

India and China, both heirs to ancient civilizations, have emerged today as the two most powerful and influential Asian nations...

Trending