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International Law

The Last Hours Before Dawn

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The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into all kinds of discouraging thoughts. Most analytical articles talk scathingly about the international system and offer bleak forecasts for the remainder of the 2020s.

Analysts have set their sights firmly on the issue of globalization. Some say the globalization processes we have seen have not gone far enough, while others say that globalization has spread way too far. The paralysis of international institutions, particularly the United Nations, has outraged international affairs experts and ordinary people alike. The blame for the global failure in the fight against the virus has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the World Health Organization, although aspersions have also been cast at the UN Security Council, which, as an international instrument, has wilted in the face of this global threat to humanity.

At the same time, pessimists see the ineptitude of international institutions not as the root of all problems, but rather as a consequence of globalization. In the blink of an eye, the successes of the globalization project — open borders, mass tourism and transnational cooperation (which were used shamelessly by both sides, liberals and conservatives) — had become a common evil. The wave of xenophobia that swept through several (mostly former Communist) countries, which was also directed at fellow countrymen who happened to be abroad when the pandemic hit, was welcomed by a number of experts, even though history has taught us that the fallout in cases like these is rarely positive.

In an article for Foreign Affairs, the most prominent representative of the American school of realist thought today, Stephen Walt, concluded that we will soon see a retreat from hyper-globalization and a return to the concept of a strong nation-state that is capable of protecting its citizens.

On the one hand, it is quite natural and logical that critical assessments and negative scenarios will prevail, but they also seem to have hypertrophied. Natural because it looks like a defensive reaction to a new, incomprehensible and unpredictable phenomenon. Logical because, unlike the modernist period, which was marked by a certain optimism that progress would continue unabated forever, society today is a product of postmodernism, for which the author, freedom and God are all dead. At the same time, even in these darkest of hours, we still know that a new dawn will come. It may be different from all the dawns we have known before, but it will bring light, warmth and sunshine, nonetheless.

If we look at the coronavirus crisis from a different angle, then we may come to new and perhaps completely unexpected conclusions. The way I see it, the coronavirus has brought forth two extremely important characteristics of modern society: 1) that we value human life over any economic goal (be it economic growth or profit) and basic freedoms (for example, the freedom of movement); and 2) that modern society and political systems have not gone far enough in terms of globalization.

The first characteristic is not obvious to many, but this fact itself confirms that human worth has become an integral part of the cultural code of all modern countries, regardless of their political structure or economic system. A few centuries ago, this kind of viral pneumonia (like COVID-19) would have gone completely unnoticed: yes, large numbers of the elderly and infirm would have died, but life would have gone on as usual. Experts are already saying that the COVID-19 death rate is nowhere near that of the pandemics that ravaged the planet in the past.

The second characteristic clearly runs counter to the general consensus among analysts who blame the crisis on globalization and prophesy the emergence of a post-global world. Upon closer inspection, however, it would seem that their criticisms have little to do with the objective side of globalization (the development of technology, transport and financial instruments) and rather refer to what Ulrich Beck called the ideology of globalism, the goal of which is to promote and impose the economic model and financial interests of a narrow group of interested parties.

If we accept that “globalization is a reality, not a choice” (as Richard Haass wrote recently in Russia in Global Affairs), then we can come up with quite constructive proposals for “restarting” globalization, rather than getting rid of it altogether. As Fareed Zakaria correctly points out, “Globalization since 1990 could be described as having moved three steps forward and only one step back.” Therefore, the “gap year” that is 2020 may be a useful place to stop and take stock of the successes and failures of the international community.

It is clear even today that the myth of “blissful globalization” that French politicians and experts often talk about (Hubert Védrine in Le Figaro, Alain de Benoist in Russia in Global Affairs) needs to be put to rest. In its place, we need to see a project that aims to reset the entire process, and where we learn from our past mistakes. What needs re-examining? Naturally, the balance between the national and the international, transnational and global. As the Russian philosopher Artemy Magun quite rightly puts it, “it turned out that we were entirely unprepared to manage the very thing we had created — a globalized world.” Globalization post-coronavirus will have to take place on four levels at once, and appropriate competencies and powers that are best suited for dealing with the challenges of the 21st century will need to be selected for each level. It is just as wrong to castrate certain states and declare globalization a panacea as it is to build outposts on borders and down all international air traffic.

The first attempt to combine globalization with the international system of political and economic governance, Globalization 1.0, was, to some extent, a Potemkin village: the piles had been beaten into the ground and the outer walls built, but the building itself was unliveable and waiting out the storm in it was simply impossible. In addition to a meaningful reform of international institutions, the new version of globalization should build a sturdy framework for relations between states and foster a new type of international solidarity that will unite societies and citizens not by removing their national identity but by complementing it.

In fact, despite the usual forms of global interaction (in terms of business, tourism and migration) falling somewhat by the wayside, global network integration has actually increased “rather intensively in the somewhat low-key sector of science and research: journals are opening up their databases, the largest research centres in the world are granting use of their supercomputers, etc.”

We can thus conclude that not all changes that will come about as a result of the coronavirus will necessarily have a negative effect on globalization. As Alexander Auzan notes, “changes in the world order caused by large-scale upheavals are not always a bad thing” given our past experience: “One of the consequences of the Black Death in Europe was the start of the Renaissance, the subsequent cooling of the 16th–18th centuries and, it is believed, the Industrial Revolution.”

Coronavirus has given us the opportunity to rethink not only global processes, but also processes of a more localized nature. It has also given us cause to ponder the question of what the substance of the relationship between the state and the individual will be after the global health crisis subsides.

Meanwhile, the expert community is embroiled in a heated debate: Which political system has dealt with the trials of the coronavirus best and can thus lay claim to being the new model for the rest of the world? Has democracy managed to cope with its unswerving insistence on the primacy of human life and the complex system of checks and balances it has built? Or has the moment arrived where the undeniable effectiveness of authoritarian or hybrid regimes has to be acknowledged?

This dilemma was particularly evident when the epidemic was coming to an end in China (thus proving the “effectiveness” of the authoritarian approach) but had only just started to take hold in Europe and the United States. Tensions surrounding this issue soon subsided, however, as the reality of the situation demonstrated that the appearance of coronavirus had not set a gradual global shift towards authoritarianism in motion. The pandemic also showed that those countries where authoritarian practices had already been introduced and were generally accepted by society, as well as those countries where there was a certain inclination towards such practices, continued to use such strategies throughout the crisis. Similarly, those countries that place humanitarian and democratic principles above all else stayed true to their ideals during the pandemic. For example, as late as mid-April, Sweden had still not introduced any restrictive measures. And the measures taken in Western Europe are nothing compared to those taken in China. To begin with, the majority of the restrictions that were put in place were not particularly rigid and, secondly, they relied on citizens to behave in a responsible manner and observe the lockdown regimes, because, after all, people are not simply “objects” of the state machine and are rather “brothers- and sisters-in-arms” in the common fight against the virus. The worst-case scenario in terms of people ignoring the quarantine in France, for example, never materialized. As of April 2020, when most European countries were either approaching or had already passed peak incidence, we can state that no democratic or even hybrid regime had fully adopted the Chinese model of combatting the coronavirus.

Interestingly, populism has also demonstrated its worth as a (relative) political model during the crisis. Most of the leaders who had come to power on the waves of populist sentiments quickly abandoned their populist tenets and soundbites as soon as the pandemic started getting out of hand. They were forced to discard their usual bravado in the face of the virus and adopt measures that they had seemingly not been willing to adopt beforehand (Donald Trump took the decidedly “socialist” step of offering benefits for those in need; Boris Johnson grudgingly introduced strict lockdown measures after long refusing to do so, thus earning his country a position near the top of the table of coronavirus victims). The pandemic has shown that populism is most likely a reaction to a crisis of the political establishment and is all but useless when it comes to dealing with the challenges facing modern societies in a globalized world.

Experts are now generally in agreement that national governments and states as a whole will step up their role in world politics. And it is quite natural for societies that have lived according to the laws of the Westphalian system for over three centuries to “turn back” to the government. However, it is not entirely clear how exactly globalization has prevented states from having a developed and competent medical infrastructure (hospital beds, ventilators, etc.). For many countries, the defeat in the fight against coronavirus was a result of their own failures in healthcare management.

The fight against the novel coronavirus has done little to boost the standing of the state; instead, it has shone a light on the role of society in overcoming the crisis. The unprecedented quarantine measures in European countries would not have been possible without consent and willingness of the people, who saw the restrictions that had been placed on their basic rights as both necessary and vital for society. This complicity was manifested not only in passively following government instructions, but also in everyday life: careful attention to personal hygiene; almost completely cutting off social contacts; giving up certain personal comforts, etc. The French establishment quickly made a point of presenting an alternative to the Chinese model in the form of civic consciousness, which it could then display to the rest of the world.

This experience may come in handy as a method of overcoming the crisis of direct democracy that has been unfolding across the world over the past 20 years: sitting at home in self-isolation may have convinced people to take a more responsible attitude towards political processes, on which both our future economic wellbeing and, as the spring of 2020 has shown, our security and, ultimately, our lives depend.

Whatever the case may be, people across the world were given the unique opportunity in early 2020 to live a completely digital life, with virtual and actual reality swapping places for a short time. It was a kind of test drive, or perhaps even a crash course, in how to live a completely digital life for the global community. Discussions about this experience have also proved divisive. Digital optimists argue that the world will never be the same again — people will study, work, buy their groceries and even “go to the cinema” online. Digital pessimists (or, more precisely, digital rejectivists) tend to completely demonize the experience of the Eurasian continent being plunged, against its will, into the digital world. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.

The coronavirus crisis demonstrated that this temporary transition to online life helps us to better understand: what needed to be digitalized (and the costs of rectifying this situation for all stakeholders, including hired workers); what, on the contrary, would be rendered obsolete by the transition to online; and what could exist in a double or mixed format that would bring greater comfort and benefit to everyone.

The first group may include grocery delivery, which could change how supermarkets and the retail food industry as a whole operate. The second group could include entertainment — the inherent value in dining at a restaurant, watching a film at the cinema or going to the theatre to watch a play. And the third group could include higher education, where the topic of reform is ever-present yet wholly unwelcome among teaching staff: distance learning courses have already shown that a part of the educational process can be shifted to online or video conferencing modes (with lectures streamed online), although in many cases a live dialogue in a classroom is also needed and cannot be replaced by Zoom chat.

One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the massive experience of digitalization will lead to greater flexibility in almost all industries. The public sector (not including strategically closed industries), business (including SMEs and major corporations), education and a host of other spheres will all demonstrate flexibility with respect to working hours, work mode (online, offline, mixed) and corporate hierarchy (the effectiveness of horizontal communications when all members of a team work remotely).

Coronavirus came as a shock to the system at every conceivable level of public life — global, national and individual. When it is over, the world will be a completely different place. And this is something that both realists and liberal researchers can agree on. Having come through the first true shock of the 21st century, the global system that has been kept on its toes by the dialectical interaction of global, transnational and local processes will regroup and continue to function.

As Mikhail Epstein says, “from the point of view of large civilizational processes, the pandemic itself can be considered a kind of vaccine against a large-scale war.” It thus follows that the new world system that emerges after the crisis will be more resistant and secure.

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D., Associate Professor, Deputy Head of the Department of Political Science at the Higher School of Economics National Research University Campus in St. Petersburg, Assistant at the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg State University, RIAC Expert

International Law

Omicron and Vaccine Nationalism: How Rich Countries Have Contributed to Pandemic’s Longevity

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In a global pandemic, “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe”, – it is more of true with respect to the current globalized world system. It is said that crisis strikes the conscience and forces the ‘commonality of purpose’ on one another- and a major one in magnanimous scale. But the current Covid-19 crisis seems to have emerged in oddity with this very axiom, of course, due to self-serving, in WHO’s words- ‘self-defeating’ and ‘immoral’, approaches to dealing the pandemic by wealthy countries.

 A new and potentially more transmissible variant of Covid-19 virus, named Omicron by WHO, has been detected in South Africa. With scientists yet to be confirmed about new variant’s epicenter and its likely implication on human immune system, the emergence of Omicron has brought the long-warned case of ‘vaccine nationalism’– a phenomenon in which each nation prioritizes securing ample doses without considering impact on poor ones- to light.

Unheeded to the repeated warnings by scientists and pandemic specialists, many of the world’s richest countries had embarked on a vaccine-acquisition frenzy and hoarded jabs more than their requirements. Some countries have even gone to the extent that they had acquired up to four times what their population needed. Thereby, it has left majority of poor and developing countries, particularly those in global south, unvaccinated, with further risk of the virus being muted into more virulent variants, as in the case of Omicron.

A simple numerical data over vaccination rate across the world exposes the grotesques picture of pandemic recovery divide among the countries and immoral hoarding and hedging efforts on vaccine supplies by wealthy countries. As of now, whereas only 3% of people in low income countries have fully been vaccinated, the figure exceeds 60% in both high-income and upper-middle –income countries. In Africa, the most under-vaccinated and the epicenter of ominous Omicron, only some 7% of its 1.3 billion people are fully immunized.

Given the 9.1bn vaccines already manufactured and 12bn expected by the end of this year, the question is- why does vaccination effort remain so discriminatory and dividing across the regions? The answer, in most part, lies in the ‘pervasive economic inequity’ inherent in initial vaccine-acquisition process. With their enormous capacity to pay out, rich countries, even before pandemic took devastating hold, had pursued a ‘portfolio-approach’ in investing on vaccine development research by pharmaceutical companies- simultaneous investment on multiple ones. In exchange, those countries stroke bilateral deal with each drag company to secure enough prospective vaccine doses to inoculate their respective population several times over.

This absolutist vaccine-acquisition drive of wealthy nations had substantially thwarted the holistic approach taken up by World Health Organization(WHO) under the platform of COVAX, a vaccine sharing program. With the aim of reducing the delay in vaccine allocation to poor and developing countries, and thus ensuring vaccine equity, the multilateral platform didn’t get enough incentives from wealthy ones, since started its journey in April 2020. Both investment and acquisition by well-off countries, having bypassed the COVAX, kept them into the front of manufacturing line, thereby, contributed to the distributional injustice.

‘What starts wrong ends wrong’- initial absolutist approaches in vaccine acquisition started to be manifested in discriminatory distribution of vaccines. Thereby, an amazing scientific breakthrough, development of vaccine in record time, has been offset by awful political policy. In mid-2021, when one portion of world were almost on the track of carefree normalcy, people in bigger portion were struggling to breath. Today, problem is not in production of vaccines, as 2 billion doses of vaccines are being manufactured in every month, rather in the ‘unfairness of distribution’.

Early monopolistic exercise by G20 on acquisition and subsequent stockpile of vaccines has resulted in such galling situation that they have commandeered over 89% of vaccines already produced and over 71% of future deliveries. Consequently, the global inoculation drive, since started, is so unjust that for every vaccine delivered to the poorest countries, six times as many doses are being administered as third and booster vaccines in the richest countries. Adding further to the crisis being escalated, while more than 100 countries, for past one year, have desperately demanded emergency waiver on TRIPs related regulatory restriction on Technologies crucial to pandemic recovery, it has repeatedly been blocked by UK and EU.

Picture is not all-about gloomy with respect to vaccine collaboration but it is quite tiny to the scale of requirements. Rich countries could not deliver on the commitments they did to help poor countries immunize their population. For instance, WHO’s target of having 40% of global population vaccinated by end of this year, through COVAX, seems certainly to fall short largely due to the rich countries failing to deliver on their promise to use their surplus vaccines to immunize the under-vaccinated countries. Far from near, the G7 countries had drastically failed to deliver on their promises made on G7 summit in June. As of last week, USA has delivered only 25%, with further embarrassing arithmetic of EU only 19%, UK 11% and Canada just 5%.

Given the frightening predictions from WHO that another 5 million could be added to the already 5 million death tolls across the world, in the next year or more, it is high time starting a collective endeavor with herculean efforts to inoculate large swaths of unvaccinated people in un-protected areas. Keeping large portion out of vaccination will only make the pandemic endure with no time to end, as virus continues to persist through mutating in un-protected area into a more menacing variant. If so, then again someone else may say, after next the worst wave-We were forewarned- and yet here we are.             

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International Law

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW): Wishful daydream or historic milestone?

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The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted in 2017, has entered into force on the 22nd of January of this year and the number of ratifying states continues to grow, with Mongolia being the latest to announce its accession. This positive trend is certainly welcomed with enthusiasm by the Civil Society campaigners and growing number of supporters of this treaty that represents a huge step forward for the global movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It would certainly be dishonest to ignore the fact that this new international legal instrument remains controversial, to say the least, for most of the members of the so-called nuclear deterrence community. As preparations are ongoing for the first Meeting of States Parties, scheduled to take place in Vienna on 22-24 March 2022, it is useful to address some of the main doubts and arguments against the treaty.

In this regard, the main criticism is that it makes no sense to support a treaty on nuclear weapons if those states that possess them have not joined nor any intention to join it.  

In order to address this claim, it may be useful to recall that in the case of the Mine Ban and the Cluster Munition treaties, its main promoters and supporters were also states that did not possess those weapons, and that those international instruments also received some harsh criticism for this reason. Despite of this, there is no doubt now that both of those treaties have become remarkable success stories, not only by achieving the goal of approaching universalization, but also by consolidating a general moral condemnation of those categories of weapons. Therefore, the argument that a treaty necessarily needs to be joined by the possessors of the weapons can easily be rebutted. Despite of the current position of the nuclear weapons states, each new ratification of the treaty is not meaningless: on the contrary, it provides the treaty more authority and contributes to the growing pressure on nuclear weapons states to adopt further steps towards nuclear disarmament.

The other major contribution of the TPNW is that it facilitates the process of delegitimisation of nuclear weapons, necessary to finally amend the well-established foundations of nuclear deterrence doctrines. The humanitarian principles that are underlying the treaty are totally incompatible with those doctrines, and therefore are having an impact on them by highlighting the inherent immorality and illegitimacy of nuclear weapons.   

Another argument for the case of ratification is that it provides states the opportunity to support the process of democratization of the global debate on nuclear weapons, as this new treaty has been the result of a very open discussion with active engagement of delegations from all geographic regions and, in particular, of representatives of Civil Society. This is not a minor aspect of this process, but a key element. Indeed, unlike in negotiations of previous international legal instruments, in this era of growing complexity and interlinkages, the main challenges faced by humankind are being addressed by a diverse group of citizens, from all walks of life and regions. Traditional diplomacy is certainly not enough, and in the case of the TPNW, the positive results would clearly not have been possible without the decisive boost provided by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was able to mobilize Civil Society and likeminded governments towards the goal of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty. 

While it would be naïve to expect the establishment of the nuclear weapons states to be convinced by the humanitarian narrative and in a foreseeable future to amend its defence and security policies base on nuclear deterrence, the TPNW and its focus on the security of the human being instead of the traditional notion of the security of the state, are already having an impact on the academic and public debates in those states.

The second argument used by its critics is that the TPNW weakens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  Actually, this is not only incorrect, the opposite is true. In fact, the TPNW can serve as an initiative to help implement article VI of the NPT, by which parties are committed to undertake to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. This is of vital importance as the treaty clearly attaches a key role to all parties, and not only to those states that possess nuclear weapons. This commitment has also been reflected in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the TPNW can be understood as a reflection of that obligation to contribute to nuclear disarmament by non-nuclear weapons states.

Another common point is that the nuclear weapons industry is too strong and well consolidated and that it would be naïve to pretend that this treaty could actually have an impact on investment decisions.

This pessimism has also been proven wrong. In fact, in 2021, more than one hundred financial institutions are reported to have decided to stop investing in companies related to nuclear weapons production. As a result, the nuclear weapons industry is experiencing a considerable reduction and the trend towards the exclusion of this sector from investment targets is growing steadily. This is not only the consequence from the legal obligations that emanate from the TPNW but a reflection of the devaluation of the public image associated to these industries. As this public image continues to deteriorate, it is likely that this trend will continue and that the moral condemnation of these weapons of mass destruction will be absorbed into the mainstream of society.

Another common misinterpretation is that the TPNW should be understood as an instrument that is only designed to be joined exclusively by non-nuclear weapons states.

In fact, even though the treaty was developed by non-nuclear weapons states, it has been drafted and negotiated with the goal of universal adherence, including, someday, those states that still include nuclear deterrence in their national security doctrines. In particular, the TPNW establishes a clear set of steps for nuclear weapons states in order to eliminate their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Specifically, within 60 days after the entry into force of the treaty for a state party that possesses nuclear weapons, that state must submit a plan for the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons to a competent international authority that has been specially designated by states parties. The treaty also includes a process to designate a competent international authority to verify the elimination of nuclear weapons by a state before acceding to the treaty, and a process for states parties that maintain nuclear weapons in their territories for the removal of these weapons and report this action to the United Nations Secretary General.

It is also noteworthy that this treaty obliges states parties to provide adequate assistance to victims affected by the use or by testing of nuclear weapons, and to take the necessary measures for environmental rehabilitation in areas contaminated under its control. This dimension of the treaty constitutes an important contribution both to the protection of human rights of victims and to the now inescapable obligation to protect the environment, which are aspects that are not covered by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This certainly does not affect the value and vital role of this key instrument of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime but complements it by addressing the fundamental issue of environmental reparation.

The main challenge now is now not only to achieve a wider universality of the TPNW, but to engage more stakeholders and create awareness on the urgency of bringing pressure on the nuclear weapons states to finally move toward nuclear disarmament. In this regard, Civil Society initiatives have been promoting engagement of members of grassroots, parliament, the media and city governments, particularly in nuclear weapons states, which has had impressive results, with hundreds of local governments expressing support for the treaty and generating discussion among the population. These initiatives serve the purpose of putting pressure on politicians and especially, to facilitate a discussion within democratic societies about the sustainability and risks involved in the possession and harboring of nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the TPNW has a long way to go and overcome many obstacles to achieve its objective, but in its first year of entry into force, it has already had an undeniable impact on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, despite the expected skeptics and efforts to ignore its existence stemming from the still powerful nuclear deterrence establishment. Most of its technical experts, academics and government officials honestly believe that nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee peace and stability to the world and therefore should continue as the foundation of international security doctrines. These well-established ideas have been based on the questionable assumption that the deployment of these weapons have avoided war and can guarantee permanent peace for all nations. This has served as a sort of dogmatic idea for many decades, but recent research results have shown that the risks involved are significantly higher and that the humanitarian consequences would be catastrophic for every citizen of the planet. The humanitarian impact paradigm, which underlies the process that has inspired the TPNW, has provoked a tectonic shift in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, which had been limited to the NPT review conferences with its often-frustrating results. Certainly, the persistence of the different approaches needs to be addressed in a more constructive discussion among the supporters of this treaty and the deterrence community.

Finally, the fact that the first meeting of states parties of the TPNW will take place in Vienna is very meaningful as Austria has been one of the leading nations in this process, particularly in drafting the Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which has been a decisive step towards the treaty that has already fulfilled that commitment. Despite of all the difficulties and the persistence of significant resistance, the active and committed participation of diplomats and Civil Society representatives, under the leadership of Austria, allow to envisage that this first meeting will help to strengthen the treaty and move forward in the long and burdensome road to the final objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

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International Law

Regional Mechanisms of Human Rights: The Way Forward: Case of South Asia

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Long debates have evolved since the 1948 UDHR as to whether human rights should always be perceived as universal, or whether they need to be regarded as contextual on regional and local cultures. If we look at  Art. 2 of the UDHR the rights apply “with no distinction given to their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Still in spite of this, the universality has been criticized by some, who argue that by claiming human rights are universal, we ignore and undermine the cultural differences that exist between societies in different parts of the world

Historically, the first written evidence of human rights was found in the famous universal declaration in 1215 A.D., popularly known as the ‘Magna Carta’. Along with the same, there were many thinkers like Hobbes, Locke Rousseau, Milton, and Voltaire who argued in favour of  individual rights and with passage of time and the conclusion of two world wars, the United Nations Organisation came into being on 24th October 1945 that replaced the League of Nations.

Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was established in 1948 and is considered a milestone in the field of human rights whose primary aim is to protect and promote human rights. In contrast to the said aim, the critics of the UDHR label it as a Western-biased document that fails to account for the cultural norms and values which exist in the rest of the world. It is only with regard to a group of certain core rights like that are listed in the human rights treaties as ‘non-derogable rights’ or considered jus cogens such as the prohibition of the use of force, the law of genocide, the principle of racial non- discrimination, crimes against humanity, and the rules prohibiting trade in slaves and piracy that consensus among nations exist.

The core of the issue is that a group of nations are seeking to redefine the content of the term “human rights” according to their own social and cultural experiences as they argue that the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration reflect Western values and not their own. These countries sign many international human rights treaties and conventions, but the use of reservations and internal obstacles

jeopardize their implementation. Such claims of social and cultural differences in the past have been dismissed by the western countries and the USA who dismissed such claims as being a screen behind which authoritarian governments can perpetuate abuses.

Coming to South Asian Nations, there does exist violations of human rights in India as there is an absence of any regional framework that can hold the government responsible for the acts committed or provide a forum to individuals to appeal against the decisions of the Courts like the one existing under European Court of Human Rights. To illustrate, the aspect of women’s rights needs consideration and improvement in the daily lives of women to meet the gap between formal rights and actual implementation of the same.  What this means is that there exists a necessity to focus on translating the universal values enshrined under International human rights to local contexts that is the only option available to human beings irrespective of the geographical location to the ideals of equality and freedom from discrimination

In this context, there arises a need for establishing regional and sub- regional human rights codes or conventions. This has also been recognized by the United Nations since in absence of a universal approach that the South Asian states refuse to adopt, it is through regional initiatives that the motives of human rights could be achieved. The need for a regional initiative becomes even more significant because unlike Europe, America, and Africa there is no inter-governmental regional system for human rights protection in South Asia. In practice, the reason cited is that the human rights debate revolves around the South Asian views or perspectives. Although the South Asian governments have ratified international human rights instruments, they fail to reflect in the national constitutions or laws of most governments.

The fact that human rights will enjoy certain specificity in South Asia, still to be elaborated and applied, however, does not mean less for the universality of human rights. The reason being that the international human rights do not originate from merely one homogenous European value system or culture, but from various heterogeneous sources, some of these existing in the long history of South Asia. Thus, human rights are universal not only in their applicability to all human beings in every corner of the world, but are also universal because they originated from every corner in the world.

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