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International Law

The Mirages of Westphalia

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Once the current systemic crisis arrives at its still vague yet inevitable end, a new world order will emerge, and as analysts ponder it, most of them agree that nation states will further grow in power in relation to other international actors. Strictly speaking, this strengthening is already going full throttle. How stable is this trend and what consequences could it have for the future world order?

Memories of the Future?

States are on the offensive on two fronts at once. On the one hand, the crisis has laid bare the obvious weakness and vulnerability of non-state actors in global politics: both the private sector and civil society have proved incapable of positioning themselves as major centres of influence and active participants in making crucial foreign policy decisions. On the other hand, the crisis has shown how ineffective and even fragile multilateral intergovernmental institutions and international organizations are, including such different bodies as the UN, the European Union, the EAEU, G20, G7, the WTO, the WHO, etc. So, both sub-state and supra-state bodies have failed the historical casting process for the part of effective crisis manager.

The conclusion begs to be drawn that, by the late 2010s, the world had become ripe for the long-awaited full restoration of the Westphalia world order that emerged in Europe following the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1646). Let us recap: the Westphalia system enshrined the unconditional priority of nation states and state interests in the European international order; it proclaimed the principle of national sovereignty as the state’s integral right to the power monopoly on its territory and to independent foreign policy. As for foreign policy itself, the Westphalia system clearly separated it from domestic policy; sovereign states were equal to each other in their formal rights irrespective of their size, form of government or state religion.

Nearly 400 years have elapsed since the end of the epic Thirty Years’ War, but the Westphalia system’s overall rules of the game are still relevant. In any case, they are quite congenial to many of today’s popular visions of the post-crisis world. The ideas of polycentrism, of national sovereignty and states’ sovereign equality, of non-interference in one another’s domestic affairs, of a balance of forces and interests, and of religious (and also political, ideological, sociopolitical and any other) pluralism in international society are highly appealing to many societies and particularly to the national elites that are tired of the endless postmodernity of recent decades. Seeing the events that are unfolding in today’s world, nearly defeated “statists” are now triumphant, while “liberals” who were triumphant only recently have been thrown into confusion. Has history gone full circle back to the time of Westphalia?

Naturally, the crisis is significantly changing the customary balance of social and political forces. To a certain extent, it is taking the world back to the old traditional hierarchies of the 20th century and even of earlier periods in history. Officials, the military, the defence complex, special services and, to some degree, the traditional “manufacturing” middle class are universally bolstering their standing. Postmodernity’s hero incubators and role models, such as the new creative class, the private financial sector, cosmopolitan-minded political elites, liberal media and comprador intellectuals are losing their status and influence. In other words, the world is going back to modernity and, in some ways, even collapsing into archaic modes of existence.

The pandemic and the new economic recession have generated public demand for paternalist strategies in domestic policy and for nationalism in foreign policy. In the last few decades, this demand has never been stronger. State leaders have gained unprecedented additional opportunities for manipulating public sentiments, fears and expectations, and have learned to exploit new sources of their legitimacy. Many of those leaders have succeeded in providing for the explosive growth of their popularity simply by demonstrating a “hard-line” approach to combating the coronavirus, by generously injecting money into the national economy, by applying protectionism in foreign trade, and by declaratory isolationism.

These developments bring to mind the golden age of populist absolutism that was simultaneously the golden age of Westphalian European politics. Not by chance do people find French President Emmanuel Macron’s “Jupiter-like” style reminiscent not so much of Napoleon Bonaparte as of the “Sun King” Louis XIV. By inaugurating an era of interaction between European nation states, the Thirty Years’ War famously buried the French and Spanish Hapsburgs’ hopes of establishing a “unipolar world” in Europe. Maybe the last thirty years that finally buried Washington’s claim to creating a global “unipolar world” are coming to an end with a new, revised and enlarged edition of the Westphalian world order?

Yet, after the pandemic and the structural global economic crisis, the “return to Westphalia” concept needs at least some major qualifications.

Are Nation States Really That Strong?

First, the strengthening of nation states is far from ubiquitous. As a rule, states bolster their standing if they were strong prior to the current cataclysms. Hardly anyone will earnestly discuss a “Westphalian renaissance” in the Middle Eastern Mashriq or the African Sahel. On the contrary, when a crisis hits, weak state institutions in fragile states become weaker and lose the remnants of their legitimacy, which is precarious as is. Quite frequently, such states’ social functions are assumed by non-governmental bodies, including religious organizations, fringe political movements, tribal alliances, and even organized crime (such as the drug cartels in Latin America). A deepening crisis of a national and government identity is opening the way for alternative group identities such as tribal, ethnic, denominational, regional and many others.

Second, public consolidation around the state cannot be seen as a universal pattern even in the developed countries of the global North. Yes, this consolidation has occurred in many European states. Even so, polls conducted in the United States did not show a sharp upsurge in Donald Trump’s popularity even during the crisis. Both “Trumpists” and “anti-Trumpists” remain steadfast in their political views. If there is a consolidation taking place in the U.S., it is that of the Democratic party supporters, which puts a question mark over the current president’s re-election prospects in November. Most societies of the global North remain economically, socially and politically divided, which certainly severely restricts the processes of nation state strengthening. For “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

Third, it is far from obvious that both the nationalist fad and the current trend of state strengthening will hold up in the medium-term, to say nothing of the long-term. Today’s generations are far less patient and less constant in their attachments than their remote 17th century ancestors. When it comes to today’s voters, there is but a thin line between their love and their hate. Many experts believe that, should there be no success in combating the pandemic and the recession, public support for national leaders will decline sharply in the very near future. And this applies not only to individual leaders but to the ideology of national egoism in general. It is also evident that the defeated social and political forces have not conceded their historical defeat and are energetically preparing to get their own back. Some people even predict that, already in 2021, liberal internationalists and multilaterality enthusiasts will launch an energetic counter-offensive under the banner of the newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden.

Fourth, the strengthening of nation states does not necessarily mean that the interaction between such states will automatically produce a Westphalia-like system. The Westphalian system was relatively homogeneous in its political, cultural, economic and other dimensions, and it had a very limited number of participants. Today’s world is far larger and far more diverse than Western Europe of the 17th century. At the same time, today’s world is characterized by a far greater degree of coherence and interdependence than the Westphalian world. This means that restoring the Westphalian system is an excessively complicated enterprise that is, most likely, utterly impossible. The same appears to obtain for possible attempts to reconstruct the 19th century Concert of Europe.

Fifth, it is highly doubtful that the current crisis of international organizations and multilateral institutions (ranging from the UN and NATO to the European Union and the WTO) is an indicator of nation states getting stronger. Indeed, none of these organizations has been able to act as a leader channelling the efforts of international actors into restoring the governability of the international system. Yet is it fair to contrast states with multilateral international institutions? Only a strong and responsible state is capable of acting as an energetic and reliable participant in a multilateral body. Only a strong and responsible state is ready to delegate some of its sovereignty to an international organization. Let us not forget that the UN was created by strong international actors, not weak ones. Strong states made the European Union possible. A conclusion begs to be drawn: a crisis affecting the multilateral system does not reflect a strengthening of states; it reflects a weakening of states that cannot afford to have strong international institutions even though no one doubts that such institutions are needed today.

Concerning the multilaterality crisis: if the hypothesis of the revival of Westphalia, of the triumph of national egoism, and the low effectiveness of multilaterality were true, the U.S. under Donald Trump should have been able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic far better than the European Union. In reality, however, as of early August, the U.S. had over three times as many coronavirus cases (4.7 million cases in the U.S. vs. 1.5 million cases in the EU). Already in summer, unemployment in the U.S. reached 13% vs. 6.7% on average in the EU. It is even more surprising that the differences in the strategies for combating the pandemic are, on the whole, far greater between individual U.S. states than between EU member states’ national strategies. With the exception of the special case of Sweden, the EU states approached the epidemiological crisis in ways that were far more similar to one another than the approaches of California and New York, Massachusetts and Arizona, New Jersey and Florida, Vermont and Texas.

Finally, it is possible that the supposed strengthening of states will be accompanied by shifts in their current priority systems in favour of their domestic problems. Accordingly, the post-crisis world will see a more isolationist China, India, U.S. and Russia, and a more inward-looking European Union. The consequences of this priority shift for the international system are yet unclear. Great powers’ isolationism will not necessarily deliver a fatal blow to global or regional stability. Yet it is far from obvious that the isolationist world will prove more stable and reliable: the power vacuum left in many regions by the great powers’ withdrawal could be filled by irresponsible actors, including non-state ones.

Owing to the systemic crisis, the traditional non-state globalization drivers, such as universities, independent think tanks, liberal media, civil society institutions, and the globally-orientated private sector have found themselves temporarily relegated to the background of global politics. All these actors face increasing difficulties as they attempt futilely to preserve the global political status they have gained in the last two or three decades.

Sooner or later, though, nation states willing to pursue an effective foreign policy in the extremely complicated and rapidly changing global environment of the 21st century will need all these actors (who were, incidentally, mostly absent from the classical Westphalian world of the 17th–18th centuries). In today’s world, societies cannot interact through the bottleneck of intergovernmental relations. So a new re-energizing of non-state actors in international relations is only a matter of time.

From our partner RIAC

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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