Defending Human Rights
This proposal is designed to highlight the major players and issues that surround human rights and its realization at the global level. The proposal seeks to present several arguments that illustrate ideas that reinforce and oppose the principle of human rights, and its effectiveness in reducing instances of violations and crimes against humanity. The key to understanding the whole concept behind defending human rights lies in deciphering how human rights work. Human rights are officially set out in several documents and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The scope and reach of human rights has been largely unclear, and this is one of the reasons for its ineffectiveness in bringing equality and justice in the world. The UDHR applies to all public institutions including state departments, prisons, individuals including heads of states and other international organizations. Most human rights acts cover all people regardless of their status or origin. These qualities of the UDHR and other documents that contain and enforce human rights are largely effective. However, the restriction of human rights occurs because of an issue of definition of what can be considered an ‘absolute’ right. Most human rights are not absolute, and this means that they can be limited. Kenneth Roth also mentioned the issue of restricting certain human rights by higher authorities. Roth cited the right to liberty and the freedom of expression as being the most violated human rights globally (Roth 175).
All individuals have the right to endorse, develop and defend human rights using legitimate and nonviolent methods. Such diplomatic approaches include championing for the freedom of expression, movement and association. The responsibility of taking the appropriate steps to protect all human rights is awarded to individuals and the state itself. However, because of various factors including state failure, inefficiency among institutions and poor accountability among international organizations, the state of human rights in various countries is sometimes completely ignored. This exposes the individuals to several violations of their basic and extended human rights. Investigating into the causes of these violations and the consequent solutions will provide an opportunity for all populations in the world to enjoy their human rights fully.
A myriad of urgent and crucial global human rights issues feature in the numerous meetings, discussions and conferences hosted by global rights stakeholders. These issues affect a large part of the global population, have dire consequences and are easy to manage or control. Freedom of expression is a crucial issue that has been addressed for several decades. The states have used ‘national security’ in the past as the scapegoat as they perpetrate grave political injustices, especially to the opposition and outside criticism. Recent developments, such as increased fears of terrorist attacks and security breaches, have been misused to validate amplified subjugation of citizens and pressure groups utilizing their right to free expression. Because of their justice-seeking actions, human rights defenders turn into the main targets of abuse by the state. Commercial interests, security forces, the state, armed militias, religious heads and sometimes the society can attempt to quell their rebellious actions or opinions. The advancement and accessibility of the internet has significantly assisted in overcoming this hurdle, but has also produced new challenges.
International justice is another key topic that has gained global attention owing to its importance and relevance. By international justice, the term implies the realization of truth, justice and deserving reparations for individuals who have been caught up in the violation of human rights. In the past, numerous genocides, wars, crimes against humanity, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and tortures have been disregarded by national bodies. Between the discrimination against victims, faulty justice systems and political initiatives having an upbeat and optimistic approach that typically fail to address past injustices, this impunity is perpetrated for several generations. The outcome is that the people responsible for these atrocities are set free to contemplate and execute appalling crimes, with the hindsight that they will not be accountable to any organization or individual. Victims, their relatives and society have enjoyed relative support and advantages amid key developments aimed at undoing this tendency of impunity by setting up a new system of international justice to bring justice to the sufferers and to pressure national authorities to discharge their duties.
Apart from these two issues, the matter of human trafficking and sexual violence is another crucial human rights issue. June Johnson focused specifically on the issue of trafficking girls across the borders to work as sex slaves and cheap labor in other parts of the world. Most of these girls being trafficked originated from third world countries in Africa and South America where according to Roth (2004), the implementation and realization of human rights is at its lowest globally. Trafficking is closely connected to the demand for low-priced acquiescent and passive labor in industrial sectors. In those locations, children experience various forms of dangers and threats such as bonded labor, child domestic labor, prostitution and sexual exploitation, drug ferrying, and child soldiering. All these activities violate children’s human rights concerning forced labor and mistreatment of children.
The Role of International Organizations in Defending Human Rights
For many years, international organizations have at the forefront in championing for the economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights of different societies. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations have played a significant role in as far as the above responsibility is considered. However, the common assumption that taking on this role is a relatively simple task for international organization is misplaced and misleading. Kenneth Roth suggested that one of the easiest ways of defending and promoting ESC human rights is to create awareness among the people by encouraging them to stand up for their rights. Respect for ESC rights usually requires allocation of resources and, therefore, the natives of a country are in the best position to demand their own rights. Foreign parties such as international organizations have little influence on domestic matters.
Roth (2004) and Johnson (2011) also proposed litigation as a working approach towards realizing human rights. Both authors proposed the promotion of international laws and other laws that promoted the realization of ESC including minimum wage bills, housing, and food and healthcare policies. International organizations are most effective in pushing the state to adopt this legislation. The last common method of realizing human rights at a global level was proposed by Kara (2011) in her article ‘Supply and Demand: Human Trafficking in the Global Economy’. Kara proposed a plan to formulate legislation at several levels of administration to ensure that there is compatibility and similarity of laws. The same laws that are codified in international law should be domesticated and adopted in the local context.
In her article, Kara proposed offering technical support to governments with the intention of influencing which areas received assistance. While Roth and Kara supported this approach as a significant one, it effectiveness rested on the willingness of the government to respect the human rights in the first place. Most third world countries have benefited from this last approach without responding in kind by increasing their respect for ESC rights. Therefore, it can be concluded that based on the information collected by World Bank and the United Nations, as well as other international organizations that this last approach is highly ineffective and extremely costly to implement. The analysis of the various methods used to promote and realize human rights globally is important in the quest to defend these rights. From the above explanations, it is easy to understand why human trafficking, forced labor and rape are still prominent in most countries. Finding out the perpetrators of these violations and solutions will go a long way in changing the state of human rights globally.
There is a similar uncertainty in the discussion of suitable solutions. Aggressively disputed opinions concerning “structural adjustment” are descriptive. They contend whether structural adjustments were behind the extensive poverty, through its coerced trimming of state funding in basic needs, or they were the answer by setting the foundation for economic development (Johnson 87). Supporting verification can be presented for both parties in this argument. However, from these experiences, international organization have learnt that when pursuing human rights in other countries, it is imperative for them to seek out situations where clarity exists concerning the violation, the cause of the violation and the solution to be implemented. The education sector is a suitable sector where such an approach is applicable. Several international organizations including Amnesty International have successfully proved that the state has failed to provide quality education, reduce discrimination and violence in schools located in South Africa, Egypt and India respectively (Roth 70). The same approach was also relevant in investigating the abandonment of AIDS orphans in Kenya. In such cases, the violations were easily recognizable, the state was clearly at fault, and the solution would be direct. However, in the Kenyan case, Human Rights Watch succeeded in pressuring the state to acknowledge and tackle the problem (Roth 67).
After analyzing the tenets of human rights, the challenges in implementing them and the solutions accessible to intern national organizations and defenders, it is imperative to review the arguments that oppose the violation of human rights by states, heads of states and other parties. A prominent argument that dismisses most of the principles promoted by human rights defenders is the struggle between relativism and universalism. Proponents of relativism argue that while the human rights are considered universal in nature, they are shaped by the social context in which they are applied. According to relativists, human rights are shaped by environmental and cultural factors such as race, religion and sex (Johnson 129). This argument is grounded on the fact that different cultures have different practices some of which may conflict with human rights. To that extent, relativists argue that human rights cease to be universal.
Currently, there are several arguments from scholars and state that human rights should not be awarded the quality of universalism. Conversely, they argue that cultural diversity has an impact on what is considered a human right especially in non-western states. Their argument also proposed that human rights disrupt communitarian societies by placing a high priority n the individual rather than the society. This raises a question as to whether human rights affect the existence and cultural values among societies that still maintained their cultures. A proper example is among most African societies that promote communal living. These communities assume that the individual is part of the community. Therefore, human rights can interfere with the traditions and values of different societies (Kara 287). Traditional practices such as marriage are considered a clan decision and individuals struggling for closure are considered arrogant and disrespectful. This results in disagreements and conflict that breaks the bonds in the family. In this case, human rights have led to disruption of a functional society.
This strong stand against universalism’s reason was captured by Carol Gould in her publication that pointed towards the possibility that it could be used to propagate political, economic or cultural imperialism. Her argument was highly relevant, keeping in mind that the White Man’s Burden was a perfect example of how numerous human rights were violated in the quest to disseminate Eurocentric values (Gould 287). The colonialists and white settlers violated most of the basic rights and freedoms of the natives in Africa and South America while assuming that their perception of human rights and culture would be applicable on a universal plane. However, this approach is flawed in that several practices exist that are not common to all human civilizations. These include circumcision, female genital mutilation and birth rituals that occur in Asia, Africa and Latin America. While these communities practice it as a tradition in their culture, the international community considers it a violation of the physical rights. This debate also took on political tones in the form of a tussle between the East and the West (Gould 291). The political values in the East were structurally different from those of the West that promoted democracy and transparency. Conversely, the Eastern regions operated under authoritarian governments that demanded to sacrifice personal freedoms to realize social prosperity and stability. However, the same relativism can be used as a validation for authoritarian rule. However, the human rights were formulated by a team that took into consideration several different cultures and traditions.
Players in the Promotion of Human Rights
Several influential stakeholders promote the realization of all human rights globally. The media are a key player that has independently changed people’s attitudes and response towards human rights. The involvement of media journalists is obvious. By revealing violations of human rights, the media have enhanced democratic discussions and lowered corruption in the public sector. Simultaneously, media that closely monitor the significant changes in human rights supply dependable sources of information that can be used by the citizens, activist groups, public bodies and private organizations to uphold development and eradicate arbitrary exploitation. For many years, freelance journalists in third world countries have contributed significantly towards promoting democracy in their homelands. Most of them risk their freedom and lives in a bid to promote accountability and transparency in the government. In third world countries, journalists are regularly detained, prosecuted or fined with heavy penalties or jailed terms. However, the media are the largest single body responsible for promoting human rights in most underdeveloped states.
International and national non-government organizations have also contributed immensely towards the campaign to realize universal human rights for all people. NGOs such as Amnesty International operate on a global scale having offices in all the continents. NGOs have refined their advocacy roles and cooperated or worked against governments to develop agendas that surround human rights (Gould 187). This can be established through engaging in treaty consultations with governments with the intention of setting up international standards that the state can follow. NGOs also marshal public views through conducting inspections, making accounts of human rights abuses and assisting victims of human rights violations. They also lobby politicians, companies, international funding institutions and the media (Gould 208).
However, the function of NGOs in the civil society is ardently disputed. A section of theorists argues that nongovernmental players contribute greatly to the political world by promoting democracy at an international level (Kara 176). Regardless of other roles, non-governmental organizations open up avenues to express opinions in either a local or a global platform. Conversely, one can conclude that NGOs give consequential expression to those who may not be able to access such media or opportunities. From this viewpoint, by offering people access to global political ultimatums, NGOs act as the connection between the people at the grassroots and the decision makers at the global level. In other words, NGOs represent a direct materialization of the democratic global civil society.
Gould, Carol C. Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Johnson, June. Global Issues, Local Arguments: Readings for Writing. 2013. Print.
Kara, S. “Supply and Demand: Human Trafficking in the Global Economy.” Harvard International Review. 33.2 (2011): 66-71. Print.
Roth, Kenneth. “Defending Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Practical Issues Faced by an International Human Rights Organization.” Human Rights Quarterly: a Comparative and International Journal of the Social Sciences, Philosophy, and Law. 26.1 (2004): 63-73. Print.