Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Human rights and regimes

Here's a structural argument for protecting human rights. How would your students critique it?

It's written by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Human Rights Require Stronger Institutions

"Sixty years ago... the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first international proclamation of the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people. To this day, the Universal Declaration remains the single most important reference point for discussion of ethical values across national, ideological, and cultural divides.

"Yet the Declaration’s enlightened vision of individual freedom, social protection, economic opportunity and duty to community is still unfulfilled. Tragically, genocide is happening again...

"For women around the world, domestic violence and discrimination in employment are a daily reality. Minorities suffer stigma, discrimination, and violence in developed and developing countries. The right to information is denied to millions through censorship and media intimidation.

"Poverty is our greatest shame...

"As we mark this anniversary, the question is how to protect the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people. A key part of the answer lies in more effective systems of accountability, so that rights are recognized and laws enforced...

"If we are to make reforms sustainable and ensure that they truly protect human rights, we need effective institutions of government...

"We have better tools to communicate and demand justice than any generation before us. We have global goals and shared destinies that connect us. What is needed now are leadership, resources, a greater sense of urgency, and commitment to the long-term efforts that must dedicated to ensuring that the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration are not only recognized universally, but respected as well."

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