Are Human Rights Asian

As Kevin Tan, senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore notes wryly, the debate on Asian values and human rights has become something of a cottage industry since its inception at the UN world Conference on Human Rights in 1994. Both regional documents from the Middle East and Asia challenged the universality of human rights, e Bangkok declaration has since become a manifesto, a kind of declaration of independence from what has been considered the intrusive moralism of the West.
A brief summary of the positions articulated at the UN conference and afterwards indicate the divide.
Asian representatives (represented by statesmen Mahathir and Lee Kwan Yew) claim that human rights may have a universal dimension but this is limited by its Western genesis. The Bangkok declaration itself best speaks here:
While human rights are universal in nature, they must be considered in the context of a dynamiv and evolving process of international norm-setting, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backkgrounds.
The West, represented most vociferously by the U.S., responds that human rights are inalienable and inviolable and thus cannot be subject to cutural relativism.Such rights are universally applicable.As a U.S. official noted at the conference, "we cannot allow cultural relativism to become that last refuge of oppressors."
The study of human rights has also become something of a cottage industry in U.S. academic circles in the last five years.Jack Donnelly, one of the primary theorists on human rights recently lamented that the field of human rights was dominated by legal and political theorists.This is true no more.Evidence the proliferation of human rights artiles in an astounding range ofjournals, and a growing number of conferences featuring anthropologists, sociologists, literary critics, theologians and cultural …

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