Human Rights Universalism

Authored by: Anthony J. Langlois

The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations

Print publication date:  September  2009
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754671015
eBook ISBN: 9781315612935
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043546


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The rhetoric of human rights is unabashedly universalist: one need go no further than the cornerstone document of the contemporary human rights regime to observe this. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated by the United Nations in 1948, is replete with words and phrases which connote universalism. Human beings are described as members of the human family, all of whom have inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights, and shared aspirations as a common people for ‘freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want’. The Declaration was proclaimed, in its own familiar words, as:

A common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.

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