2
The Legal Challenges

The Charge of Eurocentrism

From its very inception the human rights community (like the development one, for that matter) has been under attack on one of its very key premises, namely, the universality of human rights. Many scholars, activists, and government officials, especially but not exclusively from thirdworld countries, have argued that human rights emanate from Western political, cultural, or religious values and are therefore not universally valid.1 To no small extent, such debate functions simply as a political ploy, a device in the rhetorical wars of opposing camps in the international community. This was particularly true during the Cold War, when the United States argued exclusively in favor of CP rights, while communist countries including the USSR and China argued equally exclusively and vehemently for ESC rights. A more recent but similar debate, involving both senior politicians and intellectuals, revolves around so-called Asian values. The notion put forward is that in (East) Asia, a different set of (non-Western) values hold sway; for example, that there is much greater value placed on community and the common good (as opposed to individualism), respect for authority (as opposed to freedom), hard work and savings (as opposed to consumption), and that these values are superior to those found in the West, producing societies that are characterized by high economic growth, strong families, little violence, and no drug use. Such claims are widely seen as an attempt by a number of Asian governments, including such odd bedfellows as China, Myanmar, and Singapore, to deflect criticisms on their human rights records. It is both an offensive move, allowing these newly assertive leaders to undermine Western intellectual hegemony by explicitly positioning their own values as superior, and a defensive move

-17-

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Human Rights and Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Boxes and Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Some Debates of Relevance to the Development Practitioner 7
  • 1 - Background 9
  • 2 - The Legal Challenges 17
  • Part II - Human Rights in the Practice of Development 45
  • 3 - The Basics 47
  • 4 - Political Conditionality 56
  • 5 - Positive Support 83
  • 6 - A Rights-Based Approach to Development 122
  • 7 - Final Synthesis and Questions 167
  • Notes 203
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 227
  • About the Author 241
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