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The Universality of Human Rights

            The universality of human rights emerged during the 20th century based on the belief that the basic values and principles underlying the concept of human rights are of a universal nature. Many argue that these values stem from the philosophical idea of a shared "human nature or human essence that defines who we are as humans," (Benhabib p. 26), while others argue that there is no objective lens in which to determine our "true nature". There are legal and scholarly debates on whether universal human rights are attainable in such a culturally diverse world. I argue that with increased dialogue and understanding between states that a minimal level of ethical standards can be reached for the greater good of society. .
             One of the arguments made against the concept of human rights is that it comes from a politically liberal outlook. This outlook is generally accepted in western democracies and in some other countries but is not necessarily standard elsewhere in the world. Even human rights agreements among the United Nations fail to include certain countries. For example, communist China and parts of the Muslim world have rejected many human rights provisions. There is also an under representation of developing countries, especially in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Even if every country were fairly and equally represented within a universal declaration, some cultures, religions, and political sectors differ on the idea of how human rights should be put into action. Actions that one group may see as justified could be considered human rights violations by another group. .
             This is a problem termed by Benhabib as the "différend." He defines this as "a case of a conflict between two parties that cannot be resolved equitably for lack of a common or shared rule of judgement that would be applicable to both cases" (Benhabib p.29). This challenge of diverse cultural perspectives or cultural relativism is the assertion that human values are far from being universal and vary a great deal.

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