Human rights are international standards that define the measures of personal freedom for every human being. They are appreciated by the international community as the legal regulations that should be achieved by all nations and states. The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, meant the beginning of a new period (Darraj 2010). The rights and freedoms of the person ceased to be an internal affair of a state. They have been extended to all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, confession, language, etc. The Declaration has ensured basic rights, which initiated the whole complex of norms and principles on human rights: the right to life, right to liberty, the right to personal integrity, the right to equality (Fomerand 2014).
Respect for human rights is one of the most significant values of the world civilization. Human rights are a complex philosophical, ethical, political and legal concept. Originally, they are the integral aspects of the person arising from nature and social conditions of human existence. However, today it became obvious that the universal concept of human rights cannot any longer claim to the universalism declared by its supporters. The history of the modern system of human rights shows the unreachable level of efficiency of the system that its developers planned to achieve. Thus, it demands urgent structural changes.
In content, human rights are the measures of the possible behaviour of the person provided by law and moral requirements. From the standpoint of personal self-perfection, every right is aimed at providing opportunities for the development of human abilities and talents for the public interest and for personal gain. By their implementation, they are aimed at the protection of personal, material, and spiritual wealth. The system of human rights guarantees the opportunity to enjoy the freedom achieved by the society. If to consider them in terms of the relation between the individual and the state, they are the limits of the state power.
Undoubtedly, every human right belongs to the individual, and no one can violate it in any way. At the same time, the system of human rights is of the greatest social significance. In essence, they are the means of protecting humanity from the numerous threats to its existence. According to their social purpose, human rights are the tools, by which humanity strives to show the threat of nuclear catastrophe, the danger of the ecological crisis, the growth of international crime and drug abuse, hunger and poverty prevailing in many countries, AIDS, and other world-threatening hazards. The universal nature of human rights is manifested in their belonging to all people.
As the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007, p. 1) states, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. The ideas of human rights were developed and deepened by the progressive forces during a long historical process of the struggle for liberation from slavery and oppression.
The universal concept of human rights also embodied religious doctrines and political, economic, ethical, and legal studies. In accordance with this concept, the idea of human dignity is a supreme value of the person. All world religions are based on the idea of the spirituality of the personality and the equality of all people in the sight of God: in Christianity, all the children of Adam and Eve are equal; in Buddhism people are equal in their suffering, in Islam all the believers are equal in their obedience to God. All religious tenets approve the humanistic principles. The human rights have a deep philosophical meaning. If one regards them as possible human actions, then human rights must become the subject of the philosophical analysis.
The analysis of human rights at the philosophical point is a significant aspect linked with theoretical understanding of their practical implementation. The person establishes the limits for all actions; he or she cannot accept the norms of behaviour alien to the fixed moral principles. Freedom is one of the essential aspects of human nature. A significant contribution to the development of human rights theory was made by the liberal political studies of the XVIII-XIX centuries (Benoist & Maulin 2011).
The essence of this concept recognized in the international code of human rights, can be formulated as follows: 1) the recognition of human dignity and human rights are of the highest absolute values; 2) the independence of human rights from the dictates of the state; 3) the equality of people in dignity and human rights; 4) the incompatibility of human rights with tyranny and oppression, fear and poverty, despotism and crime; 5) the recognition of the values of democracy and justice; 6) ensuring international and interstate human rights safeguards (Donnelly 2013).
However, there may be different approaches to the assessment of human rights and their importance in public life. There is a variety of methodological bases of certain aspects of the concept, in general, and of certain groups of human rights. In science and public life, the tendency of the positive attitude to human rights is predominant from the late XX century. However, there are pseudo-humanistic approaches to this concept. In politics, the slogans of human rights are often used to cover up the violations of international law and crimes (Alston & Goodman 2013). There is also certain skepticism, disbelief of the society in possible realization of human rights. In connection with this issue, the inquiry of theoretical suppositions, philosophical, legal and other sources of human rights are very relevant in our time.
This problem is associated with the formation of the human rights of the third generation. They are designed to complement and enhance the system of human rights. The emergence of new threats to human rights (e.g., such as pollution by harmful waste products, the growing financial debt of developing countries to developed) creates the need to cultivate new theoretical approaches intended to adopt new legal acts on human rights. These acts are the regulations that are aimed at the control of the respect for human rights.
Recent scientific advances, such as the investigations related to possible cloning of living organisms, on the one hand, create the gigantic prospects for the development of production, science, human well-being, but on the other, they increase the threat to human individuality, the biological identity of the person. In this regard, new legal instruments should be established to protect human rights, taking into account the scientific and technical progress of the 21st century.
The inefficiency of the universal concept of human rights resides in the fact that the structure of the human rights system at the conceptual level does not adequately reflect social and cultural conditions developing in the modern world. The universal concept of human rights does not have a large number of the supporters in the world to prove its crucial role as the conceptual basis of the absolute majority of universal international instruments pertinent to human rights. This status is disputed by the western experts and is severely criticized by the representatives of other cultures in the modern international law system (Freeman 2011).
The criticism seems to be reasonable, taking into account the origin of the universal concept of human rights and the methods of its application at the level of international agreements. Over the last twenty years, the position of the opponents of the universal concept of human rights is gaining political weight in the world. The emergence of alternative projects on the basis of declarations of religious concepts of human rights attracts the increasing attention not only among the public but also of the experts in the field of law. In this connection, discussing the concept of universal human rights, the change vector should be noted. If during the XX century the divisions were arising between the two opposing political and ideological blocs, in the XXI century world, there is the debate between “east” and “west” as a religion and secularism (Yasuaki 1999).
The controversy lies not in the content of human rights, but in opposite views on the origin of these rights. Complications in the development of common criteria universal for all the traditions are the result of the different traditions of philosophical justification of human rights concepts in the sociocultural doctrines. Thus, non-European communities insist on the revision of certain parts of the Universal Declaration, which claim that the western secular traditions are unacceptable to the representatives of other cultural communities, and do not meet the needs of other cultures and religions (Yasuaki 1999).
Meanwhile, the modern world is entering a new era. In addition to such “challenges of our time,” as terrorism, anti-Islam, the global financial crisis, which are discussed among the political elites of the West, the globalization process manifests itself towards the revival of religious consciousness in societies, the so-called desecularization (Freeman 2011). The parties are to make mutual concessions and the revision of their original position to achieve consensus. Otherwise, hope for fruitful cooperation between them is inconsistent. The situation will only get worse in the absence of drastic steps towards the creation of a new revision of the concept of human rights existing today.
The primary advantage of the international standards in the field of human rights is a high level of democracy. However, the drawback of international standards is that they unify only the achievements of some states, the most influential in the world. As a result, the significance of the established rights can be fully appreciated only in countries with a similar historical experience of development. In this regard, we can say that at the moment, there is no universal concept of human rights. There is the so-called western system of human rights. Thus, at the current moment, the revision of the conception of human rights is one of the most optimal solutions to this issue. Consequently, each country may have its own human rights system created by taking into account the peculiarities of the national constitutional law and international demands.
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Darraj, S 2010, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Chelsea House Publishers, New York. Web.
Donnelly, J 2013, Universal human rights in theory and practice, 3rd edn, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. Web.
Fomerand, J 2014, Historical dictionary of human rights, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD. Web.
Freeman, M 2011, Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 2nd edn, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK. Web.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 60th Anniversary Special Edition 2007. Web.
Yasuaki, O 1999, “Toward an intercivilizational approach to human rights”, in J Bauer & D Bell (eds), The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp.103-123. Web.