The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

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With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the concept of 'human rights ' has gradually become one of the most commonly accepted universal norms, referred to in United Nations resolutions, national constitutions and regional and international treaties. Even so, human rights violations occur on an almost daily basis in countries around the world. The term seems to be at the forefront of contemporary political discourses, with its meaning at most times remaining unclear. In theory, human rights serve the sole purpose of protecting the inherent dignity of all 'representatives of the human family ' (UDHR 1948) However, there is much disagreement when it comes to theoretically justifying that each human being has rights by virtue…show more content…
This will then serve as a basis for my main argument that human rights are socially constructed and do not exist outside of the realm of politics. This will then feed into the second part of the question where I shall discuss the prioritisation of community values over an alleged universal foundation.


The first part of the essay will concern itself with a more genealogical approach by looking at early philosophical origins of human rights and how these evolved over the years. With this I seek to outline the fact that while efforts to institutionalise human rights were initially a reaction towards global injustice and oppression, in contemporary politics they are used to create power relations, and implicitly, inequality. This will provide a good basis for the second part in which I will look at the incompatibilities within the theory- religion versus Rawls ' consensus based theory. Analysing the multitude of frameworks with their different ways of approaching and grounding rights underlines and reinforces the fact that there can 't be a universal foundation for human rights. The third part will deal with the fact that trying to ground rights into one universal foundation creates an exclusion of those who are different and how we can seek to move away from this problem.

Natural Law and Natural Rights

The origin of the modern rights discourse is that of natural law dating back to antiquity. Plato was one of the first advocates for a universal
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