Institute of Human Rights kicks-off 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In celebration of Human Rights Month and the lead-up to the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.P. Law Center Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR) and Center for International Law (CenterLaw) held Culturalizing Human Rights v. Human Rightization of Culture: Epistemology of Human Rights in Asia last December 11, 2017 at the Ambion Room of Malcolm Hall, U.P. College of Law. The event featured a discussion of Prof. Upendra Acharya of Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington, on the origin, definition, and present implementation of international human rights law.
Presenting a critique on the selective application of human rights by developed countries before students of the U.P. College of Law, professors, and guests, Prof. Acharya opened his discussion with examples of how nation-states can apply human rights to suit their needs: disregarding human rights “obstacles” in pursuing interests with state allies, while using the same as a weapon against state enemies. He also argued that the U.N. Charter was drafted to address problems of Europe after the World Wars of the 20th century and not human rights problems of Asia and Africa.
Prof. Acharya, a publicist on International Law, Constitutional Law, and Administrative Law, likewise discussed the phenomenon of “human righticization of culture,” a process which he claimed places human rights in the center of national concerns, while excluding the needs and influences of local cultures. Furthermore, he shared how “culturalizing human rights”- the emergent interpretation of rights using elements of local cultures- has not been effective as a countervailing process in Asian societies.
The political, judicial, and social aspects of human rights were also discussed by Prof. Acharya. He recounted how countries that follow human rights standards are given preferential treatment in international trade. He also mentioned the lack of international capacity to enforce international human rights on States as well as of an effective means of appeal beyond domestic law.
Critiquing the effects of Western imperialism on Asian cultures, Prof. Acharya described how these cultures are heavily influenced by State apparatuses, elites, and political machineries. He highlighted the problem of culture being wrongly defined in the process for the benefit of such elites working through the government structures.
Prof. Elizabeth Aguiling–Pangalangan, Director of UP IHR, delivered the opening remarks for the event. She expressed concern over how cultural relativism in ASEAN may have adverse effects on important human rights, such as the right of Filipino women to reproductive health and the rights of children and families.
Prof. Merlin Magallona, former Dean of the U.P. College of Law and prominent publicist on International Law presented a reaction on Prof. Acharya’s talk. Dean Magallona problematized on the struggle between human righticization of culture and the culturalization of human rights.
Atty. Romel Bagares, Executive Director of CenterLaw, delivered the concluding remarks.