Being right or correct?

Is “human rights” the serious agenda of the United Nations?

Hamed Qadim
Oct 21 · 4 min read

Human rights as well as other achievements of humanism in the modern era, have been claimed to be accepted globally but the fact is they are not practiced. Eric Posner in his article with the title of “The case against human rights” posted in Guardian on December 2014, discusses if the human right is practiced at all and provides examples and facts that shows humanity has failed in establishing the human rights beyond a treaty into a legally binding framework that enforces the human rights to be obeyed.

(https://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/dec/04/-sp-case-against-human-rights)

Should we doubt the rightfulness of human rights? What are other reasons that are not reflected in the Posner article?

Artwork by Dan McCaw

One of the reasons I believe human rights have not been well-practiced in the global order which is unjust. Human rights are based on the very fundamental view that all human beings regardless of their place of birth or nationality or religion have equal rights. Just look into the power distribution in a macro level in the world. Do all nations have equal rights? The inability of developed nations in acceptance and practice of equal rights at the international level has undermined the validity at the national levels too. Extremists of the right wings in autocratic regimes often refer to this unjust distribution of power with those who claim the human rights as the reason that human rights is not a real notion to be believed and it is more a political tool for international developed countries to intermediate the internal affairs of the states in underdeveloped or developing countries.

Take a look at US, UK and France attack to Syria in April 2018 as an example of undermining a clear international law that any foreign military act in the land of any country without prior permission of the existing government is an act of war. So why should Turkey refuse to do the same now? The rights of Kurds as human beings who have lived in the region for more thousands of years is simply ignored due to the fact that states fail to follow the rules they define themselves. Developed countries are not bound to these agreements and it does not help any international system to be sustainable and established. Often many of these actions are done with extreme care to be politically/legally correct. Some of the countries that possess nuclear weapons are not members of Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet they object to countries that are members of NPT as nuclear threats. In fact, they are correct but they are not right. Failing to distinguish between these two is one of the reasons human rights is not turning into serious international obedience and it remains only at intellectual gestures without practical results and as means of developed countries to put the developing countries under pressure to accept their requests which are usually economic exclusive privileges. United States as one of the symbols of liberal democracy has no problem keeping strategic partnerships with dictators in Middle East as long as it meets its economic benefits.

In another photograph from Douma by Bassam Khabieh, a man carries an injured girl as he rushes away from buildings hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2015/nov/14/the-20-photographs-of-the-week#img-11)

But the fact is, human rights is still one of the achievements of a human being even though the Western countries have failed to practice it in the international level. The same is applicable to wisdom and achievements of human beings in the pre-modern era in the area of spirituality. We also failed in establishing and practicing spiritual wisdom but they are not wrong. They are correct but we failed to utilize them. The answer is the Posner is correct because it is obvious that we have failed in utilizing our achievements though we need to find the root causes. I believe, among all, one important factor is that it is not believed by the political leaders. Same as the need for practical solutions for resolving the environmental crisis. The belief comes from society and it is dependent on awareness of the society to claim it. Thus the long but correct way is to increase social awareness on the importance of accepting costs of insisting on human rights in the international level which is loss of control and sharing economic benefits with others. States do not do that by themselves, and international system is not able to enforce that. But societies are able to make that happen. If “human rights” is valuable we should accept to pay its costs.

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Hamed Qadim

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