One important question often associated with human rights and especially the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights involves the relationship between human rights and cultural diversity among nations and races around the world.
This question arises out of the fact that the declaration was issued following the Second World War by Europeans and Western governments at the United Nations and quickly ratified by almost all nations, which committed to comply with its principles. Afterwards, the declaration became enforceable as an international document adopted by all nations and governments and it seems as if everyone is committed to its principles. However, with the passage of time, certain governments began to look for ways to bypass its principles, among others, and have raised excuses to renege on their commitments. One such way was to introduce the idea that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was different from or contrary to cultures and beliefs and traditions of the world’s diverse nations and races.
The question, simply put, is this: while nations held different beliefs and traditions and while some of those beliefs and traditions are inconsistent with some of the declaration’s principles, are these governments, which are born out of their nations, committed to conform to the declaration’s principles that are contrary to local traditions and beliefs?
The reality is that, if we want to have a philosophical discussion about human rights, we will never reach a clear answer to the above-mentioned question. But let us ask a question from those who refuse to fully commit to the declaration’s principles on excuse of cultural relativism: Does abiding by this declaration, regardless of its logical or potential actual shortcomings, aid in institution peace and security and equality and justice in the world or not? If the answer yes, does breaking down the declaration and more clearly replacing international human rights with religious or ethnic or racial or local ideas and religions beliefs pave the way for the defeat of the declaration’s goals and ultimately rendering it irrelevant or does it not? The answers to these questions are obvious.
It is clear that imposing cultural or national or ethnic beliefs and traditions is opposed to the spirit of human right. If every individual or government or person in power in some corner of the world disregard the equal rights of human beings on the real or pretentious excuse of cultural relativism or religious difference or any other excuse, then the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” would be irrelevant. That view justifies, for instance, that those who believe in racial hierarchy (racists) can continue their racism or that women still can be deprived of equal rights with men or that religious apartheid can be instituted forever or, any case violence and discrimination or war or insecurity on local or regional or global level. Given these considerations, shouldn’t advocates of cultural relativism accept the consequences of their ideas and their logical and actual implications.
Experience shows that reverting to the weak defense of cultural relativism and diversity has roots in political calculations, meaning that those who do not believe in human rights principles or regard their full implementation to be opposed to traditions or personal and class gains, try to find any way to refuse from committing to the declaration. This is especially true about the rulers and influential classes in Islamic nations.
In reality, only dictators (whether of the traditional or modern kind) are opposed to with the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and full commitment to the principle of human equality and even world peace, because the full institution of human rights is opposed to their hidden and apparent interests. In return, full implementation of human rights benefits the downtrodden and victims of discrimination and inequality and war and violence. At the same time, the essence of human experience has proven that full commitment to human rights even strengthens cultural rights and traditions of nations and ethnicities.