Posted on | August 10, 2012 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |
Last year a resolution was passed the by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva requesting a study on the relation of “universal traditional values” and human rights. The study was to be prepared by the Advisory Committee of the HRC.
In February a first draft of the study, by the Russian expert on the committee Vladimir Kartashkin, was discussed by the advisory committee. The study concentrated on values that were considered truly “universal”, and would not enter into conflict with human rights, opting to highlight the commonalities between traditional values and human rights. It contained references to the right to life, traditional marriage, the role of the family in society, as well as positive mentions of major religions.
The purpose of highlighting the linkages between universal traditional values and human rights was to strengthen the normative power of human rights, especially those values and human rights that all countries and peoples agree upon, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is, the minimum common denominator of all people. But countries and NGOs more interested in promoting special rights were incensed by the study.
The draft was heavily criticized in February by the United States and EU countries. In addition ILGA, a radical LGBT rights NGO criticized the study. They wanted to point out that the rights of women and LGBT persons are often undermined by traditional values, and that something should be said in the study about the conflict of traditional values and human rights.
The result? A new draft study that scraps a universalistic approach in favor of special interests. It pits human rights against traditional values, detailing how certain traditional values undermine human rights, especially the rights of women and minorities. The draft now speaks of how some traditions and religions spread “stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation and the role and status of women in society”. It establishes that traditional values are constantly evolving, mostly for the better, and lists some “best practices” (none in western countries), as well as containing a paragraph that says western countries proliferate some practices that constitute the abuse of women. The new study was scheduled to appear during the upcoming September session of the HRC. But it will require some further polishing, and the committee has asked the HRC to present it during the February session.
The HRC Advisory Committee is happily throwing away an opportunity to build consensus, and to strengthen the normative power of human rights around the notion of “universal” traditional values. The point was to highlight values that are truly Universal. It was never to decide which traditional values are positive or negative, using human rights as a conflicting normative standard. The study could have highlighted those traditional values, that are truly universal, precisely because they are inherently good (i.e. life, marriage, religion). Instead now it will be another advocacy tool for radical UN bureaucrats and NGOs to unfairly claim that traditions are in conflict with human rights. This can only lead to acrimony. So much for consensus and peace building!