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A New Understanding of the Universality of Human Rights


For more than a half a century the world community has been developing a
universal human rights standard. At the same time there has been a strong
tendency towards relativism, and hence regionalism, in the field of human
rights. There is a degree of tension between regionalism and the struggle
to find a common human rights standard but, thanks to several changes in
the concept of universality over the last 15 years, this tension can now
abate. This article focuses on the essence of these changes, with special
emphasis on the new elements, which may reduce the tension between
universalism and relativism. It progresses in two steps. First, it analyses the
universality of human rights from a historical perspective. It identifies the
basic arguments of the adherents and adversaries of universal human
rights between the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the end of 1980s. Second, it turns to the new elements in
understanding the universality of human rights that have been emerging
since the 1990s. It draws particular attention to the new points of contact
that help bring the struggle for universality and relativist tendencies closer


International human rights protection, universality of human rights, cultural relativism, political and legal instruments of human rights protection

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