Political Science Answer Writing Practice 2018 - Week 6 - Question 6

90 Days Political Science Answer Writing Practice Question 2 for 21-Dec-2018

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21-Dec-2018 - Question 2

Critically examine the notion of “Asian Values" in the context of the on-going debates on human rights.(2018) - 250 words

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Model Answer

Today`s world shows sign of positive progress towards the universal system  of human rights. The globalization of human rights began when the world was awakened to the crimes committed under one government (Hitler), and the need for a more universal system of accountability and responsibility. But many Asian societies reject outright the globalization of human rights and claim  that Asia has a unique set of values, `Asian Values`, which provide the basis for Asia`s different understanding of human rights and justify the ``exceptional`` handling of rights by Asian governments. In asserting these values, leaders from the region find that they have convenient tools to silence internal criticism  and to fan anti-Western nationalist sentiments.

The conflict between Universal Human  Right and Asian views and how they endanger human security in Asia are evident from the following debates:    

  1. Rights are ``culturally specific`` in Asia and distinctive  than Western views In the debate of culturally relative human right  in Asia two versions of cultural relativism can be distinguished. The first  one claims that human rights are a Western ideal and do not apply in the same  way to non-western societies. The second one formally accepts human rights as universal, but believe that the cultural differences between the West and nonwestern societies should influence the assessment of non-western states by the UN. For example, in article 8 of the Bangkok Declaration of 1993 Asian states declared that “human rights must be considered in the  context of a dynamic and evolving process of international norm setting, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.”
  2. Precedence of Social and economic rights  than political and civil rights Proponent of Asian values argues that Asian societies rank  social and economic rights over individual`s political and civil rights. And the West is accused  of prioritizing civil and political rights over social, economic and cultural rights. Ching,1993 states “The US state department, issues annual reports on the human rights situation in countries around the world, but the reports cover only political rights,  not social, economic and cultural rights.”
  3.  Economic Development rights should get priority over other human rights Asian states  refer to the right to economic development as basic to the implementation of other human rights. In the process of development, human rights violations are unavoidable and therefore the level of development should be  taken into account when the UN judges the human rights records of states, according to the Asian states (Indonesian Statement to the World Conference on Human Rights, 1993). It is evident that there are close relation among economic development,  human development, human right and human security in many aspect. And emphasis on the human dimension of development in recent years clearly has reinforced the place of human security in the international policy agenda

But this  argument precedence  of economic development  right is not supported by evidences from  many Asian states. Economic development does not always enhanced human rights records, rather they degraded  human rights and endangered human security for example in the case of authoritarian governments of Malaysia where Malaysia’s Internal Security Act has been used to  “detain without trial not only communists but government critics and opposition activists” .Similarly, there are many allegations about violation of human rights against many economically developed Asian states like, China, Japan, and Thailand. And from  the development pathway of a state it is also not clear that human rights violations would be necessary to the goal of achieving economic development, so this is not a justification for human rights violations

  1. Prioritizing of  group and communal rights over individual rights Another claim in favor  of `Asian value` is that the individualism of the human rights doctrine is said not to  be suitable for the Asian culture. And the so called Asian value of ``community harmony`` is used as an  illustration of ``cultural`` differences between Asian and Western societies, in order to show that the idea of individual`s  inalienable rights does not suit Asian societies. However, this Asian view creates confusions by collapsing ``community`` into the state and the state into the regime. When  equations are drawn between community, the state and the regime, any criticisms of the regime become crimes against the nation-state, the community, and the people
  2. More regional instruments and less global  directives should be included in the Universal Declaration of human rights In terms of form  of the universal Human rights doctrine, the Asian cultural relativist view is that the world community needs more regional instruments and less global directives from  the UN. The form in which human rights are protected should also be more cooperative rather than confrontational. This would lead to human rights instruments that are better applicable to specific  regions for their culture by taking account of “geographical complexity, diversity and vastness of the region as well as their historical background and levels of political stability, economic development and social progress” (Statement from Indonesia at the World Conference on  Human Rights, 1993) (UNHCR,1993). This demand for more regional instruments seems a way to deflect attention by the UN and the world community as a whole from human rights violations and endangering human security in the region.

So, we can conclude that in Asian context the Human rights doctrine may be western, liberal and Universalist, but that does  not mean to say that differences in culture cannot be accommodated for. Even more, minority cultures often need the protection of human rights organizations to prevent them  from oppression. And this type of protection can ensure human security in Asia. Again it should be also bear in mind that human security expands the notion of human rights towards threats that do not only emerge from states. Human security might allow for a better explanation of why  acts by private parties and non-state actors should be seen as human rights violations. Thus in Asian context promotion of human security can also promote human right. But for that it is necessary to promote human right coming behind the so called `Asian Values`. We should always bear in mind that no one culture is ‘right’. We must respect the cultures  of others while avoiding extremism and unreasonableness to promote human security in Asia.

Note: There is no template for a correct UPSC answer, the model answer is only for your reference


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