THE PROBLEM AND ITS SETTING
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” United States Declaration of Independence, 1776
The concept of “human rights” is a historical development, “the product of the rise of modern nation-states and a history of nationalism, colonialism and post colonialism.” Human rights can be said to emerge with the Declaration of Independence by the thirteen colonies that were to become the United States, which was adopted on July 4, 1776. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration refers to inalienable rights, that is, fundamental rights, which cannot be awarded by human power and cannot be surrendered. It covers specifically the three basic rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was a proclamation of values designed to unite all its members (Tam Thi Hong Mai, 2008). Meanwhile, the Charter of the United Nations (1945) proclaims that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. This call was given concrete expression with the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Adopted against the horrors of the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first attempt by all States to agree, in a single document, on a comprehensive catalogue of the rights of the human person. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies different kinds of rights. These rights include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people (Human Right Reader, 1997).
Additionally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims a common standard of achievement for all people’s and all nations, to end that every individual and every organ of society shall thrive to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. Noteworthy, among Western developed countries, civil and political rights and individual freedom are central to democracy. Meanwhile, developing countries have emphasized economic, cultural and social rights, linking human rights to the conditions that create economic development (freedom from fear and want) (Tam Thi Hong Mai, 2008). In Philippine setting, the country has the human and peoples’ rights declaration on which it is meant to be the contribution of the Philippines to the long envisioned ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Revisiting the 1993 PAHRA-initiated Philippine Declaration of Human and People’s Rights , the current initiative looks deeper into the Filipino peoples’ life and struggles, as well as into their rich and diverse cultural heritage in order to draw human rights there from. Affirming the universality of human rights and rejecting the cultural relativism espoused by some in Asia, this effort looks at culture beyond its being used as a rationale for relativism and looks at culture also as a...
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