Sumner B. Twiss

ABSTRACT An illustrative comparison of human rights in 1948 and the contemporary period, attempting to gauge the impact of globalization on changes in the content of human rights (e.g., collective rights, women’s rights, right to a healthy environment), major abusers and guarantors of human rights (e.g., state actors, transnational corporations, social movements), and alternative justifications of human rights (e.g., pragmatic agreement, moral intuitionism, overlapping consensus, cross-cultural dialogue).
KEY WORDS: human rights, globalization, collective rights, women’s rights, human rights and the environment, human rights abusers and guarantors, human rights justification

1. Introduction and Background
This essay is a self-conscious expansion of my earlier JRE article on “Moral Grounds and Plural Cultures: Interpreting Human Rights in the International Community” (Twiss 1998).1 The goal is to incorporate a historical perspective from the period 1946–48, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] was drafted, debated, and adopted, and to compare this period with recent developments in human rights, with a particular eye on how these may be affected by processes of globalization. This comparison, I believe, will provide two “takes” or snapshots on human rights developments, permitting us to appreciate both continuities and changes over time. My principal question is this: How has globalization affected human rights thinking in the international arena? I intend to pursue this question with respect to three broad issues: changes in the conception and content of human rights; changes with regard to the major players in both abusing and guaranteeing human rights; and changes in the justification of human rights. All three of these issues are so complex and nuanced that I cannot hope to be exhaustive in my treatment of them. I can, however, be usefully illustrative and provocative, by
1 Earlier versions of the present essay were presented at Bucknell University and John Carroll University. I am particularly indebted to my colleagues Harlan Beckley, John Kelsay, and Paul Lauritzen for their critical comments on an earlier draft.

JRE 32.1:39–70.


2004 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.


Journal of Religious Ethics

discussing the following topics, respectively, for each of the three issues. With regard to changing conceptions of human rights and new emphases, I will focus on individual versus collective human rights, women’s human rights, and the connection between the right to health and the environment. In regard to changes in abusers and guarantors of human rights, I will focus on the roles of state actors, transnational corporations, and new social movements. And with respect to changes in the justification of human rights, I will focus on the alternatives of pragmatic agreement, moral intuitionism, overlapping consensus, and cross-cultural dialogue. In order to investigate these issues and topics responsibly, it is important to at least stipulate the terms of reference concerning both human rights and globalization. Nothing I say in these stipulations will be particularly original or new, but for the sake of clarity some groundclearing is necessary. Speaking broadly, there are two firmly accepted types of human rights norms identified in international treaties and conventions—civil-political and socio-economic—both of which represent potential claims of individual persons against their respective states. Civil-political rights include two sub-types: norms regarding physical and civil security (e.g., prohibitions of torture, slavery, inhumane punishment, arbitrary arrest; guarantees of legal personhood and equality before the law) and norms regarding civil and political empowerment (e.g., freedom of thought, assembly, voluntary association; guarantees of effective political participation in one’s society). Socio-economic rights also include two sub-types: norms regarding the provision of goods meeting basic personal and social needs (e.g., nutrition, shelter, health care, education) and norms regarding goods meeting basic economic needs (e.g., work and fair wages, adequate living standard, a social security net). There is also a third broad class of human rights now acknowledged in international agreements but less settled and more contested than the preceding types. These I call the collective-developmental rights of peoples and groups held against their respective states, and they include two sub-types: the self-determination of whole peoples (e.g., to their political status and economic, social, and cultural development) and certain special rights and protections for ethnic and religious minorities (e.g., to the enjoyment of their cultures, languages, and religions). Since these rights are so new and hotly contested, I will be discussing them below. The meaning of globalization is also contestable territory—by historians, economists, political and cultural theorists—but rather than entering into this debate I will simply say how I am using the term, as informed by my reading of pertinent literature (see, e.g., Held and McGrew 2000; Seita 1997; Cerny 1997). By globalization I mean the multidimensional and interactive processes of economic, political, and cultural change across the world resulting in increased social interconnectedness as well as opportunities for social confrontation among peoples. As observed by

History, Human Rights, and Globalization


many, these processes are not themselves new, but their current acceleration and intensification—assisted by technological advances in communication and transport and by economic and trade interdependencies— appear unprecedented in human history (see, e.g., Held et al. 2000). In connection with this conception of globalization, human rights scholars and social activists often deploy a heuristic developed by Richard Falk a decade ago: globalization-from-above versus globalization-from-below (Falk 1993, 39–40; see also Brecher, Brown, and Cutler 1993, ix–xxvi). The first refers to economic and political collaboration among big powers such as state actors and financial and corporate agents, and the second refers to social, political, and cultural collaboration among local, national, and international agencies (e.g., non-governmental organizations, United Nations organs) interested in advancing or changing the quality of civil societies across the world, perhaps even forming a global civil society. Contrary to some human rights scholars and activists who restrict human rights to globalization-from-below, I believe that human rights and their development are relevant to both of these perspectives or levels of globalization (see, e.g., McCorquodale and Fairbrother 1999, 739). With these terms of discussion now in place, I turn to our first venue for considering globalization’s impact on human rights—namely, changes in conception and content.

2. Changes in Conception, Content, and Emphasis
As indicated earlier, I will be focusing on three illustrative topics: individual versus collective human rights, women’s human rights, and the rights to health and a healthy environment. I regard the first topic as a systemic development leading to a whole new category of human rights, the second as a new emphasis and application to a marginalized class of persons, and the third as a refinement to a previously recognized human right. All three developments—in one way or another—have been significantly assisted by globalization processes operating in concert with, respectively, the political coming-of-age of minority ethnic populations, women’s movements for liberation and development, and the environmental movement. 2.1 Individual versus collective human rights It is well-known that virtually all of the human rights identified in the UDHR systematically addressed and redressed the dehumanizing techniques and conditions imposed by Nazi Germany on Jews and other marginalized populations prior to and during World War II (see, e.g., Morsink 1999, 36–91). The framers of the declaration in large part identified a range of bulwarks intended to prevent uncivilized and barbaric state behavior such as stripping citizens of civil and legal protections,

specifically argued for the importance of recognizing. A. 113). Lauren 1998. That earlier period was rife with national and international treaties—following the recrafting of certain national boundaries in Europe—aimed at protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities conceived as groups vulnerable to possible systematic oppression by the dominant majorities of the states in which they were located (see. and economic conditions as well as their equality in such protections. Elkin. various delegates to the Third Committee (which discussed and debated the draft of the UDHR) expressed concern about special protections for minority ethnic groups. 249). economic development. there was also an eloquent voice for group rights in the concurrent UNESCO symposium on human rights. 92–98). what has all this history to do with human rights developments in more recent years? I want to suggest quite pointedly that due . and a secure place in dominant societies. As framed succinctly by one recent commentator. That said. the very identification of groups as bearers of rights encourages oppositional conflict among them. Certainly well-known but less discussed is the fact that human rights at that period were quite self-consciously conceived as representing the priority interests of individual human beings needing to be guaranteed by states on behalf of their respective citizens. So the framers of the UDHR followed another course. and the answer is not difficult to discern. in addition to individual human rights. an Australian anthropologist specializing in Aboriginal cultures. This suggestion. political. To be fair to the data. but these concerns were answered by the blanket assumption that protecting individuals generally would also adequately protect the members of minority groups. He even went so far as to suggest the controversial notion that “the community must have rights as against the individual.” and “Nazi racial doctrines appeared to be the inevitable result of such a course” (Oestreich 1999. and denying them the basic necessities for survival. with express avoidance of contributing to the power of groups. emphasizing the rights of individuals to essential civil. “The lesson of WWII was that emphasizing minorities and highlighting their differences through special protections encouraged groups to define themselves in opposition to others. explicitly raised a problem of group versus individual in addition to the oppositional group conflict that the UDHR framers were anxious to avoid. but in the interests of all its members” (Elkin 1948.42 Journal of Religious Ethics subjecting them to inhumane practices. This was an unusual move in one important respect: it downplayed—indeed went against—nascent human rights developments in the earlier part of the century in the aftermath of World War I. of course. social. The question is what accounts for the change in direction in the 1940s. In addition to the Third Committee discussion of the issue. e. That is.g. the rights of Aboriginal peoples to community land. P.. political selfdetermination.

Human Rights. 167–71). which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population” and mandated that the right to development of peoples includes “full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources” (Brownlie and Goodwin 2002. the International Covenants regarding civil-political and socio-economic and cultural rights (1966.History. In order to appreciate the challenge that this right to development represents to the international human rights community. in force. the Pacific Islands. Europe—and they number in the hundreds. dispossession from and exploitation of their lands.. including the right to determine their own political status and to pursue their own paths to economic. social. social. 1975)—influenced by representatives of developing countries formerly under colonial rule—specifically feature in their initial articles the right of peoples to self-determination. and political process. military conquest bordering on genocide. it will help to focus on one significant and poignant example of its application to a certain class of people. Africa. forced relocation. Indigenous peoples are those communities. which explicitly recognized development as “a comprehensive economic. the Americas. representing in excess of 400 million persons. Following the demise of colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s. and related communities has resurfaced. pending UN action). cultural. namely. and cultural development (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill. because it shows how the processes of globalization—both from-above and from-below— are operative. 182–83). Their worldviews and practices connect them socially. and because it brings into relief the challenge presented by a new type of rights claim. This right to development acquired further articulation in the 1986 Declaration on the Right of Development. deprivation of their . economically. Although found in diverse areas of the world. Let me begin by first identifying these peoples and their past history before going on to discuss globalization processes and the declaration itself (see also Twiss 2000. I focus on this draft declaration because it represents a response to a centuries-long and continuing situation of oppression which until the past decade has been largely ignored by the world. Asia. for example. as well as the role of globalization. 172–73. They are prevalent throughout the world—e. and spiritually to certain natural environments or bioregional locations crucial to their identity and survival as distinct peoples. 848– 50). and Globalization 43 in large part to globalization processes. constituting a new moment and challenge in the development of human rights in the contemporary world. or nations often referred to as tribal peoples or First peoples which inhabited lands later colonized by others. involving. the indigenous peoples of the world and their efforts to bring into force a declaration regarding their collective rights to self-determination and development: the Draft Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (1994. minorities. these peoples have been subjected to a similar history of oppression.g. the rights of peoples. groups.

education. cultural characteristics and legal . governance. International Monetary Fund. what has changed more recently? The answer I think is that the processes of globalization-from-above— involving the collaboration (whether intentional or not) of state actors and agents of capital formation (e. and their cultures that they have been brought to the brink of annihilation (e. Childs. and travel technologies. cultures. then. interference with their religious practices. is that within the UN context these peoples articulated in one voice the claim that they have collective human interests and rights in preserving their ethnic and cultural identities. Analogous to the UDHR. for example: collective right to self-determination. e. including language.44 Journal of Religious Ethics traditional means of subsistence and livelihood. e. and NGOs assisted by these technologies—have made it possible for these peoples to come together to share and diagnose their common plight and to develop strategies of resistance (see. Center for Economic and Social Rights 1999). see. Third World states in particular have been lured by the prospect of trickle-down effects of capital investment and production by transnational corporations in their societies into closing their eyes to (or even collaborating in) the oppression. however.g. “Peoples of the Forest” in Central Africa. there is an important disanalogy with the UDHR precisely in the fact that many of the rights claimed are collective rather than individual. their economies. This history. At the same time.. removal of their children and denial of traditional cultural education. tribal peoples in Amazonia. the case studies in Brecher. and cultural and religious expression. Niger Delta peoples. among others. Ewen 1994). World Bank. and near-total marginalization of these peoples from the sources of their existence (see..g. e. economy. the case studies reprinted in Gearon 2002). At the same time. their ancestral territories. and very identities as tightly bonded communities with long-standing and deep ties to ancestral lands and customs. They have voiced this claim in the aforementioned draft declaration that identifies conditions crucial to their continued survival as distinct peoples. social.g. information. discrimination in the dominant surrounding society. and Cutler 1993. processes of globalization-frombelow—including communications. collective right to maintain their own distinct political. the articles of this declaration address almost point by point the oppressive techniques and conditions imposed on them by others.. their environments. and their continuation as distinctive communities with their own unique social institutions and practices. is a history of the systematic destruction and oppression of these peoples—their traditions.. environmental destruction. Given this history of oppression. and marginalization in political processes bearing on their well-being. transnational corporations)—have instituted policies and procedures which have so accelerated the destruction of these peoples. One such strategy..g. over a decade in the making.g.

including prohibitions of removal of their children. individual and collective right to not be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide). people of conscience are also rightly concerned about the very survival and existence of these peoples and groups. 72–81). 1994. the new worry is: would not the recognition of collective human rights eventually result in oppression by indigenous communities of their own members? For example. among others (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill 2002. collective right to participate in decision-making in matters affecting their lives and destinies. and Globalization 45 systems. and any form of population transfer.” often correlates this language with individual rights as in “individual and collective right” to x (e. The first thing to be said is that the language of the draft declaration. I want. while explicitly using the phrase “collective right. would not recognizing the collective rights to self-governance and social. because I think that the problem has been overdrawn both by states hostile to empowering their indigenous peoples and. dispossession of their lands. however briefly or inadequately. Human Rights. by human rights advocates sincerely concerned about protecting human well-being. collective right to restitution of their lands and resources where possible and to fair compensation where not. to address this issue of potential internal oppression. I am particularly interested in the reaction of the latter group because they are rearticulating a new worry about group rights in addition to the one that lay behind the UDHR’s strategic choice to protect the priority interests of individual persons rather than groups. full guarantee against genocide and ethnocide. e.History. collective right to establish and control their educational systems. and cultural development likely result in social and economic discrimination against women in the society (see Twiss et al. individual and collective right to maintain and develop their distinct identity. the . These collective rights claims have caused some consternation in the international community both among those (many) states having indigenous populations within their borders and among human rights advocates themselves (see.g. more importantly. economic. in the case of patriarchally organized indigenous communities. however.. Barsh 1996). and collective right to self-governance in their internal affairs. 54–59)? By the same token. Thus.. because it seems that collectivities of this sort have a legitimate interest shared by their members in maintaining their cultural and social identities as the loci for their sense of meaning and self-worth in the world. Put bluntly. This sort of formulation strongly suggests the declaration is construing collective rights of the group as the intersections of shared individual interests which are being asserted against those outside the group who would deny or otherwise interfere with those shared interests. collective right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and to practice their spiritual traditions and have access in privacy to their religious sites.g.

the indigenous peoples themselves have decided to modify their traditional practices and cultures in a way that conforms with standard human rights protections.46 Journal of Religious Ethics declaration is not claiming that the group itself has some sort of ultimate ` moral standing vis-a-vis its members. Rather. Put another way. it is the one being advanced by the indigenous peoples themselves. as would. that individual members cannot disagree about the nature of their shared interests. employment. are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous members”). 134. . elders. and in their declaration they address the issue quite pointedly by explicitly guaranteeing all individual human rights in international law and then periodically in the declaration introducing special systematic guarantees for gender equality (“all rights . 58–59). the declaration does not appear to be invoking some sort of super corporate conception of the group as a rights-holder having a moral standing independent of its individual members in such a manner that it could assert its right against the shared interests of individual members. many of the women members arguably do not share interests in maintaining patriarchy resulting in social and economic discrimination. as will be seen shortly.. the disabled) (see Twiss et al.g. by contrast.2 This is not to say. although contrary to his dismissal of it). but rather that its members have shared individual interests that they are collectively asserting against those who would seek to harm. or salary”). 1994. a collective right might be better construed as a long-term class-action claim by its members against the world (I adapt this conceptualization from McDonald 1992. 82–95). 2 Here it seems appropriate to note that this collective or class-action conception does not make as strong a claim as some advocates of group rights might want to make—namely. The indigenous peoples themselves are aware of such possible internal problems. women. The possibility of internal dissension brings me to make a second observation about the declaration. . it appears that the declaration is ascribing priority to individual human rights and equal treatment in order to mitigate and settle internal tensions and claims. or otherwise undermine them (I owe this clarifying distinction to Jones 1999. however. a more corporate conception on behalf of the group itself—but I have to say that the weaker conception is more consistent within the international human rights framework and. control. That is to say. That is to say. . economic non-discrimination (“individuals have the right not to be subjected to any discriminatory conditions of labor. but note also that such patriarchy and discrimination would not be seen as being in the shared interests of all members. and so internal dissension is still possible. while at the same time asserting that it is their collective right to do so. To return to our patriarchal example. be the shared interests of all in the avoidance of genocide and ethnocide. children. and the protection of certain vulnerable sub-populations within their societies (e.

117–129. As we have seen. rape during peacetime and war. and this is no less true for other vulnerable classes of people.g. Although the framers of the declaration certainly acknowledged these issues—under special pressure from the Danish and Soviet delegations—they decided to rest content with folding in the prohibition on gender discrimination with the general principle of Article 2 and also avoiding as much as possible sexist language in the UDHR’s other articles (with mixed success in the latter regard) (see. they are denied opportunities to work outside the home and. suffer from unequal pay and other discriminatory treatment. sex. empirical studies have definitively shown that there is considerable justification for more focused concern about the human rights of women (see. and lack of access to health care. In this manner. they declined to specifically identify and combat the particular vulnerabilities of women in traditional and modern societies. This approach was entirely consistent with their general strategy to emphasize individual human rights. however. Thus. and that such address represents the empowerment made possible by processes of globalization-from-below. Since the period of the UDHR. let me return to where I started.History. It is clear.. I believe that this draft declaration addresses problems made exigent by processes of globalization-from-above. while avoiding the singling out of particular groups or classes of people for special protection and treatment. the UN Charter (1946) laid special emphasis on the importance of the principle of nondiscrimination. Morsink 1999. malnutrition. they are subjected to domestic violence. in many cases . for example. this strategy left various groups vulnerable to systematic abuse by others. Bell 1992. 19). As Mary Ann Glendon’s recent book on Eleanor Roosevelt and the UDHR shows. when not. however. political opinion. e. a number of delegates did in fact argue for giving more explicit attention to issues of gender discrimination beyond simply the statement of Article 2 (Glendon 2001). and Globalization 47 Lest I lose my point in initiating this excursus..g. mandating that all persons are entitled to all human rights “without distinction of any kind. that especially in the underdeveloped and developing countries of the world. which was subsequently built into the UDHR’s Article 2. Sen 1999). national and social origin. especially women in the context of thoroughgoing patriarchy. globalization has lifted up a new historical moment in the conceptual development of human rights: the opportunity to acknowledge needed collective human rights in addition to individual ones. and sexual abuse and harassment. e. 346–347).” including race. religion.2 Women’s human rights At the outset of the modern human rights movement. women suffer disproportionately from hunger. Human Rights. 2. among others (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill 2002.

212–23). 64–66).48 Journal of Religious Ethics there are substantial barriers to political participation in their societies. and legal and social reform. and continuing to the present day. Korey 1999. through the 1970s. in 1995 the power of the coordinated women’s human rights movements—both local and otherwise—was dramatically and symbolically demonstrated by the Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights (see. including inequality in power to make contracts. financial support and lending for community projects. 102–19). led to women’s liberation movements across the world. the women’s convention is designed to capacitate the agency of the oppressed so that they themselves can address their problems in a manner best suited to their social and cultural locations. employment. which in turn focused their attention on the need to empower women’s agency in all areas of social. and the family (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill 2002. education. 1981). assisted by global information. the international women’s human rights movement has been spawning local mutual assistance women’s NGOs in the areas of education. communication. these movements have coordinated their efforts. Three developments in particular are worthy of note. Third. Here these movements came of age. First. In the late 1960s. and other spheres of economic. curtailed educational opportunities. health care. political. the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. Analogous to the Draft Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. Increasing awareness of these problems. unequal power to hold and administer property.. this convention advances a set of women-specific rights and protections explicitly redressing problems of discrimination in the areas of law. Examples of these NGOs in South Asian sub-continent include the Annapurna Mahila Mandel Project. political participation. including home confinement. and cultural life. economic. bans on public protest.g. vocational training. Like the indigenous peoples declaration. and they often suffer from unequal treatment before the law. and transport technologies—globalization-from-below—to liberate women from practices and conditions of oppression resulting in the aforementioned problems. ably described by Martha . during the past decade. and cultural life. in initiating cross-cultural dialogue about local interpretations of women’s rights and about the development and implementation of practical strategies for their instantiation and enhancement throughout the world (Bazilli 2000). in 1979 these movements through political pressure virtually compelled the UN to adopt a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (in force. Second. not to mention the enhancement of women’s legal capacities in civil matters and matters regarding marriage. unequal treatment in courts. and unequal treatment in matters of divorce and inheritance (drawn from Nussbaum 1997b. social. e. so to speak. as well as the fact of their ineffectual redress. reproduction. and the Self-Employed Women’s Organization. illiteracy.

Human Rights. it should be observed that the international public health community has always defined human health much more broadly than the standard biomedical model of the absence of physiological disease. especially those which had benefited from their prior exploitation. the UN (and its organs) and the environmental movement. 1999. brings to the surface a human rights concern with the quality of the environment. The point is that through such projects we can see practical strategies and effects of globalization-from-below in the area of women’s human rights. endemic.History. 8). and disability (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill 2002. for example. and occupational and other diseases” (Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill. the World Health Organization [WHO] defined health as “a state of complete physical. 22). In 1947. which has simultaneously opened human rights to include environmental protection and opened the environmental movement to greater appreciation for human rights. including medical care. sickness.3 Right to health and environmental protection With respect to refinement of the right to health. There appears to be a dialectical interplay between these two agents. for which Third World countries expected assistance from wealthy and more developed countries. which under the influence of the growing environment movement defined health as “the extent to which an . we encounter a development made possible by a different set of agents in the globalizationfrom-below perspective: namely. and a social security net in the event of unemployment. to improve “all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene. treat. and control “epidemic. This environmental concern was ramified considerably by a revised 1984 WHO definition of health. of course. The International Covenant on Economic. While this might seem to be an inauspicious beginning for linking the right to health to environmental protection.” imposing specific obligations on all states (singly and in concert) to help reduce stillborn rates and infant morality. Social. 176). mental. The right to health as initially framed in the UDHR’s Article 25 mandates a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of self and family. necessary social services. and Globalization 49 Nussbaum in her recent book on women and development (Nussbaum 2000). This refinement.” and to prevent. and social well-being and not merely the absence of infirmity” (cited in Mann et al. 2. and Cultural Rights [ICESCR]—reflecting the influence of Third World developing countries concerned in part with workers’ well-being and environmental pollution stemming from previous colonial exploitation of their populations and natural resources—in 1966 refined the UDHR’s Article 25 and mandated the right of everyone to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

and acid rain—all of which have negative effects on human health.” mandating.” including the ability “to change or cope with” their natural and social environments (cited in Mann et al. as well as other steps to prevent industrial accidents and to protect the environment (Trinidade 1993. 2. and guarantors of human rights. the greenhouse effect. 579–582). sustainable [natural] resources. the world was obviously . Building on the ICESCR Article 12’s identification of states’ obligations to improve all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene. This convergent development in the refinement of the right to health to include the right to a healthy environment was something not envisaged in the mid-twentieth century. in addition to encouraging a more global approach to the environment requiring action at all levels and by all countries to mitigate problems of “common concern” to all humankind (Trinidade 1993.50 Journal of Religious Ethics individual or group is able to develop aspirations and satisfy [basic] needs. marine pollution. and it was made possible by agencies of globalization-from-below in the manner indicated. and have there been any changes in the past fifty years? Clearly. whether actual or potential. 563–569).4 Changes in major players regarding human rights Let us now turn to our second broad issue regarding human rights and globalization. 8). food. In that period. including “peace. education. Not insignificantly. from what has been said already about the adoption of the UDHR in the 1940s. social justice and equity. income. Such problems as depletion of the ozone layer. removing causes of ill health such as pollution and exposure to radioactive substances. a stable eco-system. the principal players were then perceived to be state actors in the role of both abusers. namely: who are the main players—abusers and guarantors—in human rights. scope. 17). whether directly or indirectly—are transboundary phenomena calling for concerted and coordinated action by all who are affected. for example. 1999. mental. international environmental law—a separate regime that emerged under political pressures of the environmental movement as well as from the developing concern by states that environmental problems are transnational in cause. shelter. various human rights commissions and even the case law of the European Court of Human Rights have interpreted these obligations as recognizing “the right to a healthy environment. and social well-being. The international public health community has since come to emphasize the underlying conditions that establish the basis for realizing physical. and effect—has recently converged with human rights law to advance explicitly the human right to a healthy environment. 1999.” the lack of which heightens the vulnerability of individuals and groups to a wide range of impairments (Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion [1986] cited in Mann et al.

which in turn presented the problem of how to control the exercise of that sovereignty without radically changing this presumption. This emergent role of collective state intervention is partly due to increased global communication. The whole point of the UDHR was to rein in abuses of state power by granting protections to individual persons. but it must be said that anything more than this strategy—particularly with the then emerging Cold War—was simply not politically feasible.History. even with the presumption of state sovereignty. as indicated above. states agreed to be the guarantors of their citizens’ human rights. and the emergence of new social movements. in principle) to possible international intervention and accountability in situations of massive non-compliance with the compact. then. then. Moreover. the reality of world politics was premised on the strong presumption of state sovereignty over internal domestic policies and practices. the possibility in principle of collective state international intervention on behalf of protecting the human rights of citizens in violator states was laid at the very beginning of the modern human movement. 2. wherever they might be located. and Globalization 51 alert to the fact that states could and did perpetrate heinous violations of human rights on their citizens as well as others. intercultural contact. It must also be said that the UDHR framers were not unaware of this problem and were able to agree on a concept of accountability that laid a basis for subsequent development of interventionist strategies in later years. The answer to this problem was a compact among states to agree to hold themselves accountable for the provision and protection of the human rights of their respective citizens. if at all. states were envisioned as being able to bring other compacting states to the bar of justice when it became apparent that they were violating the human rights of their citizens in an egregious manner. and how do these changes relate to the theme of globalization? In answering this question. and economic and political interdependence that make ever more apparent massive human rights violations in domestic contexts and their negative effects on international peace and . How. Human Rights. I will focus on three illustrative topics: revisionment of the role of state actors in the international arena. And within the terms of this compact. in more recent years. at this time. the rise of transnational corporate actors. and agreed also (at least in principle) to the legitimacy of being held accountable to other compacting states for any serious breaches. This had the result of making the presumption of state sovereignty porous to external critique and (again. Some might say that it was unwise to put the foxes in charge of the chicken coops.5 State actors Although. As a consequence of this compact. has this situation changed. there is no gainsaying the fact that humanitarian intervention has come of age in more recent years.

. the second more extreme form is compelling attention to a set of issues not envisaged and little discussed at mid-century. e. through the bipolar balance of the superpowers (US and USSR).g.52 Journal of Religious Ethics security. but I do believe it is fair to say that a consensus is emerging on various criteria and rules for legitimate humanitarian military intervention. or a more liberal construction of that Charter permitting other agencies to take action in a broader set of cases (see. regional collations also? What is the legal basis for intervention—for example. While the first type has a somewhat longer history of use and is regarded as relatively unproblematic (consider. a strict construction of the UN Charter limiting action to the Security Council in cases of aggression. the Security Council or UN General Assembly). Falk 1992. Krasner 2001). the use of force is likely to succeed and have a net benefit for the victims.g. 51–64. economic sanctions) and military (i. Jackson 1990.e. This revisioned role has also been enhanced most recently by the end of the Cold War which. takes due care to protect them). Continued massive human rights violations have driven home to the world that internal state human rights abuses are of international concern and that domestic jurisdictions are limited by human rights.. to use the terms of the just war tradition (which underlies the law of humanitarian intervention): What are the grounds and limits for a just cause to undertake military humanitarian intervention? Who is the competent authority for undertaking such intervention—for example.g.. Coercive humanitarian intervention divides into two types: nonmilitary (e. clear and reasonable planning and support for the post-intervention period. for example: diplomatic and other non-force methods have proved (or are likely to be) ineffective. and normalize . humanitarian abuses on a large scale are by definition no longer regarded by the international community as purely domestic affairs. the UN only. including steps to institute the rule of law. a “liberal” conception of state sovereignty—where states are explicitly constrained by international human rights conventions and customary international law—has supplanted the “classical” (or Westphalian) conception—which had insisted on non-intervention except in cases of aggression across borders threatening international peace and security (see. Jackson 1999. Under this revised conception of sovereignty. the use of force to protect and rescue the innocent). Henkin 1990. especially involving military action. had a restraining effect on the political feasibility of much humanitarian intervention. Kelsay 2003)? This is not the place to settle such converted matters.. the pressures placed on South Africa to end its apartheid). In effect.g. withdrawal of aid. e. Biggar 2000. leaving it open whether other agencies might have to take action in egregious cases when the UN is unwilling or unable to act. Examples of these issues include.. compliance with the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. e. 31–41. assist transition to democracy. preferable authorization by the international community (e.g. the use of force is proportionate and does not intentionally target civilians (indeed..

Human Rights. The policies of the World Bank and the IMF—at least until very recently—stipulated changes in the economic and political structure of beneficiary underdeveloped states that led to internal problems of. With the end of that war the pressure for legal accountability has now become more politically feasible.3 Further. an experiment in international criminal justice whose expansion was largely derailed by political factors relating to the Cold War (see Hagen and Greer 2002). This was. and the recent establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court.g. e. e.g. A correlated development—which is also partly due to the same changes in superpower balance and globalization—is the emergence of practical legal accountability for the perpetrators of human rights atrocities. first done in the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.g. and Globalization 53 social and economic relations (see. the manifest fact is that many of their policies have resulted in rather massive violations of human rights. adverse effects of industrial pollution on health. Johnson 1999.g. Here I am referring to how the processes of economic globalization in particular have brought into being transnational financial institutions and corporations whose economic power exceeds that of many states. The changes here involve the establishment of ad hoc international criminal tribunals.. Lepard 2002. e. but not limited to heads of state and military and police officials. 2000).History... since the former have more power and operate under even fewer constraints than the latter (see. however. the development of universal jurisdiction of states in prosecuting crimes against humanity. e. Albert et al.. Miller 2000). the cost-minimization policies of transnational corporations—with their 3 Some might argue that investment and financial advisors and institutions do even more damage than transnational corporations per se. that these agents often operate together in many cases. an emerging conception and hope for a global civil society has also contributed to the international community’s desire for legal accountability for massive human rights violations. however.6 Transnational corporations One novelty spawned by globalization comes in the form of new actors on the international human rights scene which were likely not envisaged in the 1940s. for example. Robertson 2000). There is no gainsaying. worker abuse. including. of course. developments which indicate the emergence and strengthening of a global conscience of sorts for bringing violators to the bar of justice (see. particularly socio-economic rights. 2. unemployment. while fattening the purses of political and corporate leaders (see. Nardin 2002. Setting aside the question of the intentions of these institutions and corporations. Feldmann and Kelsay 1996 and 1997). and redeployment of resources away from social programs that clearly work to the detriment of the socio-economic rights of many. . By the same token. Teson 1997.

. Recent developments in the management of transnational corporation range across. these policies are also being modified in such a way as to encourage more democratic and political involvement of affected citizens in developing countries. Third. legal rulings about the liability of corporate directors for the malfeasance of subordinates. The fact is that economic globalization processes have encouraged the emergence of a new kind of human rights abuser which is largely beyond the control of international human rights conventions and mechanisms directed solely to state actors. again clearly disadvantaging the socio-economic welfare of many in underdeveloped countries (see. provision of high-quality working environments. low wages. for example. and East Asia..54 Journal of Religious Ethics underlying threat of withdrawal of capital and production facilities from non-compliant states—have tended to result in. Such strategies incorporate. Secondly. modifying their structural adjustment policies to take into account their socio-economic impact on vulnerable populations. and the encouragement of lax regulation of healththreatening industrial and environmental pollution. Santoro 2000. advocacy pressures on 4 Many of these observations are informed by my reading of pertinent reports in The New York Times over the past few years. although these are still largely restricted to the developed “core” states of the Americas. 13–32). the skirting of worker safety regulations. e. Europe. worker safety.g. at least in the long run. Staying within this perspective of globalization-from-above. one might also cite an emerging global business ethic which attempts to address not only issues of corporate corruption and bribery in transnational business but also issues of discrimination. and progressive worker training. all of which arguably enhance the human rights of workers directly and may also result indirectly in a more hospitable human rights ethos in the host country. Green 2000). for example.. I think it would be fair to say that there are such analogues. worker abuse in the form of child labor.g.4 One can begin by considering the fact that recently transnational financial institutions of the sort mentioned above are making their decisionmaking processes more transparent and responsive to the genuine and complex needs of underdeveloped nations. and perhaps more important. are the market-building strategies of some transnational corporations involving long-term capital and human investment in Third World countries (see Santoro 2000. In addition. and human health (see. increasingly higher wages for workers. one can cite certain treaties among states regarding the regulation of transnational corporate activity. Fourth. infra). for example. we might ask whether there are any new human rights guarantors in this perspective analogous to the compacting states of human rights treaties and conventions. e.

g.g. environmental protection. see also Donaldson 2000). policies and practices protective of human rights (see. These movements appear to be gaining increased power—social. Zipkin 2000). the adoption by corporations of internal codes of conduct and values/mission codes. 2. 143–58). to avoid worker abuse.. In 1987 Richard Falk identified and typologized at least five types of social movements that are by all accounts becoming ever more evident: (1) resistance movements for the causes of ecology. All of these developments pointedly raise the issue of corporate responsibility for protecting human rights. to monitor the practices of their business partners and sub-contractors (and to intervene when necessary). in the form of a guarantor (or potential guarantor) not envisaged at mid-century. e. 114–58. for example. to educate their employees and partners about applicable human rights norms. peace. While certainly prompted in part by outside advocacy groups. are birthing the collaboration of large grass-roots social movements—some of which we have already encountered—such as environmentalists. although unofficial. especially when that power is a result of an implicit contract between states and corporations that in return for economic benefits corporations have the duty to operate in a socially responsible manner (Santoro 2000.History. and the rise of corporate social audits of their policies and practices (see. and disarmament. and to cooperate with other corporations and agencies in setting higher labor standards and supporting their enforcement (Santoro 2000. At the same time that globalization-from-above brings into being new human rights actors. e. Brecher. Motorola and Levi-Strauss—now explicitly recognize that they have responsibilities. states and transnational corporations. consumer movements. China’s oppression of . the same processes.7 Social movements Turning to our other globalization perspective—globalization-frombelow—we can discern the emergence of another type of human rights actor on the international scene.. and Third World debt-relief campaigns (see. particularly assisted by communication and information technologies. and Smith 2000).g. for example. that is to say. anti-sweatshop campaigns. political. (2) permanent. international tribunals conducting inquiries and issuing decisions about cases of state oppression (e. economic—to demand more humane policies and practices from. labor movements.. such developments also represent acknowledgement by the agents of globalization-from-above that with power comes responsibility. In short. e.g. Costello. it would be myopic to overlook the positive role that can be played by transnational corporations in protecting and promoting human rights. and Globalization 55 corporations to make ethics a higher priority. Human Rights. A few transnational corporations—for example.. Korey 1999).

environmental protection now has an international legal regime and has been incorporated into human rights law. in short. for example. delegitimating the latter and evoking more relevant grass-roots agendas (Falk 1987. at least as measured by their concerns becoming more mainstream and instantiated in the international community. Permanent Tribunal of Peoples 1992).56 Journal of Religious Ethics Tibet). many of these movements share a common commitment to basic human rights. Costello. What is interesting and significant about these movements is the apparent fact that they have had some degree of success. . the adoption of minimum human rights “floors” in international trade agreements and lending policies. for example. (4) consumer-based movements to hold governments and corporations accountable for technological disasters and policies adversely affecting human welfare. 190–94. 1004–1007. My own wager is that such movements will help to bring into being new global institutional mechanisms for the protection of human rights parallel to those currently in place for state actors. and sustainable development which makes reasonable their greater coordination and potential significant social reform in the advancement of human rights. Capitalizing on this apparent success. My point here is to suggest. the issue of their justification. For example. at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights. if only to avoid consumer boycotts (see Rodman 1998). And counter-conferences. some activists have suggested in print that the clear potential exists to coordinate all of these movements more systematically in advancing strategies to compel. and state regulatory policies (Brecher. enhanced citizen political participation. that globalization processes have brought into being not only new human abusers but also new human rights guarantors in the form of increasingly powerful social movements that have the potential to check those abusers by using techniques ranging from public dissension and shaming to economic boycott (see Stammers 1999. environmental protection. Despite their diverse foci. and (5) counter-conferences held in tandem with official state and international conferences and consultations. Korey 1999). Changes in Human Rights Justification I turn now to the third and final venue for measuring the effects of globalization on human rights—namely. (3) movements by NGOs to pressure states to punish perpetrators of egregious human rights violations and to recover victims’ property wrongfully appropriated. transnational corporate policies and practices. have resulted in internationally coordinated human rights movements increasingly sensitive to local grass-roots issues. Transnational corporations are now attending to human rights issues. We now have officially recognized international criminal tribunals. and Smith 2000). 3.

as they often are not when put forward by state actors only interested in throwing up a smoke screen to hide their human rights violations of their citizenries. In the actual debates of the Third Committee. The reasoning behind the pragmatic agreement as sufficient in itself was captured quite well by Jacques Maritain’s introduction to the concurrent UNESCO symposium on the theoretical bases of human rights. I believe that such charges are simply wrong-headed even when they are sincerely made. This practical orientation can be readily seen from those cultural critics of human rights in various regions of the world—for example. and Confucianism. and traditions which see the moral world quite differently as informed by their own unique philosophies and religions. There were in fact some delegations (principally from South America) which wanted to build into the UDHR explicitly justificatory appeals to some of these systems. among others. it is nonetheless on the practical agendas of human rights advocates and critics alike. Human Rights. spearheaded by the Chinese. The development of the UDHR was a year and a half long process involving delegates from no fewer than fifty-six countries representing quite diverse cultural. East Asia. moral. Protestant. ranging across such systems and traditions as. Islam (conservative and progressive forms). Africa. Prominent here were attempts to invoke theistic concepts and even Thomistic versions of natural law. no deeper theoretical agreement would be possible. Pragmatic agreement on practical norms protective of human dignity and welfare was deemed sufficient. even the Americas—who charge that international human rights represent nothing more than an attempt by the West to impose its version of moral and political liberalism upon societies. I . and Globalization 57 Although this is seemingly only a theoretical topic. Indian. cultures. and so the delegates self-consciously chose to eschew the use of contestable metaphysical language and appeals (Third Committee 1948. Christianity (Catholic. 96–122). So it is extremely important to set the record straight. the Middle East. and religious traditions. as I say. for example. Hinduism. But. it was also recognized that. given the diversity of the world’s cultural and philosophical systems and traditions. Buddhism. socialism (from Soviet Russia and the Eastern bloc). and religious traditions concerned about the possibly deleterious effects of liberalism and capitalism—perceived aspects of globalization-from-above—on their socio-moral visions and behavioral codes. sometimes these charges are made also by well-intentioned representatives of cultural. moral. political. these efforts were vigorously discussed and thoroughly aired with the final outcome. and French delegates. being this: while the delegations could and did reach pragmatic agreement on a set of essential human rights norms. philosophical. forms of Western liberalism (from Europe and America). and I will do so by first discussing the state of the question when the UDHR was debated and adopted in the 1940s. Orthodox).History.

not on the basic of common speculative ideas. (Maritain 1948. is at every stage conditioned by the acquisitions. only the practical normative consensus and compact count. . . . Maritain had this to say: Because . then not only is agreement possible between the members of opposing philosophic schools. . the structure and the evolution of the social group. Thus. pre-scientific and pre-philosophic. If thereafter we adopt a practical viewpoint and concern ourselves no longer with seeking the basis and philosophic significance of human rights but only their statement and enumeration. and which of themselves display. . The norms agreed upon were (and are) not simply Western moral and political values imposed on the rest . [a] body of common practical convictions . . . . . it is important to observe that the pragmatic consensus reached in 1948 was international. . What is chiefly important for the moral progress of humanity is the apprehension by experience which occurs apart from systems and on a different logical basis .58 Journal of Religious Ethics might mention here that Maritain’s views were explicitly invoked by the French delegate in the Third Committee debate to support the Chinese delegate’s position on maintaining metaphysical and justificatory neutrality in the UDHR. . a highly complex geology of the mind where the natural operation of spontaneous reason. where the principal part has been played by the lessons of experience and history and by a kind of practical apprehension . . anything more is deemed superfluous and impractical. . Before moving on to consider the state of the question in more recent years. as it were. The phenomenon proves simply that systems of moral philosophy are the products of reflection by the intellect on ethical concepts which precede and govern them. On this view. in itself independent of philosophic systems and the rational justifications they propound . then. . ii–v). . In his introduction to the symposium’s published papers. philosophical or otherwise. the goal of UNESCO is a practical goal. The position taken by the Third Committee. we have before us an entirely different picture . laid the groundwork for the common understanding in the international community that the pragmatic international consensus on human rights is a largely self-sufficient (and legally binding) compact among nations that needs no further justification. of [humanity] and knowledge. not on the affirmation of one and same conception of the world. there is a kind of plant-like formation and growth of moral knowledge and feeling. . but on common practical ideas. . cross-cultural. Is there anything surprising in systems antagonistic in theory converging in their practical conclusions? It is the usual picture which the history of moral philosophy presents us. but upon the affirmation of a single body of beliefs for guidance in action . the constraints. . . agreement between minds can be reached spontaneously. if I may be allowed the metaphor. but it must be said that the operative factors are less the schools of philosophy themselves than currents of thought . and cross-traditional.

and the emergence of non-governmental cross-cultural and cross-traditional dialogues about the interpretation and justification of human rights norms. Kelsay and Twiss 1994. Rather. it should be noted that because it is no more than a pragmatic consensus on these conditions. In all of these settings. It is a fact that globalization has enhanced cross-cultural contact. there have been efforts to identify possible shared reasons for the normative agreement on human rights. and even to articulate new social visions combining aspects of different traditions in a manner supportive of the priority interests represented by human rights (see. for example.g. to identify and negotiate interpretations of these norms. goods. political. moral. Twiss 1996). social. and justified in culturally diverse ways. Most recently. Has the state of this question of human rights justification changed since the 1940s? I believe that it has. they are values recognized by diverse traditions at the point of intersection where they can agree on those conditions crucially necessary to thwart brutality and oppression by state actors. awareness. A pragmatic agreement that persons need certain protections. Such acknowledgement can be seen in both official UN conferences about human rights. and religious systems and about diverse patterns of reasoning and justification throughout the world. but it is to say that this content is not justified by any one moral or political theory. Human Rights. to relate cultural moral categories to human rights norms. the UDHR does not forward philosophical theories about the nature of persons or political theories about the best form of governance. both in these settings and in human rights scholarship. This is not to say that the UDHR lacks moral and political normative content on conditions perceived to be necessary for personal and communal flourishing. These processes have affected the international human rights community’s awareness and explicit acknowledgement—emergent in early 1980s and continuing to the present—that human rights norms and their recognition are contextually imbedded. and I believe that the processes of globalization are largely responsible for this change. to scrutinize cultural. the rise of governmentally sponsored human rights dialogues.History. and political traditions for their human rights implications. e.1 Pragmatic agreement To begin with. All of this activity has led to the emergence of alternatives for justifying human rights in the international arena. Moreover. and Globalization 59 of the world. and liberties to survive and flourish is not in itself a theory. 3. and exchanges about worldviews.. it must be said that there are still many human rights scholars and advocates who regard the pragmatic international consensus on human rights as a largely self-sufficient and legally binding . interpreted. one encounters explicit attempts.

since the latter is not likely to get us anywhere. Unlike the Third Committee’s practical eschewal of metaphysical debate because it is likely to prove indeterminable.. 3. All that we have to go on. to which we respond by prudentially creating a pragmatic consensus that is unfortunately but unavoidably ultimately fragile. Rorty 1993a and 1993b). This position is very suspicious of comprehensive schemes. By the same.60 Journal of Religious Ethics compact among states needing no further justification. since that atrocity explodes the myth of natural human pity or solidarity as being either innate or universally distributed (Ignatieff 2001. however. are the negative lessons of history and our desire not to be likewise abused in the future. that history shows the futility and fragility of all such appeals. 80–81). or doctrines of any sort that claim to provide grounds for human rights norms on the basis of essentialist understandings of human nature or human moral capacity. One type of position. frameworks. but who have expanded it by giving meta-reasons (for want of a better term) for accepting its self-sufficiency. therefore.g. This position is in line with the Third Committee’s practical view of: let us agree to agree on the practical norms and not discuss the issue of justification. e. According to Michael Ignatieff. the Holocaust demonstrates that human rights can have no foundation whatever in natural human moral attributes. another type of view has recently emerged which appeals to moral intuition. Another type of related position. is informed by a pragmatist critique of metaphysics associated with the views of John Dewey (see. while agreeing with this critique of foundationalist thinking. token.2 Moral intuitionism Although seemingly similar to the aforementioned pragmatic positions. Even though this consensus may be progressively developing in terms of refining previously identified norms and identifying new ones (as illustrated earlier). represented by the work of Richard Rorty. there are also some scholars and advocates of human rights who appear to share this view of a selfsufficient consensus. this view regards all such appeals as philosophically troublesome because they are no more than quasi-mythical creations of outmoded currents of thought driven by anxieties over possible nihilistic and/or relativistic implications of lacking absolute foundations for moral claims. where these meta-reasons are themselves philosophical (or systematically antiphilosophical) rather than simply practical. for example. The apparent similarity to the preceding position is this: . also gives another meta-reason for accepting the self-sufficient consensus: namely. these scholars and advocates regard this exclusively as a pragmatic process of negotiation and attainment of new practical agreements.

5 Despite the different starting intuitions. The logic behind this systematic development has been succinctly stated by Ignatieff in another portion of his work. moral. then. Ignatieff and Little are apparently united in seeing the pragmatic consensus as epistemically. I discern no attempt on his part to make these lines of argument self-consistent. since the latter are necessary to instantiate the former in a more complete protective system. for example. for example: appeals to moral intuition. precede theory. Human Rights..History. these norms are known to be true on an intuitive basis. and to use theory to justify these norms is question-begging if not downright absurd. 3. moral reciprocity. . As argued by David Little. Crucial norms of the human right variety. norms of physical and civil security). capacity to emphasize with the pain of others. or philosophical schemes. and conditions of human agency. and Globalization 61 human rights norms need no explicit justification. if any moral theory were to sanction the indiscriminate torture of innocent children. This position goes on to distinguish primary moral intuitions (such as non-torture) from other secondary human rights norms which are an outgrowth of them (e. rather than metaphysically. he goes on to argue that “human rights is the language that systematically embodies this intuition” (Ignatieff 2001. after introducing a moral intuition of his own (involving the evident wrongness of one person seeing another as belonging to a different species). of course. natural law. That is.3 Overlapping consensus Yet another set of human rights scholars and advocates tend to interpret the international consensus as a cross-cultural overlapping agreement on practical norms which is explicitly supported by diverse cultural. The epistemic grounding. then that very fact would demonstrate the bankruptcy of the theory itself (Little 1993).g. for this view goes on to argue these norms need no justification because they identify claims that are logically prior to any theoretical justification and can be used to critique the very appropriateness of trying to provide such justification. for this view. although possibly anticipated by it—is viewing these schemes as alternative and complementary ways of justifying 5 At this point it seems appropriate to mention that Ignatieff initiates a number of different arguments about the justification of human rights in addition to his rather spare pragmatic position. where. 3–4). grounded and then further developed on a rational basis to preserve and expand these intuitions—reason in the service of primary moral intuitions. But the similarity ends there. is what distinguishes this position from a purely pragmatic one that is ungrounded. and we use them to assess the very adequacy of moral theories and justifications. The development here—beyond that of the Third Committee.

Lindholm 1992).g. 3. so to speak. thus enabling further possible agreement all-the-way-down. for example. . particularly in the context of cross-cultural human rights dialogues. . . so to speak. This approach. . Although Rawls himself did not explicitly develop a position of this sort. since in our post-modern age we must recognize that no one cultural justification is likely to become dominant or succeed in convincing others outside a given culture that only it is reasonable and true. in which peoples and communities are encouraged to develop their own ways of justifying the norms in local cultural idioms (see. the evidence has only increased on the side of the idea that many cultures can converge in support of human rights” (Gutman 2001. in posing the question of what it would mean to have an international consensus on human rights. . should . compassion).. xix). and the line of argument has been adapted by many other scholars to justify human rights norms (Rawls 1999).g. in criticism of Ignatieff’s pragmatic position. by positively emphasizing and capitalizing on the fact that there are diverse cultural justifications all of which are on par. his The Law of Peoples was certainly headed in such a direction.4 Cross-cultural dialogue Yet another approach is currently emerging. so long as their most important legitimate constitutive values are not . and shared human vulnerabilities to suffering and oppression. rely on many foundational arguments. the operation of analogous moral principles or rules. And more recently. This approach moves beyond the Third Committee’s position. while accepting the previous view of an overlapping consensus supported by diverse cultural justifications. that the “regime of human rights . sympathy. .62 Journal of Religious Ethics human rights norms. Charles Taylor. . . this approach attempts to explore the deeper reasons that diverse cultures are able to reach a practical consensus—for example. shared understandings of key human moral capacities (e. supposes that “it would be something like what John Rawls describes . e.. as an ‘overlapping consensus’” (Taylor 1996. A human rights regime that welcomes an overlapping consensus is more compatible with moral pluralism . This sort of approach is often viewed as an extension of John Rawls’s understanding of Western liberal values in a constitutional democracy as an overlapping consensus supported by diverse comprehensive schemes held by its citizens and applied in an analogous manner to international human rights norms (see Rawls 1993). That is. then. This approach is also informed by the realistic view that all cultures are open to change and accommodation. 15). nonetheless moves beyond it by trying to identify not only shared human rights norms on differing grounds but also shared reasons for accepting the norms. Amy Gutman has argued.

in bringing together representatives of diverse cultures for grass-roots and intercultural human rights dialogues—making human rights local. quote from 74). thus moving beyond how the issue was viewed at the time of the adoption of the UDHR (Ignatieff 2001. Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. It is to suggest that. identify shared rationales for cross-cultural agreement on basic human rights norms (Nussbaum 1997a. 3. and Globalization 63 undermined. 292–97). In effect. 279–80).History. And she is hardly alone in thinking along these lines. her basic capabilities of life. 71–86. Further.5 Critical and concluding comments It seems appropriate at this point to underscore the main thrust of this discussion. developed in part with Amartya Sen. communities and traditions on issues dear to them—their deepest beliefs—which if engaged might result in greater social acceptance of human rights norms in the form of a cultural human rights ethos. Human Rights. imagination and thought. among others. and affiliation. even at the risk of repeating what I have written elsewhere (see Twiss 1998. the variations on this position which eschew . it is very clear from cross-cultural human rights dialogues that similar sorts of appeals are being identified and invoked as shared commonalities that warrant the acceptance of human rights. 7). In effect. this approach represents a creative search for shared reasons that justify the pragmatic consensus on human rights. explicitly attempts to identify a range of “central elements of truly human functioning that can command a broad cross-cultural consensus” which she argues permits us to understand why diverse cultures accept human rights (Nussbaum 2000. it also seems appropriate to say something by way of critical evaluation. emotional attachment. Since each of these positions has strengths and weaknesses. While I initially identified that approach with John Reeder’s neopragmatic proposal for a limited moral Esperanto that “appeals to general features of human nature [that] can perhaps furnish grounds for agreement” that he saw at work “in the growth of the human rights movement. bodily health and integrity.” there is no gainsaying the fact that others are following this trajectory as well (Reeder 1993. to use a phase from Ignatieff— globalization-from-below has made possible and encouraged the emergence of these alternative forms of justification. since I am aware of no human rights scholar or advocate who does not relate human rights in some significant manner (including all the abovementioned figures) to the recognition of the importance of human suffering and capacities necessary for human agency. Moreover. 205). The bare invocation of a pragmatic consensus has the strength of focusing exclusively on behavior and avoiding possibly indeterminate philosophical disagreement. Its weakness is its failure to engage peoples.

the constraints. The cross-cultural dialogical position attempts to address the latter problem by encouraging peoples and tradition to learn from each other and possibly converge on a shared justification or set of reasons. . and commitments forged over time. . is not a simple rational intuition (of the sort perhaps envisaged by Little or Ignatieff). .64 Journal of Religious Ethics metaphysical or foundational claims of any sort may be misguided. culminating in a practical moral wisdom recognizable across cultural differences—that is. Appeals to moral intuition to ground the consensus epistemically will doubtless be unconvincing to those who view such appeals as a desperate attempt to say something when reasons fail to persuade or are unavailable. Maritain’s formulation here—while not justificatory in any obvious sense—speaks of the growth of moral knowledge and feeling as informed by historical and social experience accumulating over time— indeed. The resulting practical apprehension. social experience. This sort of practical apprehension is in reflective equilibrium—to borrow a notion from Rawls—with other facts. . . where the principal part has been played by the lessons of history and by a kind of practical apprehension” (Maritain 1948. . In advancing his pragmatic position. This approach has the strength of being realistic about cultural permeability. for that helps to ensure social acceptance and compliance. a set of convictions which are . but that is a debate for another setting. Maritain wrote of the “natural operation of spontaneous reason. Its weakness comes in the form of not addressing the possibility that as cultural justifications are shared their adherents might discern some deep incompatibilities. iv). The overlapping consensus view which admits but does not decide between diverse cultural justifications addresses the weakness of the bald pragmatic consensus by encouraging peoples and communities to develop their own ways of justifying human rights. suggesting that they have yielded convergent practical convictions that have been tested. prescientific and pre-philosophic . Its weakness is that it involves a wager that might be undermined by political and economic pressures and possibly intractable cultural disagreement at the deepest level. . change. at every stage conditioned by the acquisitions. shaped. and reshaped. centuries—passed down to us in the way that we are conditioned and shaped by our social and cultural conditions. retested. but rather one that has been shaped and tutored by history. the structure and evolution of the social group . then. and openness to accommodation. My own view about the matter of human rights justification returns us to elements of Jacques Maritain’s view which I did not discuss earlier but now want to highlight. beliefs. a kind of plant-like formation and growth of moral knowledge and feeling . and tradition. . I believe that Maritain is ascribing this type of practical apprehension to cultures and traditions across the world. independent of philosophical systems and their rational justifications .

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