Human Rights and Traditional Values

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the following major human rights covenants have been recognized and signed by nearly all countries on earth. Yet, the claim to universal validity of human rights time and again is subject to sceptical and critical questioning. The question as to the relationship of the claim to universal validity and local or regional traditions and value systems still remains open. One of the key issues in this context refers to the possibility of defining human rights and traditional values.
On the one side, there are justified complaints about the lack of sensitivity in dealing with traditions and values as becomes apparent for example in human rights implementation strategies. On the other side, the foundation of human rights on the respect for human dignity risks being undermined if terms such as tradition and values are included in resolutions on the protection of human rights. Placing human rights under cultural reservations, as is quite often the case when reference is made to national or regional characteristics and historical or cultural backgrounds, must be rejected.
These questions have been the subject of discussions about a draft resolution entitled “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind: best practices“ which the Russian Federation has submitted to United Nation’s Human Rights Council every year since 2009, and most recently in 2012. In the Council, Russia as the initiator of the resolution, tries to place the protection of human rights under “cultural reservations“ and to bind the implementation of human rights to their compatibility with the respective dominating culture.

Theses of the working group “Human Rights and Human Dignity” on human rights and traditional values

Resolution 21/3

Study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Traditional Values