, Volume 4, Issue 1-2, pp 45-69

The International Significance of Human Rights

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Abstract

A comparative examination of four alternative ways of understandingwhat human rights are supports an institutional understanding assuggested by Article 28 of the Universal Declaration: Human rightsare weighty moral claims on any coercively imposed institutionalorder, national or international (as Article 28 confirms). Any suchorder must afford the persons on whom it is imposed secure accessto the objects of their human rights. This understanding of humanrights is broadly sharable across cultures and narrows the philosophical and practical differences between the friends ofcivil and political and the champions of social, economic, andcultural human rights. When applied to the global institutionalorder, it provides a new argument for conceiving human rights asuniversal – and a new basis for criticizing this order as tooencouraging of oppression, corruption, and poverty in the developing countries: We have a negative duty not to cooperatein the imposition of this global order if feasible reforms ofit would significantly improve the realization of human rights.