Human rights and the Asian riddle
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a seminal declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. This document has spawned several international treaties ("conventions") and it has inspired a vast range of actions worldwide to protect human rights on the basis of equality and non-discrimination.
Yet the situation in the Asian region is perplexing, if not distressing, on several fronts. Add to that the riddle: how, and how much, has the Asian region contributed to the formulation and implementation of the declaration?
The declaration helped give content to human rights by charting, in a concise document of 30 articles, those rights which are universal and inherent in all of humanity, ranging from civil and political rights, such as the right to life and right to freedom of expression, to economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living and right to education. Then and now, it acts as an all-embracing framework of basic minimum benchmarks for all countries.
Professor of law at Chulalongkorn University
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn teaches at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions and is currently a member of a UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry. This article is derived from his speech at the recent Conference on Asean Traversing 2015: Challenges of Development, Democratisation, Human Rights and Peace, organised by Mahidol University, Bangkok.