Human rights and the Asian riddle

Human rights and the Asian riddle

Vitit Muntarbhorn is a Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University. He is a former UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and member of  UN Commissions of  Inquiry on human rights. This article is an excerpt from his presentation given Sunday at the International Bar Association Conference in Rome. (File photo, UNODC)
Vitit Muntarbhorn is a Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University. He is a former UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on human rights. This article is an excerpt from his presentation given Sunday at the International Bar Association Conference in Rome. (File photo, UNODC)

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.

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Vitit Muntarbhorn

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.


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