Series 1, Number 5 (Summer 1996): Cultural Sources of Human Rights in East Asia

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From March 24-27, 1996, the Carnegie Council together with Chulalongkorn University sponsored a workshop in Bangkok to explore how societies in East Asia are dealing with human rights issues as they undergo rapid social and economic change. This volume, devoted to a report of that workshop, examines how cultural traditions vary in terms of moral values and political practices, and how this variation bears on the international discourse on human rights. The purpose of examining "cultural sources" was not about seeing whether Eastern cultural traditions fit with the concept of human rights as understood in the West. Rather, the image that shaped the workshop was that of an "unforced consensus," suggesting efforts to create and expand an area of consensus on norms while allowing room for disagreement.

The following report was prepared by Maria Serena Diokno, program convenor for Peace, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Center for Integrative and Development Studies of the University of the Phillipines and a core group member of the project.
Articles

Cultural Sources of Human Rights in East Asia: Consensus Building Toward a Rights Regime | 06/05/96
Examining "cultural sources" is not about seeing whether Eastern cultural traditions fit with the concept of human rights as understood in the West, but rather of an "unforced consensus," expanding an area of consensus on norms while allowing room for disagreement.
Author(s): Joanne Bauer

The Validity of a Cultural Approach to Human Rights | 06/05/96
Culture is an integral part of any human rights question. Workshop participants examined human rights practices in different East Asian contexts and their convergence and divergence from international standards.

A Proposal for an "Unforced Consensus" | 06/05/96
How do we go about identifying cultural norms from which we can begin to develop an "unforced consensus" on human rights that is sensitive to varying cultural norms?

Sources of Human Rights in Asian Cultures | 06/05/96
The Buddhist duty of avihimsa (nonviolence); the importance Islam places on umma (community) and equality before God; and Confucian ren (humanity) each lead to ethical norms that can form the basis of human rights.

Textual Interpretation | 06/05/96
Textual interpretation, when applied to cultural sources of human rights, becomes a question of power. Who interprets these texts? Who decides whether the interpretations are legitimate or deviant? The answer directly affects the lives of human beings.

Building on the Existing International Human Rights Regime | 06/05/96
Even as they seek to construct a framework that takes into account non-Western cultures, both Onuma's intercivilizational approach and An-Na im's "cultural mediation" of human rights build upon, rather than reject, existing international standards. Author(s): Onuma Yasuaki

Conclusion: Asian Contributions to Human Rights | 06/05/96
Proposals for widening consensus on norms will be of little value if mechanisms are not in place to enforce compliance. Time constraints at the workshop allowed only superficial treatment of this topic, addressed at the next workshop, in October 1996.

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