Human Rights in Eastern Civilisations
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Human Rights in Eastern Civilisations

Some Reflections of a Former UN Special Rapporteur

Surya P. Subedi

Based on the author's first-hand experience as a UN Special Rapporteur, this thought-provoking and original book examines the values of Eastern civilisations and their contribution to the development of the UN Human Rights agenda. Rejecting the argument based on “Asian Values” that is often used to undermine the universality of human rights, the book argues that secularism, personal liberty and universalism are at the heart of both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
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Surya P. Subedi


Regardless of who the major authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were, this global human rights instrument represents the values deeply entrenched also in Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, the claim that human rights are the values of the West alone ignores the origins of human rights. Likewise, the relativism or the “Asian values” argument advanced by the autocratic or semi-autocratic leaders of Asia has no basis in the cultural, moral, and philosophical foundations of the Asian countries. The assertions that Asia is different, and that Asians put the rights of the state before their personal rights does not accord with Buddhism or Hinduism. The values inherent in both Hinduism and Buddhism have had a profound direct and indirect impact on the thought process of those thinkers and philosophers around the globe, who had a universal outlook to the world and were willing to learn and be inspired by the values prevailing in societies beyond their own. It is this process that contributed to the adoption of the modern agenda of human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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