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IR Working Paper 1994/8
Michael Jacobsen, ‘Human Rights and Cultural Specificity: The Case of Papua New Guinea’, IR Working Paper 1994/8, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, December 1994.
The international show of familiarity and agreement behind the Vienna Declaration in June 1993 stands in marked contrast to the serious disagreements that exist between the different nations. Parts of the conglomeration of human rights declarations and statements, especially the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, are being taken hostage by nations in their respective strategies for promoting their particular interests. This paper tries to go beyond these international infights and focus on some of the core values concerning human rights that lie behind these disputes. Rather than single out specific core concepts and discuss them individually, the paper concentrates on the question of universality imputed to human rights, and how this particular quality influences the applicability of human rights in a culturally specific context. The paper closes with a discussion of how human rights may be based in a multicultural context, thereby avoiding, or at least pre-empting, a growing criticism that the ‘universality’ of human rights is but another manifestation of a Western dominated discourse.