The human rights movement: A truly universal system?
In conversation with Prof Makau Mutua
The fight for the protection of human rights is a global phenomenon, yet the claim to universality of the current human rights system is sometimes questioned.
Professor Makau Mutua (SUNY Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo, School of Law) is known for his critical analysis of the human rights movement. In this episode we explore, with him, his critique and whether the African human rights system can complement the global to ensure that human rights remain relevant across the continent.
The discussion covers to what extent he considers there is true universality of human rights and its corpus; how the origins and philosophical ideology of the human rights movement have shaped the prioritisation of political and civil rights over cultural, social and economic rights; and the underlying aim of human rights – to shape a particular type of society. Prof Mutua explains his scepticism over the ability of the current human rights ideology to incorporate culture – that being the articulation of a peoples’ wisdom – and address issues of powerlessness. Finally, the discussion focuses on the African human rights system, where the conversation turns to whether the regional system legitimises the UN human rights system or provides an opportunity for a more culturally relevant regional system, and why change from the ground up is key to the future of human rights within Africa.
By applying a critical analysis, Prof Mutua encourages listeners to consider the weaknesses in the current international and regional systems and to find ways to improve and retain the relevancy of human rights.
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