Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are International Human Rights Universal?

This is a burning ongoing debate whether international human rights are universal or not. International Human rights are the universal declaration of human right (UDHR) which has been adopted by UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. It includes 30 articles to protect primarily civil/political rights as well as socio-economic and cultural rights. However, the questions rises whether these 30 rights are really universal or not?

Some especially Asian and people from patriarchal societies argue that UDHR is just a way to impose western culture. In another word, UDHR is a Western concept of liberal individualism. For instance look at the cartoon below. It’s not just a cartoon but the real picture of patriarchal society. 

Image Credit: Cartoonist Group (UDHR Interpretation)
 In a male dominated society, women are expected to be “loyal”, “silent”, “caring” and “softand follow what their husband asked them, thus they hesitate to revealed their identity to the public when they are raped or sexually abused or became the victims of domestic violence. If you look at the left cartoon ( Cartoonist Group UDHR Interpretation)of traditional families, although the woman has gone through extremely awful experiences which also show the deprived from basic rights but when her husband says that ratifying international women’s rights treaty will undermine traditional families, she supports her husband and says I hope so. Therefore, UDHR standards ought to be interpreted differently in different cultural contexts. How can UDHR be universal if it not accepted by traditional family or patriarchal society or interpreted differently?
Image Credit: & landsker.blogspot

On the other hand, some argues that UDHR is a way to balance the power. But again the question that pop up in my mind is whether is really balancing the power or not? There are the huge differences between universalism versus realism.

If you compare these two(Anastasia and landsker) images, I have taken from internet. The left image shows that Human rights for all and we know that human rights are the rights we have simply because we are human. This is how institively human expect and deserve to be treated as a person but in reality see the right side image. Its just for certain powerful people and certain country. I don’t think that I need to explain more about this, we all are aware about it. When Nelson Mandela stood up for social justices in 1990, his country has already agreed to abolish such discrimination for almost 40 years but still he fought. Does Universalism means for some people?

If human rights are for all, then why 35,615 people die from starvation every day? Why more than 800 million people in the world aremalnourished? Why almost 400 million people worldwide have died from hunger and poor sanitation? Why 925 million people are still hungry? Why billions of adults are unable to read? Why are 27 million people still in slave today? 

Now lets see another image (The Lancet Student) which I have taken from Internet again. 
Photo Credit: The Lancet Student

 According to the UDHR, Article 1, All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…. If this is the case than why should North Korea refugees and activists have to request US president Barack Obama to help them. Article 3, Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of prson. How has North Korean people have life, liberty and security, given the facts that thousands of people in North Korean Jail are killed. The situation of North Korean whether in Jail or as an refugees also violate the UDHR article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Here North Korea is just an example of many countries who has violated the UDHR.  This is also example of how state power neglects human rights in the name of providing security or protecting citizens. How come it became universal? 

Human cruelty, the power of state, misunderstanding and frailty undermines human rights and make hopeless task of securing Human rights universally. If these are the case than can we really say that International Human Rights are universal?

"Dignity and Justices for all of us." United Nations Development Programme. UN, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <>.

"The Three Top Sin of the Universe." Starvation.Net. N.p., 11 Sept. 2001. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <>.

Cassidy, Daniel J. SUNLIT UPLANDS., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <>.
Freeman, Michael. Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary approach. 2ndnd ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011. 1-235. Print.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon. These eight time-bound goals provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions. They include goals and targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation and the Global Partnership for Development.
Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs are both global and local, tailored by each country to suit specific development needs. They provide a framework for the entire international community to work together towards a common end – making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere. If these goals are achieved, world poverty will be cut by half, tens of millions of lives will be saved, and billions more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the global economy.
Taken from: United Nations Development Programme (


Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
The Millennium Development Goals are largely silent on human rights, and the targets they set are in some cases less than what states are already obligated to do under international law. For example, the MDGs contain no explicit requirement that states identify and address exclusion and discrimination. The targets and indicators for many of the goals do not acknowledge the variety of human rights factors that drive and deepen poverty.  Integrating international human rights standards into MDG efforts could lead to more meaningful progress on the MDGs in the next five years. This would require that governments review all MDG initiatives and efforts to ensure their consistency with human rights; address discrimination experienced by women and other groups; set appropriate national targets, both in terms of levels of progress that should be achieved on particular issues and those prioritized; fulfil the right to participation; and strengthen mechanisms for accountability.
Why do the MDGs need to consider Human Rights?

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Personal Perspective: Reasons Behind the Maoist Party Unable to Rule the Country

To find the reasons, we need to go through the formation of  UCPN (M), their manifesto and the popularity of the rebellions and their works after they won the elections so that we will have a better understanding of the situation. I will be focusing on these topics. 

The Formation of Maoist Rebellion
The year 1990 is the most important year in the history of Nepal because sovereignty was in the hand of Nepali people which was possible through Pro-democratic movement, also known as people’s movement I lead by Nepali congress (NC). It provides rights for Nepali people to influence social, economic and political institutions in the state formation. Nepal also became a first constitutional Hindu monarchy and established a multiparty democracy with a bicameral legislation, an independent judiciary and a catalogue of fundamental human rights. As a result, many political parties start emerged after the movement
However, only five major political parties were elected in 1991 election. And they were from so called higher caste- Brahmin and Kshetry, which only consists of 28.54 % of the total population in 1991 and rests of the people were ignored. On the other hand, poverty cast, class and location inequalities were common in the country so people have hope that their elected leader will remove all types of inequalities and discriminations but the elected parties were overshadowed with corruption, nepotism and abuse of power. That is why; people were extremely disappointed with their elected leaders and highly politicized social, economic and political institution.
The Maoist party highlighted those issues that were neglected by political parties in 1996. The key point of Maoist manifesto was to address ethnic and gender interest through a federal system. It is estimated that almost 1 in 3 guerrilla were women and that 70% were from indigenous ethnic communities which were ignored by main political parties. The Maoist principles of rejecting conservative traditional practices such as the prohibition of gambling and control of alcohol consumption also attract people’s support. Moreover, UCPN (M) was the one who bring socio-economic and political awareness among people.
Instead of addressing the Maoist demands, the government of Nepal announced the “state of insurgency” to repress the UCPN (M).On the other hand, the main political party especially Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) used the Maoist party as a weapon. Telegraph Nepal interviewed with Govinda Raj Joshi (MP from Nepali Congress), says that “the demand that were presented by Maoist was clear but Nepali Congress and CPN-UML use Maoist against one another as a weapon instead of addressing their demands.” He also argues that the government pays no attention to the demands, which were possible and constitutional to solve the problems but the government ignored their demand and try to repress the Maoists activities and their party. Despites of state of insurgency, UCPN (M) spreads in whole country over years from their popularity.
By 2006, people started saying enough is enough; we want peace in the country because the causalities of the insurgency from 1996 to 2006 were extreme. There were a huge war crimes and crimes against humanities that were resulted from the insurgency. More than 13,000 people were killed and 2,028 cases of enforced disappearances took place. The government has also estimated that more than 200,000 people have been displaced because of the internal conflict and still those people are suffering (Adapted from government of Nepal).

This forced civil society organizations to give a pressure to the government and the Maoist party. Under great pressure of civil society organizations, there was a loose political coalition between seven party alliances and Maoist which held a peace talk in New Delhi. The alliances and UCPN (M) came to the 12 point agreement which later include UCPN (M) in House of Representative and draft an interim constitution which was formed by a new parliament.
The cabinet also introduced 33% quota for women parliamentarians. However, the constituent assembly election which was held in April 10, 2008, did not include the introduced women’s quota in the parliament. The CA election elected 240 electoral constituencies on the basis of a first past the post (FPTP). Another 335 members were elected on the basis of proportional representation and more 26 distinguished contributors were selected from the cabinet. Previously, there were only 205 constituencies but now has been increased by 300%, which is unnecessary and very costly. This money can be used to build a school in Rukum or Rolpa, one of the undeveloped places in Nepal. Now the politics in Nepal has been a “job” for people.
Let me again continue from the election. Each voter had two votes, one for FPTP and another for PR. CA Election held but NC, CPN (UML), and  UCPN (M) provide only 10%, 10% and 18% of women candidates respectively. The people show the democratic maturity by punishing the major political parties and leaders because for the failure of democratic system in 1990. The election became a big disaster for Nepali Congress and CPN (UML). Out of 601 members seat, 220, 110 and 103 was obtained by UCPN (M), Nepali Congress party and CPN (UML) respectively. It is said that Maoist party won the election because they had best understood the need for social and political inclusion where other political parties are unable. However, it is also said that there were many violence by armed group in the Terai area during the election. Although many political leaders were killed and some of them were threatened from unidentified armed groups, it was more or less under free and fair conditions compare to elections in south East Asia. Out of 17.6 million Nepali citizens (including Nepalese who are in foreign countries like me); 10.9 million Nepalese participated in the election where 54 different political parties were contesting in the polls.
Revolutionary Government Popularity
Nepalese have a high expectation from the Maoist party because they have a hope that they will take an initiative to do something uniquely especially to improve Nepali life in general and electing the Maoists and including them in the mainstream politics would bring “peace and development.” However, there were not any real solutions after the formation of Maoist government.
Let me tell you what happened after the Maoist won the election. Some of the Indians leaders were not satisfied with the result of the election. Immediately after the Maoist party won the election, there was an interview with Indian BJP leader Jaswant Singh by telegraph Nepal. He clearly says that “The coming to power of Communists in Nepal was in no way a good sign for India and this should be accepted”. Why the Maoist should be the problem of India if it is accepted by Nepali people? To answer this we need to go to the history of Nepal when India and Nepal had “trade treaty” in 1950. Maoist want to scrap the treaty because they think that it is unequal trade treaty and replace with new one because according to the treaty it says that “India recognized Nepal's right to import and export commodities through Indian Territory and ports”. When Nepal built military relationship with Beijing it was a violation of treaty. Additionally, Maoist party wants to review all other treaties that has been signed between Nepal and India
On the other hand, the complicated debates, bargaining and misunderstanding among political parties took priority during the government formation. The two major parties UCPN (M) and CPN (UML) started negotiating big ministry such as “defense ministry” and jostling for the post of ministries. It was the similar activities like previous government. Again people were extremely disappointed with their elected parties and leaders. In August Maoist leader Prachanda forms a coalition government with the help of five different small parties. However, Nepali Congress goes to opposition which became a big disadvantage for the leading party. Instead of practicing constructive oppositional politics, the Nepali Congress has sought to boycott every initiative of the government within the CA or in the various commissions.
Similarly, Nepalese politics has a culture to give first priority to visit India after electing as a prime minister. However, the UCPN (M) amend the culture and give first priority to visit China because UCPN (M) wants to improve bilateral trade relations with China rather than India. When the leading party visits to China, India didn’t like it. 

Let me tell you about Young Communist League (YCL), which is one of the youth wings of the Maoist party. They became more anarchical after their party won the election. “Rule of Law” was misused and disobeyed by the group, although YCL rename their name as Young Democratic communist League (YDCL). Another disagreement and misunderstanding started in May 2009, when the prime minister tries to integrate People’s liberation Army (PLA) into Nepalese army (NA). Nepali Congress and the leadership of Nepalese Army opposed the integration. The army chief even disobeys order to stop the recruitment of new soldiers from the defense minister. Still the integration of PLA in NA is a hot debate.

After nine month, the revolutionary party left the government because of  internal and external forces, monopoly of power and Indian imperialism were some of the main causes that forced UCPN (M) to leave the government, despite of UCPN (M) popularity.
This is the modification of the original paper written for the presentation on 'Peace and Conflict in Nepal' presented in South Korea.. published previously World Pulse
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