Norms versus interpretations: human rights universality revisited
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Debates on human rights universality frame universality according to an anthropological view called Western universalism and consider that “cultural relativism” is equivalent to any other framework. Thus, the discussion on this topic has been reduced to who is the rights-holder and the concept of human rights itself. There is a third approach to universality that must be addressed: the universality of interpretations. Most critics of human rights universality do not contest internationally agreed human rights norms (as established in treaties). Rather, they react against interpretations or standards as have been developed by human rights mechanisms. Accordingly, this paper explores three positions that have been developed around this notion: flexible Westerns, dialogical perspectives, and bottom-up approaches.