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International law is an imperfect, yet necessary, means of regulating the behavior and interrelations of sovereign states. It is essentially a way of preventing states from acting in a way that is potentially harmful to other states, yet its enforceability is problematic to say the least…
One area of international law that has been consistently difficult to gain acceptance, enforcement and compliance with its agreed standards has been that of human rights. Although a clear international statement of human rights has been enshrined for over half a century within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the United Nations in 1948, there remains a relativist undercurrent with respect to how various governments interpret and apply human rights standards. Since 9/11, the concept of human rights has become even more nebulous as states that had been the leading champions of international human rights have begun to compromise their commitment to such ideals in deference to their national security.
This paper will discuss the importance and limitations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will trace the history of the Declaration, discuss how it has been interpreted and applied over the decades since its adoption, and consider the ways in which modern global issues pose challenges to its spirit and premise. The difficulty of achieving uniform global human rights protections, particularly in an era heavily influenced by basic security and defense concerns, vividly illustrates the more general challenge of enforcing international law among sovereign states.
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