The various conflicts and revolutions in the world have shaped the concept of human rights as we know it. In the last two hundred and fifty years, we see the clamor for human rights as the clamor of a world and of the various peoples inside it for equality and freedom. Starting with the French and American revolutions towards the latter part of the eighteenth century, it is this very notion of human rights that has led colonized states and revolutionary movements to assert their voices and fight for their freedoms against oppressive and despotic governments - from the Tiananmen Square uprising in China to the struggle of the East Timorese against Indonesian occupation.
All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
When the United Nations was created in 1948 by a world still reeling from the ravages of the Second World War and intent on healing the wounds wrought by it, it was tasked to become the primary agency in defining and advancing human rights. From then on, various other agencies were created, addressing specific human rights concerns. Notable examples of this are the International Labor Organization and the UNICEF.
However, the universality of human rights has oftentimes been challenged by critics on the allegation that the Western bias is very much evident, and that the popularity of it in recent times is nothing more than the remnants of a neocolonial attitude purveyed by the crafty and bought by the undiscerning. A refutation of this was attempted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1968 through a study that demonstrated that "the profound aspirations underlying human rights correspond to concepts - the concepts of justice, an individual's integrity and dignity, freedom from oppression and persecution, and individual participation in collective endeavors - that are encountered in all civilizations and periods."
Some Islamic scholars like Safi (2000) remain unconvinced:
The pragmatic arguments for the universality of human rights are problematic, because they either completely overlook the significant impact cultural differentiation has on values and perceptions, or ignore the fact that agreements through UN reflect, more often than not, political compromises by political elites, rather than normative consensus. Further, many of the ruling elites who pretend to speak on the behalf of the peoples of the developing world lack political legitimacy and public support, and have embraced ideological outlooks at odds with the surrounding cultures. In the absence of genuine democracy in the countries of the South, no one can