On September 27, 2012 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution submitted by the Russian Federation on “Promoting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Humankind: Best Practices.” More than 60 states sponsored this initiative, including, collectively, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States. The resolution reiterates the idea that understanding of and respect for traditional values both encourage and facilitate the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We strongly believe that all cultures and civilizations, in their traditions, religions and beliefs, share a common set of values that belong to humankind in its entirety, and that those values have made an important contribution to the development of human rights, norms and standards. The family, society and educational institutions all play key roles in asserting these values. In a broader sense, traditions underpin national identity. It is widely recognized that manifestations and symbols of national identity unite people and underpin their sense of national pride, community and continuity. It would be no exaggeration to say that traditional values are the backbone of every society and define its existence. By protecting traditional values we are protecting our societies from destabilization, the erosion of fundamental moral principles, loss of national identity and basic cultural codes. It is clear that safeguarding human rights goes hand in hand with preserving traditional values.
The resolution that Russia initiated calls on UN member states to recognize and reaffirm the vital role of traditional values in promoting human rights. This is the third resolution in this vein adopted by the Human Rights Council since 2009.
However, a few states, namely the US and members of the European Union, that voted against it.
Their position is quite clear: they see traditional values as a way of justifying human rights abuses, particularly against those who are considered the most vulnerable members of society. Such arguments and unwillingness to collaborate on the draft are regrettable. Russia is open to dialog and cooperation in this sphere, but we think that no state or group of states has the right to speak on human rights in the name of the entire international community.
After all, we have universal instruments, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration, and the 1966 Human Rights Covenants, among others. However, in some regions the concept of human rights has evolved considerably beyond that common denominator. Imposing that outcome on others is not an option. What, then, can be done?
I am convinced that human rights issues should draw nations together, and that the Human Rights Council should focus on finding ways to underscore the fact that human rights do not exist in a societal vacuum. They didn’t emerge from nowhere. If traditional values erode, so will human rights, since the moral fabric that holds society together will be destroyed. It is not about which come first. There is a real need to promote the understanding that human rights and traditional values are interconnected. To this end, it is important to take into account the cultural, civilizational, historical and religious heritage of all communities and nations. The concept of traditional values will only benefit from absorbing elements of different cultures. This is even more important now, when the very foundations of social cohesion are being put to the test in this period of global economic crisis.
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