The 1993 Vienna Human Rights Conference revealed the ideological schism between the Western bloc of liberal democracies- embodied in European and North American countries- and diverse ideologies of fifty non-Western countries[1] which the West lumped together as Asian-Islamic. In spite of this, cultural relativism was rejected in favour of the universality of human rights. At this same conference, Islamic and Chinese delegates emphatically stated that the universality of human rights was not questioned. But as China’s economic clout increases so does the demand for a shift away from the dominant western-centred human rights lexicon to one that also includes Asian values (Falk 2000:8 ). See also Ignatieff.

The rapid dramatic economic, industrial and technological growth of China’s Special Economic Zones has situated China as a formidable trade partner in the global economy, attracting foreign investors, particularly the US and Japan. This has had a profound effect on Human Rights debates which became apparent in 1994 when Clinton was forced to retract threats to impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses. It is the hope of the Western world that China’s need for trade partners will lead to greater transparency but in the unpredictable shifts of power dynamics, economic forces alone will not compel China to adopt western values. As China’s international market strength gathers momentum human rights concerns conveyed by even the more vocal dissenters- Tibet and Taiwan- are set aside.

At a recent conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism (2003) Premier Okalik[2] defined traditional knowledge as a collective means of re-interpreting a rapidly changing world. Falk suggested an “alternative to the false universalism of globalization in the form of an intercivilizational world order that combines the ecological and biological conditions of unity with the civilizational[3] realities of difference and self-definition (Falk 2000b:161). This radical shift recognizes the emergence of civilizational identities which challenges the dominant statist identities (2000b:147). Another term that is used to describe this geopolitics of inclusion is multi-civilizational dialogical relationship. An international globalization research centre, Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (TODA) is developing a multi-civilizational conceptual framework focusing on the unity and variety of conditions and institutions for global democracy in an age of globalization and regionalization (TODA 2000).

The end of the cold war, ideological passivity of China, spread of market liberalism set the stage for a new period in human rights. The new western political ideology claimed that only democratic forms of governance are legitimate and promote human rights (Falk 2000a:47).

The 1948 Declaration failed to recognize that indigenous peoples do not necessarily share the “foundational secularist, modernist, and statist assumptions of the human rights mainstream (Falk 2000:51).” Indigenous peoples were not considered to be part of the process of establishing what was universal (or normal) that is the norm-creating process (Falk 2000:51). “At the very least, they insist that the traditionalist alternative be legitimized, and to the extent necessary, safeguarded. Such a concern is far from symbolic, as such peoples are being displaced and their lands plundered in many parts of the world ─ perhaps most flagrantly in Amazonia and South Asia. The importance that indigenous peoples attach to self-determination is bound up with their claims of autonomy and with the history of their encounters with settlers, intent

At a recent conference on “Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism” (2003) Premier Okalik[4] defined traditional knowledge as a collective means of re-interpreting a rapidly changing world. Charles Taylor’s adaptation of Gadamer’s hermeneutic device ‘fusion of horizons (Gadamer 1960 [1975]:279)’ presents an innovative approach to pluralism. Gadamer argued that a text is understood in a different way depending on one’s vantage point in space and time. A horizon is “the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point” (Gadamer 1960 [1975]:65) Horizon also refers metaphorically to our situatedness in time whereby we claim a standpoint in the present through which we scan the imagined pasts and potential futures. Our hermeneutic understanding depends on our ability to fuse or overlap the abstract past and real present into one horizon. (For more see (Powless 2000:23). Through a similar process countries situated differently in terms of ideologies and values can respect differing vantage points while seeking for a fusion of horizons. …. what is ‘normal’ and acceptable human behaviour (Taylor 1998 ).

A relevant Haudenosaunee symbol for the negotiated relationships ─ a ‘fusion of horizons’ (Gadamer 1960 [1975]) ─ is the well known Gwesenta or Two-Row Wampum Belt. “The white beads represent a sailboat. In the sailboat are the Europeans, their leaders, their governments, and their Way of Life, or religion. The other purple row of beads represents a canoe. In the canoe are the Native Americans, their leaders, their governments, and their Way of Life, or religion as you say it. We shall travel down the road of life, parallel to each other and never merging with each other (Lyons 1992; Rikard 2002:122).” For more on the negotiation of relationships between First Nations and the U.S. see (Ryan 1997).

Since the 1980s the new assertiveness of and demands made by Quebec, the Inuit, First Nations and Metis, women, gays, lesbians and disadvantaged African-Americans gained political resonance. The articulation of these demands in a sophisticated politics of identity and difference spread from literary criticism to the social sciences gathered momentum. This plethora of literature has cast the political liberal philosophical defence of human rights, as in John Rawls or Robert Nozick[5], as “sociologically unsophisticated (Ryan 1997). [mfb1] According to Canadian political philosopher Charles Taylor (Taylor 1989), his contemporaries Jürgens Habermas[mfb2] and John Rawls fail to take pluralism sufficiently into account.

The New Economy (Axworthy 1995) has contributed to a social deficit: unemployment, poverty and social exclusion (anomie and alienation). Distinguished SUNY Law Professor Virginia Leary argued that globalization has promoted trade liberalization and enhanced human rights for some groups while exacerbating unemployment and underemployment, gives rise to social disintegration and internal political instability, engendered new forms of exploitative labour practices leading to new forms of forced labour, servitude and in some cases slavery and intensified poverty ─ extreme poverty affects 1.1 billion people (1998) and the feminization of poverty.

At the same time however, Leary acknowledged that globalization promotes cross-fertilization of ideas regarding values, innovations and challenges. She defined globalization as “…the current transformation of the world economy: the reduction of national barriers to trade and investment, the expansion of telecommunications and information systems, the growth of off-shore financial markets, the increasing role of multinational enterprises, the explosion of mergers and acquisitions, global inter-firm networking arrangements and alliances, regional economic integration and the development of a single unified global market. The phenomenon of globalization is accompanied by increasing international mobility: the migration of workers, the growth of tourism and the increasing ease of international travel (Leary 1998:265).”

It is Richard Rorty’s claim that the existence of cultural diversity is a brute fact about our sort of society, but one that ought not to get in the way of an attachment to the liberal politics of “old” liberalism (Symonides 1998:3).” It is neither a tale of passivity and victimization nor a Pollyannaish celebration of the successes of the downtrodden. The project of combining cultural plurality with political unity, while escaping anomie and alienation, is rationally and morally compelling.

The end of the cold war, ideological passivity of China and the spread of market liberalism set the stage for a new period in human rights. The new western political ideology claims that only democratic forms of governance are legitimate and promote human rights (Falk 2000:47). In 1989 China cracked down on pro-democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This was denounced by Clinton when he was campaigning for the US Presidency. However, ever since China initiated its more market-friendly policies in its Special Economic Zones, its GNP has risen dramatically. Currently its economy is second only to the United States. Unlike many other late comers to development, China strategically developed its own technical expertise with rapidity thereby limiting China’s dependency on the United States. This has a profound effect on Human Rights debates which became official in 1994 with Clinton was forced to retract threats to impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses. China is attracting foreign investors particularly the US and Japan. It is the hope of the Western world that China’s need for trade partners will lead to greater transparency such as is beginning in the Special Economic Zone. (See the timeline of events that led to the shift.)

Selected Bibliography

Axworthy, Lloyd. 1995. “Statement.” in World Summit for Social Development. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Braudel, Fernand. 1949[1969]. La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, vol. 1. Paris, FR: Flammarion. http://www.armand-colin.com/cgi-bin/bookf.pl?is=2200372248

Brittan, Sir Samuel. 1996. “Review of Charles K. Rowley’s “The Political Economy of the Minimal State”.” The Times Literary Supplement. http://www.thelockeinstitute.org/books/politicaleconomy_review1.html

Falk, Richard A. 2000. Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World. New York: Routledge.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1960 [1975]. Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Habermas, Jurgen. 1981. “The Theory of Communicative Action.” vol. 2.

Hutchins, Robert. 1936. The Higher Education in America. Chicago.

Leary, Virginia A. 1998. “Globalization and Human Rights.” Pp. 265-276 in Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges: Manual on Human Rights, edited by Janusz Symonides. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd. / UNESCO Publishing. hum/sym/hum

Lyons, Oron R. 1992. “The American Indian in the Past.” in Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations and the U.S.Constitution, edited by Oron R. Lyons and John C. Mohawk. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clearlight Press.

Okalik, Paul. 2003. “The Naujaat Challenge: Working Together.” in To the Conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism. Hull, Quebec. http://www.gov.nu.ca/Nunavut/English/premier/press/cgsglp.shtml

Powless, Irving Jr. 2000. “Treaty Making.” Pp. 115-126 in Treaty of Canandaigua 1794: 200 Years of Treaty Relations between Iroquois Confederacy and the United States, edited by G. Peter Jemison and Anna M. Schein. Santa Fe: Clearlight Press.

Rikard, Jolene. 2002. “After Essay – Indigenous is the Local.” Pp. 115-126 in On Aboriginal Representation in the Gallery, edited by Lynda Jessup and Shannon Bagg. Gatineau, PQ: Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Ryan, Alan. 1997. “Pragmatism, Social Identity, Patriotism, and Self-Criticism.” The National Humanities Center. http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us:8080/publications/hongkong/ryan.htm

Symonides, Janusz. 1998. Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges: Manual on Human Rights. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd. / UNESCO Publishing. hum/sym/hum

Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge University Press. http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/phil_may2003.htm

TODA. 2000. Annual Report 2000. University of Hawaii: Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, Globalization Research Center. http://www.toda.org/annual_reports/2000.html

[1] Including Communist Cuba, Buddhist Myanmar, Confucian Singapore, Vietnam, North Korea, China, Muslim Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Libya.

[2] At a recent conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism Premier Okalik acknowledged the challenges of transforming a society afflicted with inherited social wrongs. Governance for the new territory is based on traditional Inuit values respected for the full weight of the history it reflects, as a proactive means engaging the transition. Inuit culture remained intact until relatively recently unlike other indigenous peoples in North America. Okalik described one of the pivotal values of Inuit governance resides in unique form of communication based on listening to others while never losing one’s own horizon in a process that is as complex in execution as it is simple in expressing. In this way Nunavut governance evolved using the best of the Westminster style of government but with unique Inuit traits that reflect Inuit culture and knowledge Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. The application of IQ is contemporary and continues to evolve although it is steeped in tradition (Okalik 2003).

[3] Falk traced the roots of the civilizational explorations to Braudel (Braudel 1949[1969]) and Toynbee (1961). Elitist and ethnocentric art historian Erwin Panofsky (1939) measured all art history in relation to highpoints of Western civilization, particularly Gothic France and Renaissance Italy (1984; Holly 1997). In education both Hutchins (1936) and Allan Bloom (1987) in his Great Books series assumed the primacy of western civilization over all others. Lord Kenneth Clark’s (1970) televised popular mini-series Civilisation (Alter 1999) spanned eleven countries and sixteen centuries claiming achievements in the name of western civilization through art, architecture, philosophy and history.

[4] At a recent conference on Governance Self-Government and Legal Pluralism Premier Okalik acknowledged the challenges of transforming a society afflicted with inherited social wrongs. Governance for the new territory is based on traditional Inuit values respected for the full weight of the history it reflects, as a proactive means engaging the transition. Inuit culture remained intact until relatively recently unlike other indigenous peoples in North America. Okalik described one of the pivotal values of Inuit governance resides in unique form of communication based on listening to others while never losing one’s own horizon in a process that is as complex in execution as it is simple in expressing. In this way Nunavut

governance evolved using the best of the Westminster style of government but with unique Inuit traits that reflect Inuit culture and knowledge Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. The application of IQ is contemporary and continues to evolve although it is steeped in tradition (Okalik 2003).

[5] “[T]he history of liberalism is market by the publication of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia, or the debates in academic journals (Brittan 1996).”

[mfb1]*** Living in tumultuous post-Westphalian, post-industrial and largely neo-classical liberal economic environment the elevated level of altruistic civic virtue essential for Rawls project seemed naively optimistic and even idealistic.

[mfb2]Habermas challenged the theories that interpret civil society engagement and civic virtue within traditional modes of voluntary association fostering moral habits of the heart as theoretically impoverished and politically suspect (Habermas 1981).

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