International Perceptions of Human Rights

The United Nations, and to a larger extent the international community considers the doctrine of human rights to be a universal concept applicable to all humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also regards human rights as a common standard for regulating behavior across all human societies (Schutter, 2012). Conversely, the interpretation of human rights differs from one community to the other. Interpretation is founded on the norms, values, and beliefs that a certain community or society deems to be appropriate (Twiss, 2011). Similarly, the theoretical concept of cultural relativism supports the notion that different people, communities, or societies have different codes of ethics, norms, or standards for regulating behavior. In fact, cultural relativism denounces any belief in universal concepts of morality, legality, or political ideologies (Twiss, 2011). Therefore, each society is free to interpret human rights based on its framework of cultural beliefs, core values, and perceptions of morality. Consequently, these interpretations often affect delivery of public service. For instance, public officials may be confused on whether to rely on universal concepts of human rights or implement regulations according to their local culture. These differences in interpretation of human rights affect the perceptions of human rights among public administrators.

Cultural differences between Chinese and the Americans in the US have led to different perceptions on human rights issues. These cultural differences have led to variations in terms of how the two communities approach their legal, social and economic challenges. Subsequently, the differences have cast doubts on the universality of human rights (Benjamin, 2010). For example, the Chinese culture emphasizes on collectivism as opposed to individualism. Therefore, the Chinese people approach the concept of human rights from the view of the collective group rather than individual human rights. Consequently, it is normal for an individual to be sacrificed for the greater good of the community. Among the Chinese, human rights are enforced with an emphasis on personal sacrifice in order to benefit the entire community. All rules and regulations in Chinese communities tend to enforce strict laws to individuals undermining the group. For example, corrupt officials, who engage in embezzlement of public funds, can be punished by death.

On the other hand, the American culture places greater emphasis on individualism. As such, there is more significance on implementing human rights so as to promote the wellbeing of an individual. For example, a disabled person will be accorded the same respect as other people in the community. Laws in American communities also emphasize on personal responsibility rather than the collectiveness of the group. Nevertheless, it is this approach to human rights that most people consider to be universal.

Public administrators in these communities face a challenge on enforcing human rights due to the differences in perceptions of what constitutes human rights. However, governance structures can help improve adherence to human rights laws (Schutter, 2012). For instance, the judiciary can be used as a tool for interpreting laws in the spirit of promoting human rights. Similarly, the law-making institutions can also promote human rights through aligning their legal frameworks with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) also play a crucial role in enforcing human rights. For instance, they educate and inform people about their rights and the rights of their communities. If an individual feels aggrieved, they have a right to seek legal redress through established mechanisms.


Benjamin, O. D. (2010). Rethinking nonintervention: The challenge of the UN charter and protecting the dispossessed. Public Integrity, 12(3), 201-218.

Schutter, O. D. (2012). The role of human rights in shaping international regulatory regimes. Social Research, 79(4), 785-818.

Twiss, B. S. (2011). Global ethics and human rights: A reflection. Journal of Religious Ethics Inc., 39(2), 204-222.

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