70 Years after the UDHR: A Provocative Reflection Shaped by African Experiences

Keywords: Cultural relativism, colonialism, slavery and the slave trade, African perception and understanding of human rights, western hypocrisy and human rights


The 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presents an opportunity for critical reflections from the Global South on why the dream of universalising the rights contained in this ground-breaking document is still just a dream. Shaped by a rigorous interrogation of African experiences as narrated by practitioners and scholars, this paper revisits some of the leading contentious issues which, undoubtedly, have impacted on the realisation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the African continent. The paper revisits the issue of meaning, and how uncertainties surrounding it have triggered controversial perceptions and constructions of the notion of human rights, aggravated by adjectival calibrations. Capturing the views of scholars and practitioners, this paper takes an evidence-based approach to the matter as it identifies and discusses some of the common, recurrent challenges that have compromised the aspiration of universalising the ideals articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These include, amongst other things, the impact of slavery and the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism, the nature and impact of western hypocrisy, double-standards, bias and inconsistency – factors that not only dilute the recognition of human rights but further deepen the mistrust and misgivings Africans have about human rights. Lastly, the paper appraises the adverse impact of corruption on the realisation of human rights on the African continent. It is argued that all these factors, cumulatively, adversely impact on the perception and realisation of human rights on the African continent.





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How to Cite
AgborA. A. (2020). 70 Years after the UDHR: A Provocative Reflection Shaped by African Experiences. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 23, 1-24. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2020/v23i0a8782
Special Edition: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70