Second Lecture

Are Human Rights Universal?

Public Conference

  • SHIRIN EBADI
2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • WOLE SOYINKA
1986 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature
 

  

Wednesday, 10 December 2008 | 4:30 p.m.

Palais des Nations; Assembly Hall

To watch the video archive, please click here.

 

Closing remarks delivered by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco on the occasion of the second edition of the Geneva Lecture Series can be accessed here.



Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Wole Soyinka advocate for the universality of human rights at the 2nd edition of the Geneva Lecture Series

Geneva – 10 December 2008 - The 2nd Edition of the Geneva Lecture Series that was to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gathered a large and diverse audience of more than 1,000 people. The event took place in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations. Two Nobel Prize laureates, Shirin Ebadi and Wole Soyinka, who were invited to address the issue of the universality of human rights shared their visions and engaged in a lively debate with the audience. The conclusion was unambiguous. Both Shirin Ebadi and Wole Soyinka put forward strong arguments in favor of the universality of human rights – the arguments that underscored the general applicability of the Universal Declaration.

Throughout her speech, Dr. Ebadi contended that human rights were based on universal values. The Iranian lawyer pointed to the necessity of a greater involvement of civil society in intergovernmental processes in the field of human rights. At the same time, she emphasized the importance of the so-called economic rights that are often neglected as part of the human rights agenda. She proposed a new international convention to eradicate poverty. In his turn, Dr. Soyinka explored the issue through the lens of culture while giving a similar answer to Dr. Ebadi’s. The Nigerian writer persuasively demonstrated that the “trap of cultural relativism” can and must be avoided. Cultural relativism has too often been used as a parade to justify discrimination between races, sexes and religions or oppose the diversity of views in society, he recalled.

Following the speeches and a session of questions and answers facilitated by media outlets sponsoring the initiative, Télévision Suisse Romande, Radio Suisse Romande and Tribune de Genève, the lecture proceeded with an open debate with the audience. Mr. Xavier Colin, Producer and Presenter of Geopolitis at the Swiss public TV channel (Télévision Suisse Romande) invited the audience made up of students, diplomats, civil society representatives and UN civil servants to address questions to both Nobel laureates.

The final remarks were made by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, which Foundation is an official sponsor of the Geneva Lecture Series. His Highness reiterated the main statement of the speakers by calling for “new forms of solidarity” in the age of globalization and a “scrupulous and universal insistence on human rights” in all countries around the world.

Press release - 12 December 2008

 

Resources

 

Background Documents

 

What Experts Say

 

Universality of human rights

 

Unity of Human Rights

 

Full realization of all human rights

  

What the Media Say

Coverage by media partners and other newspapers

 

Thematic press review

  • Universality of human rights

Le Monde - Le premier résultat d'une croisade by René Cassin,  14 December 2008 (English version is not available)

Le Monde – Video archive: René Cassin, "fantassin des droits de l'homme", online since 5 December 2008 (English version is not available)

TSR - Une avocate au service des droits humains (interview with Navanethem Pillay), 8 December 2008 (English version is not available)

TSR - Pipilotti Rist, vidéaste et passionaria verte (interview with Pipilotti Rist who conceived one of the 22 short films produced on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), 11 December 2008 (English version is not available)

Tribune de Genève - Les "crimes d’honneur": de graves violations des droits de l’Homme, AFP, 12 November 2008 (English version is not available). For more information, please consult the background document "United Nations Population Fund study on the state of world population in 2008 - Reaching Common Ground: Culture, Gender and Human Rights, 2008"

  • Unity of Human Rights

The Guardian - What others can't do. Only the state can guarantee fundamental rights – and it delegates the task at our peril, by Thomas Meyer, 13 December 2008

Tribune de Genève - Un milliard de crève-la-fin pour les 60 ans des droits de l’homme, by Andrés Allemand, 10 December 2008 (English version is not available)

Le Temps - L'Organisation mondiale de la santé dénonce des progrès «profondément inégaux», 15 October 2008 (English version is not available, to access the document subscription with the newspaper is required)

  • Full realization of all human rights

The Guardian - The price of rights, par Kenneth Roth, le 10 décembre 2008

Tribune de Genève - Droits humains: l’action doit suivre la Déclaration, par Fabienne Bugnon, le 10 décembre 2008 (English version is not available)

Le Temps - La Suisse pour une Cour mondiale des droits de l'homme, le 6 décembre 2008 (English version is not available, to access the document subscription with the newspaper is required)

The Guardian - Rome was not built in a day, par AC Grayling, le 10 décembre 2008

Courrier international - A chacun ses droits de l’homme. Peut mieux faire. Malgré les innovations qu’elle a apportées, la Déclaration en est encore à l’adolescence, par Camil Ungureanu, le 4 décembre 2008 (English version is not available)

Useful Links

 

DISCLAIMER
The responsibility for opinions in the documents cited on this page rests solely with their authors. The citation of these documents does not constitute an endorsement by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research neither by the organizers or sponsors of the Geneva Lecture Series.