Protection and advancement of human rights in developing countries: Luxuries or necessities?
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The luxury-versus-necessity controversy is primarily concerned with the importance of civil and political rights vis-à-vis economic and social rights. The viewpoint of political leaders of many developing and newly industrialized countries, especially China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia is that civil and political rights are luxuries that only rich nations can afford. The United Nations, transnational civil society and the Western advanced countries oppose this viewpoint on normative and empirical grounds. While this controversy is far from over, new challenges of “evidence” and “marketization” are emerging. The first calls for a narrative on the history of civil and political rights in the West in the comparative context of the Industrial Revolution and the East Asian Miracle and China’s economic growth. The effects of the recent financial crisis and insulation of China from the Arab Spring further deepen this challenge. The marketization challenge looks at this controversy from the social exclusion angle. It argues that the basic needs covered by the minimum human rights agenda are becoming luxuries in a real sense for those who do not have the power to purchase these needs from the market.
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