By Sofiya Petkova, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. The topic of human rights can be approached from many perspectives- philosophical, political, social and legal – all of which are interrelated. People from all sectors of society, from ordinary citizens to scholars, to human rights activists and NGOs, discuss among themselves issues of human rights. Then the debate goes to a higher level where politicians and professionals look deeper into the issues and formulate political measures and laws. The last instance is when these measures are incorporated into national and international law frameworks.
In my view, however, the term human rights is something that is present at all levels. It is the humane aspect – the fact that everyone in the world, no matter what their nationality, race or religion, has some basic rights as a human being that must be ensured and protected at all costs. Indeed, there is still some ambiguity as to what human rights exactly means- which is why it is always necessary to have as clear and narrow a definition as possible. Among basic rights, one might mean several things: from the right to life and happiness, to access to common resources such as water and food, infrastructure and education, to the rights to freedom of religious expression, self-determination and freedom of speech.
To me, human rights means all of the above. That is why when discussing human rights, I am trying to understand the specific issue, the surrounding circumstances, and the stakeholders involved. I am trying to understand the perspective from which a particular individual talks about human rights. Very often, misunderstandings arise from the fact that the parties have different definitions of human rights and consider issues from a diverse perspectives. There are always two sides to each story. Thus, finding a solution and bringing about peace and stability becomes impossible if talks and actions are not coordinated.
The aim of this blog is not to impose a particular view or set of views. Rather, the aim of this blog is to invite people of all backgrounds and ages, to share their perspectives and contribute to the most pressing debates in the area of human rights. In other words, to create a platform where everyone involved in the field or otherwise, can engage, network, and better coordinate their opinions and activities, thus promoting more effective implementation and enforcement of human rights. What distinguishes this blog, however, is that we are engaging cultural diplomacy as a tool to settle disputes. The most common approach in the past used to be hard power, whereas now it is international law. It is through through Cultural Diplomacy and soft power that we can unite varying sectors of society in order to create a joint collaboration for the protection and support of human rights activities. Moreover, Cultural Diplomacy has the capability to enable governments to fulfil their Human Rights obligations towards their citizens.
I disagree that only big institutions, organizations and politicians have the power to influence human rights – it is here, on such forums, where we can exercise our freedom of speech and really try to make a difference!