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32 Hum. Rts. Q. 601 (2010)
Practice of United Nations and Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the Reconciliation of Cultural Diversity with Universal Respect for Human Rights

handle is hein.journals/hurq32 and id is 607 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY
Practice of United Nations
Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the
Reconciliation of Cultural Diversity with
Universal Respect for Human Rights
Michael K. Addo*
The traditional scholarly narrative on the relationship between cultural
diversity and universal respect for human rights suggests a tension which
must, at best, be managed. There is, however, no consensus among schol-
ars as to the best way to reconcile or manage this tension and so creating
an intellectual gap between universalist and cultural relativist schools of
thought which has come to inform important aspects of diplomatic practice.
This article analyses an alternative approach to the management of this
tension based on the practice of the United Nations human rights treaty
bodies. The working methods of these supervisory bodies, especially the
constructive dialogue on national periodic reports, suggest that they adopt a
legal approach in which cultural diversity and universal respect for human
rights complement and reinforce each other. At the same time, focusing on
effective protection, the treaty bodies challenge specific cultural practices
that they consider to be harmful or contrary to human rights guarantees.
Although the treaty bodies' approach to this subject is still evolving, it
reveals interesting doctrinal lessons concerning the universality of human
rights norms.
* Michael K. Addo, School of Law, University of Exeter, United Kingdom, is editor of Interna-
tional Law of Human Rights (Ashgate 2006) and author of The Legal Nature of International
Human Rights (Nijhoff 2010).
Research and preparation of this article was made possible with the generous sup-
port of a British Academy Small Grants Scheme to fund the part time research assistance
of Milena Kadieva, Jana Mereckova and Victoria Hamlyn. I have benefited from the com-
ments on earlier versions of this article provided by Professors Matthew Craven and Sigrun
Skogly as well as from Dr. Nathalie Prouvez. Any remaining shortcomings are entirely my
Human Rights Quarterly 32 (2010) 601-664 © 2010 by The Johns Hopkins University Press

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