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The New Democracies and the Challenge of Human Rights

N. Barney Pityana

Human rights have a special role to play in contemporary developments that seek to sustain democracy. All human rights must be seen as “universal, interdependent and inter-related,” despite many of the ways in which globalization is pursued. The problems endemic to a globalized economy--inequality, unemployment, and poverty--need not be seen as overwhelming. Signs of change can be found in recent international discussions and in the eagerness of leaders in the developing nations of Africa to address these inequities at a systemic level. The reciprocal duties that accompany claims to rights have been taken on to some extent by individuals, states, and international bodies. Still, positive change is endangered by the problems of weak or failed states, and by the tendency of powerful nations to act unilaterally. The initiatives of regional institutions such as the African Union open up opportunities for national cooperation and wide-ranging coalitions, and fuel the amazing vibrancy currently evident in Africa.

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