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Human Rights in Eastern Civilisations

Human Rights in Eastern Civilisations

Professor Surya P. Subedi OBE, KC, DCL
17 April 2024 14.00 BST at the Royal Astronomical Society and Online
From our series: Freedom of Expression, Knowledge and State Authority in Asia


The UN Human Rights agenda and the institutions that created and uphold it are often criticised for their Western-centric dominance and focus. Inherent in this criticism is the idea that human rights are exclusively Western and not equally applicable to other contexts such as Asia.

In his recent book, Human Rights in Eastern Civilisations: Some Reflections of a Former UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Subedi examines the values of Eastern civilisations and their contribution to the development of the UN Human Rights agenda. He rejects the concept of “Asian Values” which is often used to undermine the universality of human rights and instead argues that secularism, personal liberty and universalism are at the heart of both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He demonstrates how cross-fertilisation of values between Eastern and Western civilisations has taken place and how the notion of the universality of human rights has been enriched by the values of different civilisations. 

Professor Subedi is Professor of International Law at the University of Leeds, an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, University of Oxford, and a practising barrister in London. He has published twelve books on international law and human rights.

Professor Subedi was elected by the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 to serve as the UN’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia for six years. In Nepal, he assisted the Prime Minister in resolving a 10-year Maoist conflict and in writing a new democratic constitution. He has also served as an advisor on human rights to the British Foreign Secretary between 2010 and 2015.

He is the Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Asian Journal of International Law. In 2004, he was made honorary OBE for his services to international law. He was decorated with the Suprabal Gorkhadaxinbahu by His late Majesty King Birendra of Nepal in 1998 and was awarded the Prasiddha Prabal Janasewa Shree by the President of Nepal in 2022.

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