Too liberal for global governance? International legal human rights system and indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination

Journal of International Political Theory 13 (2):196-214 (2017)
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Abstract

This article considers whether the international legal human rights system founded on liberal individualism, as endorsed by liberal theorists, can function as a fair universal legal regime. This question is examined in relation to the collective right to self-determination demanded by indigenous peoples, who are paradigmatic decent nonliberal peoples. Indigenous peoples’ collective right to self-determination has been internationally recognized in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. This historic event may seem to exemplify the international legal human rights system’s ability to function as a truly global legal regime applicable cross-culturally to all well-ordered societies, whether liberal or nonliberal. The article argues, however, that the collective right to self-determination advocated by indigenous peoples for the sake of cultural integrity is inconsistent with the international legal human rights system founded on liberal individualism. By showing the plausibility of indigenous peoples’ defense of their cultural integrity, this article suggests that the international legal human rights system ought to be reconceptualized to reflect a genuine international consensus on human rights among all well-ordered societies if it is to function as a just mechanism for global governance.

Author's Profile

Ranjoo S. Herr
Bentley College

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