chapter  1
Pages 14

At the start of the twenty-first century human rights issues permeate most dimensions of political discussion. The foreign policies of many states are judged by their contribution to human rights promotion and aspects of domestic policy are assessed by reference to human rights standards created by international organisations. In the last quarter of the twentieth century international organisations brokered general agreements on human rights, conceived as minimum standards below which we should not allow ourselves to fall, about which there is a growing consensus, if not yet unanimity. However these developments have been accompanied by a degree of dissent from political theorists: ‘human rights are just … what we in Western liberal democracies believe. They are not, as they purport to be, universal or timeless nor do they justify intervention in the practices of others’ (Mendus 1995: 16).