Wednesday, 30 June 2010, 6.15pm

Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ 3

Professor Yasuaki Onuma (University of Tokyo)

An “Intercivilizational” Approach to Peace and Justice

CV

Yasuaki  OnumaYasuaki Onuma is professor for International Law at the faculty of law of the University of Tokyo. He was a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, in Princeton, Yale and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i. Br.. Being a leading expert on the history of International Law and Human Rights, he has published inter alia “An Intercivilizational Approach to Human Rights“ (in press); “Human Rights, States and Civilizations“ (Chikuma Shobo, 1998); “A Normative Approach to War: Peace, War, and Justice in Hugo Grotius“ (ed., Clarendon Press, 1993); “From the Tokyo War Crimes Trial to the Philosophy of Japanese Postwar Responsibilities for War“ (2nd edition) (Toshindo, 1987); “Beyond the Myth of a Monoethnic Society“ (Toshindo, 1986); “The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: An International Symposium“ (Kodansha International, 1986). “The Need for an Intercivilizational Approach to Evaluating Human Rights” (in: Human Rights Dialogue).

Abstract

International peace and justice are usually discussed with reference to Western standards. These stan-dards are not objective however, and are often insensitive and inappropriate to non-Western realities. 
Therefore, Yasuaki Onuma argues for the development of an “intercivilizational” approach. A Western “universalist” approach assumes that a common value system based on Western philosophy will be achieved through legalistic mechanisms; an intercivilizational approach instead assumes the existence of plural value systems and seeks their integration. The notion that what is universal is something Western must be dispelled. Over and over again, the “Asian way,” Islam, the social customs of Hinduism, and the ethics of Confucianism are cited as examples of particularity, while the “European way” or Christianity are not. Unless an intercivilizational approach is adopted, it seems unlikely that a non-Western value could gain universal acceptance. That said, the major human rights instruments and declarations, to which the overwhelming majority of nations are committed, can provide a first cut at identifying intercivilizational human rights. The intercivilizational validity of existing provisions can then be measured by the degree to which their formulation is inclusive.


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