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Although the concept of human rights has advanced since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, the universal applicability of its content has been challenged. Employing historicism, this article treats the Universal Declaration and the subsequent international human rights treaties as social constructs that are not theoretically grounded and argues that human rights instruments serve as critics of all prevailing cultures and attempt to curb the traditional notions and practices that tend to undermine human dignity. The second major argument of the article holds that the Universal Declaration ushered in a new international culture that has been evolving. This cosmopolitan subculture struggles against the dominant communitarian ones and the principle of state sovereignty, both of which are upheld by the powerful and the privileged. The disadvantaged segments' ability to use the human rights instruments and the strength of the international human rights culture depend on accepting human rights as historical constructions and appreciation of human rights instruments as more than legal documents, but as means of cultural transformation.
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