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This paper seeks to present three key arguments that need to be taken
into account during the process of remaking of the world order and recreation of a new
global governance architecture. Firstly, it raises the key issue of the African continent and
the African people being perceived as a problem to be solved rather than a voice to be
heard within global politics. It calls for the African continent to transcend its current
‘subaltern position’ in international relations and make its voice heard within global
governance. Secondly, it makes a case for the use of oral history as an ideal medium to
bring the voices of the subaltern to the notice of the Human Rights Council and as a key
methodology in the current endeavor to understand different situations of human rights
violations. Finally, it grapples with the important question of whose values and whose
voice should underpin the universal human rights discourse and global governance.
The setting up of the United Nations Human Rights Council with a responsibility for promoting universal human rights at this crucial moment in human history must be appreciated as long as it will manage to facilitate dialog and in the process breaking the strong bonds of Western hegemonic monologue and cultural imperialism.
The current universalism is not a product of democracy and consensus, but was largely created through conquest and violence. The main crisis in the current human rights regime is that it has taken the form of Euro-American neoliberalism masquerading as universalism, imposing its core values across the world as global values, and inevitably provoking contestation and resistance. Universalism should take the form of an achievement of progressive human efforts rather than a product of conquest and domination.
As the human globe reconstitute itself into a ‘global village,’ the emphasis on individual rights is no longer adequate and sufficient as the basis of peaceful human coexistence for this extended global family. The image of the human globe as a ‘village’ raises the question of the importance of communal rights if this village is to be habitable. It also raises the issue of values to underpin life in this village.
This village should be governed by the spirit of Ubuntu which emphasizes interdependence of human beings. Under Ubuntu there is space for the subaltern to survive. Ubuntu emphasizes the importance of empathy, sharing and cooperation.