Peter J. Peverelli: Human rights measured by the dimensions of culture

Peter J. Peverelli: Human rights measured by the dimensions of culture

Photo Oscar Keys, Unsplash

Peter J. Peverelli

October 5, 2021

Given that human rights issues have always been central in the international discourse and in the Cold Wars between NATO and the Soviet Union/Russia and now in the new US/NATO China Cold War Agenda, we believe it is important to discuss how the concept of human rights – and the Universal Declaration – is itself a cultural construct based on certain values and how the implementation of human rights must vary according to history, cultural values and ways of thinking, or social cosmology.

Peter Peverelli has worked with and in China for about 45 years and is also a leading expert on human rights at the Cross-Cultural Human Rights Centre at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. We are grateful for his permission to publish this research paper from 2016.


The title of the official document of what is generally known as human rights contains the term ‘universal’, implying that they are valid in all corners of the world, regardless the differences between cultures and social practices of various regions.

However, current academic models for studying regional cultures share a core concept of basic values as the drivers of human behaviour. The basic values of nations can differ in various ways, leading to different behaviour in similar circumstances. Several such differences are so basic, that they are bound to lead to different appreciations of rights and obligations.

This explorative paper will re-visit the 7-dimension model of national cultures by Trompenaars, supplemented with ideas from social constructionist organization theory, concentrating on possible consequences for differences between nations in the appreciation of human rights.

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