The ECtHR sometimes relies on a notion of European consensus. Reasons why consensus is seen as important include values of identity, and democratic decision making. The question is to what extent relying on consensus is justified. I propose to understand the debate on the universality of international human rights as a relevantly similar concern about consensus, bringing the two areas together to illustrate that consensus is limited in at least one way: it is not what gives human rights normative weight. First, I explore what universality entails, and why it does not speak to the normative force of human rights. Second, I draw a parallel to the debate about consensus, arguing that consensus is – similarly – not what makes human rights valuable. A sketch of what kind of argument would do the work consensus and universality aspire to do concludes.
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