Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Controversy arises over proposed UN Human Rights Council

The draft resolution aimed at creating a new and better arm of the United Nations for dealing with human rights has met with opposition from many groups and governments as well as support. The new United Nations Human Rights Council would include many improvements over the current Commission on Human Rights, but opponents argue that this compromise is not enough. New policies that the draft includes are: a majority (96) UN member states have to elect the country to the Council, states on the council can be removed by a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly, more sessions throughout the year, and periodic reviews of human rights in 191 member countries. But these proposals do leave loopholes and do not solve all of the problems that the current council has. The current body meets for six weeks a year, while this proposal would increase it to only ten weeks.

In a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jimmy Carter, Oscar Arias, Kim Dae Jung, Shirin Ebadi, and Desmond Tutu, have voiced their support for the resolution. To read this Op-Ed, click here. Amnesty International has called upon the United States to support the new UN council, calling it, “the best chance in decades to establish a more effective UN human rights body.” You can click here to read their press release.

Conversely, Freedom House strongly criticizes this new resolution as too weak to correct the problems that the current human rights body faces. To read the press release from Freedom House, click here. The United States government has taken a similar stance over the new Human Rights Council, refusing to support it at the UN.

These two recent reactions to the draft resolution epitomize the most common reactions to the proposals for strengthening and distancing itself from the scandals that have plagued the Commission on Human Rights in the past. The United Nations’ current reformation process is focused on how best to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been in existence for almost 60 years. The fear is this: any more negotiations could lead to regression on the issue, setting the UN’s reform goals back many years. The new council is a step in the right direction for the UN; the only question now, is it big enough?


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