Last week, at the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum, the annual meeting of human rights and democracy activists from around the world, Bård Glad Pedersen, Norway’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had very strong words in support of human rights defenders and against dictatorships. He pointed out how autocratic regimes coordinate at the UN to undermine human rights, something that also hurts confidence in the UN, as he said.
Below is this rare excerpt coming from a European democracy, admitting the sad reality of the UN Human Rights Council which UN Watch consistently fights to expose.
We need to defend those who bravely stand up to protect human rights. We must show that the world is watching. We advocate the importance of protection of human rights defenders in the UN. We support the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. We support individuals, organizations and networks that are promoting human rights for all. We support security training and capacity building but I think we can do more and we must do more.
The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place today. However, the gap between commitment on one hand and reality on the ground on the other hand is unacceptable. I think it is important that we recognize that the international system to promote and protect human rights is not equipped to address all these challenges fully and adequately.
In the UN, states with bad human rights records are actively working to undermine human rights and they are building alliances among themselves. This threatens human rights and also confidence in the UN. The answer is not to cave in, the answer is to respond forcefully. I believe it is even more important that we, we who believe in human rights, are active, committed and visible within the system and that we actively advocate the right of civil society to be heard in these forums. To promote human rights, we must work multilaterally in the UN and must work to strengthen the system. We must work regionally through the Council of Europe and support similar institutions in other regions of the world. We must work bilaterally, address issues, share concerns and build alliances across geographies.
The most rewarding and perhaps important part of my job is to meet human rights defenders. Sometimes part of the importance is that it is visible for totalitarian regimes that we meet. Other times, I am asked not to talk about the meetings because it would increase risks for the brave people who share their stories. The meetings are valuable because it gives insight and inspiration to continue also our efforts. Your strong voices and bravery makes a powerful impression.
In a year that has seen protests in the Ukraine, Venezuela and Turkey, to name but a few, the UN Human Right’s Council resolution, passed on Friday 28 March, on The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, tried to safeguard this right.
Yet, despite its significance, its road to approval was paved with difficulties and idiosyncrasies: Continue reading ‘Shaky road to important peaceful protest resolution’
The General Assembly today elected by acclamation Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua as President of its sixty-third session to begin in September. Mr. Brockmann – a Catholic priest who is described as a “stern critic” of the United States – delivered an inaugural address in which he called for greater “democratization” of the United Nations, increased efforts to combat hunger, poverty, and terrorism, as well as more cooperation on climate change, human rights, and disarmament.
“Our nations must be united in the struggle to democratize the United Nations… I firmly believe solidarity is essential to ensure that we achieve our common goals,” said Ambassador Brockmann. “I firmly believe in the revitalizing power of love.”
What the ex-Sandinista means by “democracy,” of course, is more power at the UN to dictatorships like Syria, Zimbabwe and Cuba, and less to elected liberal democracies on the Security Council like the U.S., France and the U.K.
In a jab at the US, Brockmann said the UN must prevent “acts of aggression such as those occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a comment that drew a quick rebuke.
“The president of the General Assembly is supposed to be a uniter,” said Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission. “We have made it clear that these crazy comments are not acceptable, and we hope he refrains from this talk and gets to work on General Assembly business.”
For more, click here.
What This Council Can Do For the People of Burma
UN Watch Speech before UN Human Rights Council
Special Session on Human Rights Situation in Burma
2 October 2007
Delivered by Leon Saltiel, Director of Communications, UN Watch
Thank you, Mr. President.
We gather here today to discuss the emergency situation in Burma. The military regime cloaks its acts — and its shame — behind an iron curtain, and so we have no exact numbers of what has gone on in the past week. But all of the smuggled reports confirm one thing: a great many have been arrested, a great many have been killed. We know that we are dealing with crimes against innocent civilians on a massive scale.
But what can this Human Rights Council do? This body has no power to send boots on the ground. It has no physical power whatsoever. One is reminded of the famous story told about Joseph Stalin. On being warned that persecution of Catholics would anger the Pope, the Soviet dictator reportedly replied: “The Pope? And how many divisions does he have?” Continue reading ‘What This Council Can Do For the People of Burma’