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With Mishana Hosseinioun

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A New UN Human Rights Council: fait accompli or faux pas?

By Mishana Hosseinioun

August 6, 2005

At sixty, the United Nations has hit its mid-life crisis and it is perfectly reasonable that it should want a makeover. Rather than buying a red convertible, however, it has opted for a little nip here, a tuck there, and most predictably, a facelift. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan's 2005 report on UN reform entitled, In Larger Freedom, outlines his vision to implant a Human Rights Council in place of what he and others perceive as an otherwise `sagging' Commission on Human Rights. Whereas the Commission is a mere subsidiary body of ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council and assembles once every year, a Council would be a standing body, comparable in constitution and level of authority to the Security Council, and capable of meeting as often as necessary.

Despite ongoing criticism, the Commission on Human Rights surpassed expectations in more ways that one when it convened for its 61st and possibly penultimate session at the United Nations in Geneva this April. While it regrettably failed to produce any decisive action with regard to the fate of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, for instance, it devoted considerable time to strategies for appeasing Palestinian-Israeli tensions. Fair enough, statistically speaking, but still inadequate by human standards, it may be added.

Although the fate of the present UN Commission on Human Rights remains up in the air, it will most likely be sealed at the upcoming General Assembly meeting in September. In the meantime, alternate proposals for a Human Rights Council have been put forward-one hopeful indicator of the possibility for compromise amidst contention.

Nevertheless, it does not hurt to question whether a makeover would do more harm than good, or even help to improve human rights conditions globally at all. Sure, at this point in history most countries' human rights records could use a little bleaching and ironing, but what has that ever done beyond removing surface imperfections? Perhaps it is time for a change of heart and not just a wardrobe change for the Commission on Human Rights-the seasoned peace-making instrument that after years of respectable, hard work still overlooks the importance of passing resolutions that hold much more than mere symbolic and moral weight.

Mishana Hosseinioun is the Program Director of International Convention on Human Rights (ICHR), a non-profit dedicated to drafting a legally enforceable international human rights document. She is a longstanding intern in Mayor Gavin Newsom's office in San Francisco and a recent graduate of Rhetoric and Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Email Mishana at Mishana@ichr.org


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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