With Mishana Hosseinioun
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
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