Skip to comments.The United Nations Human Rights Commission
Posted on 05/07/2003 11:10:39 AM PDT by DeuceTraveler
Perhaps some of you were surprised-even shocked-by the re-election last week of Cuba to the UN Human Rights Commission a matter of days after Fidel Castro arrested nearly 80 human rights and pro-democracy activists, and summarily executed three men for attempting to hijack a ferryboat and escape to Florida.
If you were surprised, it was only because you hadnt spent six weeks in Geneva at the last sitting of the Commission, as I did. I suppose if there was a surprise at all, it was that the United States wasnt kicked off the Commission, as it was two years ago.
To sit in Geneva for six weeks, enduring the daily routine of this Commission was one of the most disagreeable tasks I have ever had to undertake. But it was not without its educational value. Let me explain what I learned.
First of all, you cannot expect much from a commission charged with advancing human rights where 53 countries are represented, most of which are among the worlds leading human rights violators. What is the point of discussing and voting on human rights in the company of such countries as Syria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, China, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, or Libya, who presided over the whole circus? Or in the company of countries like South Africa, which thinks that human rights abuses are all right-even massive human rights abuses against black populations--as long as the abusers themselves are also black?
As long as we are satisfied to allow the commission to be this large, and to impose no test for membership, we cannot expect it to seriously address the issue for which it was ostensibly created.
Second, although most countries, including most Western European countries, insist that economic and social rights should be given equal weight with political and civil rights, in fact most countries seem to regard political and civil rights as an expensive luxury that nobody really needs. Meanwhile, other "rights" are confected, rights that can exist only on paper-the right to food, the right to clean air, the right to proper disposal of toxic wastes, etc. In countries where there is no rule of law, any "right" can be readily proclaimed without ever having to meet the test of enforcement. Many Third World countries do just this-in order to establish their moral superiority (that is, their apparently greater devotion to "economic and social rights"), serving at the same time to deflect deflect attention from their atrocities in the civil and political area.
Third, please understand that from the institutional point of view of the United Nations Organization,United human rights are advanced in the world to the degree (but only to the degree) to which bureaucracies are created and expanded. The UN perspective is-if there is a problem, create tax-free jobs for low-life bureaucrats and politicians (mostly from the so-called Third World). If you fail to do this, that proves that "you dont care about human rights." To the extent that you do, by some mysterious means human rights are being advanced-regardless of the actual situation on the ground.
Fourth, the largest country in the world-far larger, indeed, than China-- is the territory represented by the east bank of the Jordan river-the area currently occupied by Israel. To listen to the debates, and to judge by the amount of time devoted to this subject, you would think there was hardly any other human rights problem in the world. This is not to suggest that the subject of human rights in the so-called Occupied Territories is being dealt with anything like an objective manner-I am only speaking of the sheer amount of time spent on the subject. Even the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (which appears to be a human right-of which I was not heretofore aware) could only talk about this tiny strip of land in which less than 2 million people actually live, when after all there are millions, hundreds of millions of people in the world lacking decent housing.
Fifth, far, far too much time is devoted to letting the so-called Non-Governmental Organizations have their say. Most of these, needless to say, are not really non-governmental in any meaningful sense. Some are financed by the UN itself. Some are financed by the European Community or by individual European governments. Others, many others, are financed by even more sinister sources-the Organization of Islamic Countries, or the Arab League, or who knows what. In most cases they represent only themselves. Nonetheless, I would estimate they take up roughly 35 to 40 percent of the time. This has concrete budgetary consequences, because the translators earn $300 an hour-there are five official languages, which means the speeches have to be translated in twenty-five different directions. The United States currently pays 23 percent of the costs of this. The length of the sessions-and the corresponding costs-could be drastically reduced by eliminating so-called NGO participation, which adds absolutely nothing to the deliberations.
Sixth, our State Department appears to be committed to the Commission, regardless of what it does or does not do. We were told this before we left. We saw it when we were there. I am sure even now the Department is already finding excuses for the outrageous decision of the Economic and Social Council to reelect Cuba to membership. Diplomats everywhere are fascinated by process. Outcomes mean little or nothing to them. The worst thing you can do-from a career diplomats point of view-is to walk away from a commission. But that, I submit, is precisely what we should be doing here.
WoW! Four lies in one!
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