White Paper – Proposal #3

Kofi Annan, one of the most vocal critics of the original United Nations Human Rights Commission.

One aspect of the United Nation’s attempts to deal with international violations of human rights that I want to deal with is the transition from the UN Human Rights Commission to the UN Human Rights Council. The Commission was established in 1946, with the intended focus of promoting human rights and helping states elaborate treaties. However, criticism of the organization was so severe that in 2007, it was replaced by the newly formed Human Rights Council. That criticism was rooted in the fact that certain members of the Commission were some of the worst human rights violators. Those states would often “band together to block investigations into their own records – or those of their allies” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).

Unfortunately, it seems that the Human Rights Council has been confronted with many of the same problems that stymied the Commission. Bloc voting is particularly difficult to overcome, where different regional blocs vote based on political motives and the priorities of their particular region, rather than considering the cases at face value. One of the main reasons that the Council so readily dismisses cases of human rights violations is that the world’s established democracies refuse to take action, leading to countries like Zimbabwe, with its abysmal human rights record, having seats on the Council.

As an American, I find this particularly troubling, especially in light of our government’s supposed willingness to promote democracy in other countries- going so far as to invade those countries and remove the dictators in power, and enforcing democratic elections. I plan to further investigate why powerful democratic nations such as the United States refuse to take a more central role on the Council, when we are so ready to interfere in other international matters.

(I will admit to scanning Wikipedia for some background on the transition from Commission to Council.)

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