Tuesday, March 4, 2008

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Principled criticism -- and bureaucratic politics -- at the UN

Frances Williams reports in the Financial Times that one arm of the UN is criticizing another arm of the United Nations:

In a speech to the opening of a four-week session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, [UN Secretary General] Ban [Ki-Moon] questioned whether the council was “fully meeting the high expectations” of the international community.

These were “that this council will recognise and promote the universal application of human rights values – and that it will do so without favour, without selectivity, without being impacted by any political machinations around the world”.

In its nearly two years of existence, the council has attracted many of the same criticisms as the discredited UN Human Rights Commission it replaced. In particular it has issued repeated condemnations of Israel while showing a strong reluctance to denounce rights abuses elsewhere.

African and Muslim countries, which have a majority of seats on the 47-nation body, have consistently blocked criticism of the Sudanese government for human rights violations in Darfur and its failure to bring perpetrators to justice. African solidarity has also protected Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from censure.

Well, this criticism certainly seems well-placed.

Of course, as one reads on, one finds that Ban also has his own bureaucratic interests in making this criticism:

Mr Ban’s remarks additionally appeared aimed at heading off a bid by the African group to rein in the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR), who is appointed by the UN secretary-general with an independent mandate to advance the cause of human rights globally.

The office of Louise Arbour, the present high commissioner, has issued highly critical reports and statements on abuses around the world, including Darfur, Iraq and Uzbekistan.

Mr Ban said the OHCHR had “all the authority of my office behind it” and told the council that it should proceed on a “collaborative path”, as envisaged by the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Ban is clearly in the right in this little tussle -- but this also shows how bureaucratic politics exist at the global level as well as the national level.

posted by Dan on 03.04.08 at 08:41 AM


Ban Ki-Moon is the most useless and pathetic Secretary General in teh history of the UN. Never has a Secretary General been so voiceless and weak. He is a complete joke.

posted by: Joe M. on 03.04.08 at 08:41 AM [permalink]

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