October 4, 2005

U.N. Reform?

When Kofi Annan cited "real progress" as a result of the recent U.N. Reform Summit, Anne Bayefsky posted this Editor's Note at the website Eye On The U.N. Here is part of what she had to say:

Kofi Annan said the Summit was a "revolution in international affairs"; its Outcome document "made real progress on terrorism, human rights, democracy..."; the detailed language [on the Human Rights Council] developed in the lead-up to the Summit...enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of Member States"; and "The Summit contains...an unqualified condemnation by all Member States of terrorism..."

Every one of those statements is false.

The Summit was closer to a nail in the coffin of UN-led multilateralism than to its resurrection. The Outcome document:

* failed to adopt a definition of terrorism (the ultimate "qualification" of any condemnation of terrorism)
* urged upon us the image of the terrorist as victim
* tied down democracy to development and not the other way around
* refused to identify any universal constituent elements of democracy
* and exhibited very little support for any serious conditions for joining the UN's primary human rights body, (along with the many other detailed proposals for a new Council).

Mr. Annan took exception to Bayefsky's remarks, and asked her to post his reply, which of course she did. Bayefsky then proceeded to detail her case in an article entitled U.N. "Reform" Sham. On the matter of the "real progress" made on the issue of human rights, and the creation of a new U.N. "Human Rights Council" to replace the current dysfunctional Human Rights Commission, here is Bayefsky's response:

The Secretary-General's correspondence states: "The Secretary-General is accurate in saying that the Summit made "real progress" - ...on human rights (...agreement on the need for a new Human Rights Council, even without the details of how that Council will operate). On the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General made clear that there is still a lot of work to do to put the agreement to create the Council into practice. He said on 17 September: "...negotiations should resume on the basis of the detailed language developed in the lead-up to the Summit, which enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of Member States."

The rhetorical subterfuge here is astonishing.

The Summit document states: "We resolve to create a Human Rights Council." Still a lot of work to do? Just a matter of putting the agreement into practice? Not a single further detail is provided.

The detailed language in the lead-up to the Summit enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of states? The penultimate draft was full of directly inconsistent proposals in square-brackets. Thirty-two bracketed texts in three paragraphs.

Agreement on the need for a "new" Human Rights Council? The Non-aligned Movement (NAM) never abandoned the following positions on the nature of the Council: refusal of the suggestion to make the Council a standing body, continuation of the status of the Council as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, 53 members, elected by a simple majority, refusal of any criteria for membership other than geographic distribution, and rejection of a mandatory review process for members. If all of the NAM proposals were adopted, the "new" Human Rights Council would have only one "new" feature – a name change from Commission to Council. That is the sole extent of the agreement surrounding a Human Rights Council that emerged from the Summit.

Posted by dan at October 4, 2005 8:41 PM