The UN General Assembly adopted by a vote today the proposal to replace the much-maligned Commission on Human Rights with the more streamlined and possibly more effective Human Rights Council. The only countries that voted against were the United States (which originally proposed the Council, ironically), Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau.
Given how ineffective the Commission on Human Rights has become as a tool for promoting and defending human rights, almost anything is better at this point. Let’s hope the Council gets off to a good start with some solid members with proven track records as human rights defenders, rather than the parade of despots who have come to dominate the Commission.
From the UN Press Release:
Welcoming the vote, which was greeted by prolonged applause, Mr. Annan, who first suggested the creation of the new Council in a report to the General Assembly one year ago, said it gave the UN “a much needed chance to make a new beginning in its work for human rights around the world.”
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 170 in favour with 4 against – the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau – with Venezuela, Iran and Belarus abstaining.
In opening remarks to the Assembly before the vote, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who led the often contentious negotiations on the issue, called today’s session a “decisive moment” not only for human rights but for the standing of the UN as a whole.
Highlighting several elements that would make the Council a “significant improvement” over the much-maligned Commission, he noted the Council’s higher status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, its increased number of meetings throughout the year, equitable geographical representation and also the voting rights associated with membership.
“Members of the Council would be elected by the majority of the members of the General Assembly, in other words by an absolute majority. Each candidate would be voted on individually and directly and would have to obtain at least ninety-six votes of support in a secret ballot,” Mr. Eliasson said.
“The General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting, could suspend the rights of membership of a Council member who commits gross and systematic violations of human rights,” he added.
The new Council will have 47 members. The first elections are planned for 9 May and the first session will take place on 19 June, according to the resolution.
2 thoughts on “General Assembly Creates New Human Rights Council”
just a response to your post of what I posted online about the laptop:
the idea that we can use technology as a savior for mankind in any setting at all is preposterous. for the same reason we still have poverty today, here in America, we will still have poverty in Africa, or wherever these laptops are going. Look at our ghettos, even at our middle class neighborhoods- has adding computers, wireless internet, etc, really done anything to bring greater education to the people in the lower classes of our society? things havent really changed, and there’s no reason to think giving kids laptops in the 3rd world will do any better.
I don’t think anyone is saying that giving a kid in Soweto a laptop is going to magically address all of the systemic problems of poverty and inequality in his country. But simply put information is a powerful tool, and if you put that in the hands of people who don’t have it, many more things become possible.
Otherwise, we are just going to continue giving handouts and unpayable loans to the developing world that don’t actually empower real people and communities.
As to the US, my first job was working with homeless people in LA. One of the best things we did was provide them with computers and access to a telephone and a fax (there was no internet back then). This access to communications, as much as having shelter and food, was a key step in their being able to find their own way out of poverty and towards self-sufficiency.