Sunday, September 26, 2010

The joke that is the UN Human Rights Council (Zvi)

From Zvi:

To be a credible authority on human rights topics, an organization of states must ensure that a state can only participate if it provides basic human rights for its people and extends the same concepts of human rights to others. So it must:

* provide freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion
* provide free markets
* provide one person-one-vote in free and fair elections
* provide rule of law and criminalize terrorism
* rid itself of laws that are racist and anti-Semitic

While there could be some gray areas, it is absolutely clear which types of regimes would need to be absolutely and vigorously excluded.

Any so-called "human rights commission" that includes Libya and Iran is simply a farce and has zero credibility in the human rights arena. Human rights NGOs should boycott it, and governments should disband it. It is worse than useless. Any so-called "human rights" attack written by Venezuela and Cuba simply erodes the credibility of all human rights resolutions (possibly by design).

Any "human rights" forum that gives equal membership to a brutal dictatorship like Libya and a free country like Canada is the wrong forum for any kind of human rights protection, legislation, reporting, expertise or condemnation. Thus, the UN, which in theory treats all nations more or less equally (except for Israel, of course) is ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG ORGANIZATION to be in charge of human rights activities of any kind.

A separate international commission or organization could be established, one whose membership constraints are specifically crafted to exclude dictatorships (if dictatorships wish to join, they must give up power and establish free democratic systems, which most will refuse to do). There is nothing wrong with a 2-tier system - tier 1 consisting of democratic states and tier 2 consisting of those states that insist on repression. After all, you want dictators to have incentives to grant freedom to their people. Only the free countries would have a voting place in any body that defends human rights. Only such a body would have any reasonable claim to credibility as a world human rights forum.

Regardless, it is certain that the UN cannot and will not function as a competent human rights policeman. The ability of dictators to dominate the UNHRC demonstrates why the UN is fundamentally flawed as a human rights defender. At an international level, it imposes the "tyranny of the majority" (or of the large aggressive unified bloc, anyway), providing no protection against persecution of minority states. It treats thugs and dictators who climb into their UN seats on the backs of countless millions of oppressed people as if they had any right to represent those people. And it treats every government or regime, whether it is the world's oldest or largest democracy or whether it is ruled by the world's most brutal and repressive junta or theocracy, as being identical in rights and privileges. And that is simply wrong.

Some might complain that the people of dictatorships have as much right to be represented fully in the UN as do the people of democratic states. And they would be right! But the sad fact is that the people living under dictatorships are not represented at all in the UN today; only their dictators are represented.

Some might complain that the UN should be there to represent all states, because a UN that does not offer first-class treatment to dictators will be unable to mediate when dictators are involved. And they are perhaps correct, in principle, but only where mediation and security is concerned. Such a function does not require that the UN provide Human Rights Commissions and Relief Works Agencies.

Unlike some, I generally support the existence of a (MORE LIMITED) UN. The world does need a structure that allows governments to coordinate certain kinds of security efforts in a manner that does not reinvent the wheel in every single crisis. This function has been useful at reducing the scope of wars in a highly complex global society. Sometimes even the ability of governments to bluster and act hypocritically has been useful in that regard. But the UNHRC, UNRWA and other purely political organizations that do nothing but perpetuate a 60+ year brutal attack on one small democratic country add nothing to the international system and must be eliminated.

While it is too late to "fix" the UN, it is not too late to deny it credibility in areas where it manifestly cannot be credible.