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Resources updated between Monday, November 21, 2005 and Sunday, November 27, 2005

Friday, November 25, 2005

The silence was deafening. On Wednesday the UN General Assembly could not manage to pass a resolution on human rights abuse in Sudan and once again said nothing in the face of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Also this week it was decided, in the backrooms, that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency would not push the case of Iran's nuclear (and genocidal) ambitions onto the agenda of the UN Security Council. Back in September there was much extravagant and erroneous reporting that the decision to move Iran to the Council had been taken. The IAEA subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then Iran announced its intention to obliterate a UN member state. Acquiring the means to do so, according to the IAEA, is still not a sufficient threat to international peace and security to warrant the attention of the UN Security Council.

Then there was the case of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Hezbollah terrorists launched an unprovoked attack on Israel across international borders. Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor reported that UNIFIL was warned in advance by the Israel Defence Forces about preparations being made for an impending attack and refused to intervene.

The UN Security Council could not manage to adopt a resolution on the obvious breach of international peace and security by the cross-border attack from Lebanon of Hezbollah against Israel. It did, however, manage a lower level expression of concern in the form of a press statement read out by the President of the Security Council which momentarily jettisoned the usual "cycle of violence." The statement expressed "deep concern about the hostilities, which were initiated by Hizbollah." Although hot pursuit across international borders in response to an armed attack is a legitimate act of self-defense on Israel's part, the Council felt it necessary to admonish "all parties to respect the Blue Line." It also remembered that Lebanon has a government and a legal responsibility to prevent its territory from being used to launch attacks against a neighbor. The press statement specifically "call[ed] on the Government of Lebanon to...exert its monopoly over the use of force all over its territory..."

This week a deal was struck between the European Union and the Palestinian Observer to withdraw the anomalous resolution on the rights of the Palestinian child. The Europeans finally figured out that the hijacking of the UN agenda by the Organization of the Islamic Conference was a little too blatant with three UN resolutions on children: one on all children, one on the girl child and one on Palestinian children. Parts of the resolution have reportedly migrated to another resolution to be introduced next week at the General Assembly's plenary session, so the jury is still out as to what got sold. If not much, that's one of 21 annual discriminatory General Assembly resolutions on Israel down.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee, the primary human rights body of the Assembly, concluded its 2005 session with only 6 country-specific resolutions that's only 6 UN member states it managed to name as seriously violating human rights..

In a series of resolutions roadblock after roadblock was put in the way of future UN action on human rights, all cast of course in the mold of human rights protection: "diversity of democratic systems in electoral processes," "unilateral coercive measures", "the promotion of peace," and the "defamation of religions."

As for the UN "reform" train, on most everything it's still hanging around the station.

Anne Bayefsky

The silence was deafening. On Wednesday the UN General Assembly could not manage to pass a resolution on human rights abuse in Sudan and once again said nothing in the face of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Two Steps Forward and Ten Steps Back Editor's Note

Secretary General Kofi Annan is trying to ram through the up to 1.9 billion renovation plan (up from 1.2 billion the last time round) by January 1, 2006. Congress needs responses to a lot of unanswered questions before the huge 22% of the final bill is demanded from American taxpayers. Such as: What is the precise breakdown of the 2,587,000 square feet proposed to undergo renovation? What is the cost per square foot of the component parts, taking into account that storage space, basements and garages ought to be able to be renovated at a much reduced price?

Annan calls on Assembly to quickly approve $1.6 billion Headquarters renovation Article

Israel's Magen David Adom, or the red shield of David emblem, may finally get some formal status from the International Committee of the Red Cross which has recognized Christian and Muslim symbols for decades. Of course they don't plan on actually recognizing a Jewish symbol standing alone but instead are considering a "red crystal" on the grounds of neutrality.

Diplomatic Conference Will Vote on Admitting Magen David Adom into the Red Cross Article

Tom Lantos

Now it's time for the follow-up. This December the United States needs to stop joining consensus on the financial package for the UN 2006-07 biennium. The only way to put an end to the UN bodies which have been dedicated to the demonization of Israel for decades is to call for a vote or get serious about making a deal for their elimination.

U.S. Representatives Support Bush Administration Call to End to U.N. Bodies Dedicated to Palestinians Article

Jan Eliasson

The latest UN reform update by General Assembly President Jan Eliasson provides a clear indication of the yawning gulf remaining between UN members on most subjects. So how dumbed down will "reform" go? And who is going to claim at the end, it's real reform?

General Assembly President on UN Reform update Development

First time Security Council has criticized Hizbollah by name. Not a resolution, only a press statement read by the President. But it's about time.

Press Statement of the Security Council on Blue Line incidents between Israel and Lebanon Development

November 24, 2005

Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

A shock to all those who care about human rights. The UN General Assembly's Third Committee, which is the lead body for humanitarian affairs, could not even bring the situation of human rights in Sudan to a vote. A vote on the substance was prevented from taking place following a successful motion to take "no action" on the matter. The no-action motion was adopted by 84 votes for to 79 against. The draft resolution would have condemned "continued violence against civilians, including sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture, widespread displacement, denial of religious freedom and other violations of human rights throughout the country." And it would have called for a cessation of violence, immediate safe humanitarian access, and the disarming of the Janjaweed militias.

But Nigeria, speaking for the African group, objected that the resolution would "divert attention from the urgent humanitarian situation." One more example of using the UN platform to turn human rights precepts on their head. The motto of those states standing against country-specific UN resolutions might well be "appropriate and subvert." Obviously it is the adoption of the resolution that would have drawn attention to the urgent situation.

Once more in its sorry history in this context, the UN has proved itself incapable of taking action against genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Voting Record on the no-action motion on the Draft Resolution on the situation of human rights in Sudan Development

Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo

This draft UN General Assembly resolution, which aimed to mainstream human rights considerations in UN operations, was a revised version of what had originally been a much stronger statement. In order to garner the support of 59 UN member states as co-sponsors and encourage others not to object, it deleted provisions from the original version. Deleted, for example, were provisions which welcomed efforts "to ensure that human rights are integrated throughout the work of the United Nations" and called upon states "to implement all universal human rights norms." It also redirected attention to "encourages the...international financial and multilateral trading systems to continue to mainstream human rights in their policies and objectives."

The United States threatened to make amendments if the matter was brought to the floor. The South African delegation countered by tabling a series of amendments which would have made the resolution even worse.

What did the South Africans want? Among other things they advocated deleting all of these provisions:

    Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action;...
    Recognizing that human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations;...
    Supporting the strengthening of linkages between the normative work of the United Nations system and its operational activities;...
    4. Encourages the:
    (a) Security Council to continue to develop cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights;
    (b) Economic and Social Council to continue to integrate the promotion and protection of human rights in all areas of its work;"

Since the result of pressing any amendments would have been a defeat of the U.S. proposals and the success of those from South Africa, the main sponsor of the resolution (Belgium) decided to withdraw it altogether.

Sections already deleted in the revised version which Belgium tabled on the last day of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, are underlined:

    Recognizing the essential importance of the United Nations system in promoting international human rights instruments and adhering to international humanitarian law and international human rights standards in all aspects of its peace and security activities,
    ...
    1. Welcomes the:
    (a) Recent efforts of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that human rights are integrated throughout the work of the United Nations;
    ...
    (d) United Nations agreement on a human rights-based approach to development cooperation of 2003;
    ...
    4. Encourages the:
    (a) Security Council to strengthen the links and to continue to develop cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, inter alia, through reports of the High Commissioner to the Council and involvement of the High Commissioner in the implementation of all human rights provisions of Security Council resolutions;
    ...
    (b) United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes;
    ...
      (ii) To implement the United Nations common understanding on a human rights-based approach to development cooperation;
    ...
    5. Encourages the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
    ...
    (b) To intensify her efforts to integrate human rights into development, humanitarian and rule of law activities and to further develop and implement the action 2 initiative, inter alia, through enhancing cooperation with United Nations bodies, funds and programmes;
    (c) To also intensify her efforts to improve coordination and cooperation among United Nations agencies and programmes active in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular with respect to the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration3 and the Millennium Development Goals, and to engage in a dialogue with concerned Governments for that purpose;
    6. Calls upon Member States:
    (a) To implement all universal human rights norms and to integrate the promotion and protection of human rights into national policies;
    (b) To further contribute actively towards mainstreaming of human rights at the national, regional and international level;

    Revised Draft Resolution on Human rights mainstreaming in the United Nations System Development

Johan Verbeke

This was a draft UN General Assembly resolution that was originally a strong statement aimed to ensure that human rights considerations were part of the lifeblood of UN bodies across the board also known as "mainstreaming." It never made it.

Draft Resolution on Human rights mainstreaming in the United Nations system Development

Kofi Annan

This report of the Secretary General on the implementation of the Durban Declaration is a clear refutation of all those who claim that follow-up to the 2001 Durban racism conference is a benign activity. He includes a submission from an NGO called BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. It highlights BADIL's website, despite the fact that the site highlights a call for "a boycott, divestment and sanctions" against the UN member state of Israel. He does, however, include an enunciation of the NGO's activities, "such as the Nakba Memorial, commemorating the massive Palestinian eviction and dispossession in 1948." -"Nakba" is the Arabic for the "catastrophe" of the creation of the state of Israel.

Report of the Secretary-General on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action Development

Lauding the outcome of the UN Durban racism conference is no problem for almost all UN member states. The vote in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee was 172 for, 3 against (U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands,) and 2 abstentions (Australia and Canada.) Just before the vote oral amendments were introduced that put "anti-semitism" firmly back in the text, and deleted the mandatory call for a Durban 2. Taking its place was a phrase "takes note of...appeal for convening a five-year review of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and in this context urges Member States and the relevant stakeholders to give due consideration to this appeal with a view to its examination at the 61st session." Said the U.S. explaining their negative vote simply: "The World Conference in Durban was deeply flawed and divisive and this resolution endorses the outcome of that conference and for this reason is also deeply flawed."

Voting Record on the Draft Resolution on the Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Decl. and Program of Action Development

Round two of this controversial resolution in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. According to negotiators, at this point "anti-semitism" was headed for elimination under pressure from members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. A typographical error left in both versions of the paragraph: the version which was intended to be introduced (paragraph 42 excluding "anti-semitism), and the prior version which was to be deleted (paragraph 43 including "anti-semitism".) Also in this revised draft was much stronger language demanding a second Durban conference: "32. Decides to convene a five-year review of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action by no later than 2007, and to this end calls upon the Commission on Human Rights to act as a preparatory committee for this event, to formulate a concrete plan for the review and to provide regular updates and reports to both the Secretary-General and the General Assembly;"

Revised Draft Resolution on the Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action Development

Stafford Neil

This resolution has been controversial since the day it was introduced. Extensive negotiations have always included battles over the inclusion of the word "anti-semitism" - it has gone both ways. This year, round one included the word 'anti-semitism', and welcomed the appeal of a group of UN-appointed experts to hold a five-year review of the implementation of the Durban Declaration - UN-eze for the convening of Durban 2.

Draft Resolution on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action Development

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee adopts a number of resolutions on democracy, some sponsored by democracies and some by non-democracies. This one comes from the democratic side and even the non-democratic members did not want to be seen to be voting against "the principle of periodic and genuine elections." Of course voting at the UN is not quite the same thing as voting at home.

Draft Resolution on Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization Development

Maged Abdel Fattah

A straight up-down vote pitting the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, with its automatic General Assembly majority, against the rest. 117 for, 51 against and 4 abstentions. The main sponsor was Egypt and the resolution purported to slam globalization as the slippery slope towards "global monoculture."

Voting Record on the Draft Resolution on Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights Development

Javad Zarif

Human rights here is the favored cosmetic of the political deviant. The main sponsor of this UN General Assembly resolution - entitled "Human rights and cultural diversity" - was Iran. Iran was joined by such champions of diversity as China, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria et al. No state wanting to appear to be against diversity, the resolution was adopted by consensus. It is, however, yet another example of false consensus. The U.S. went along with it only after explaining that the provision which "Recognizes the right of everyone to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications," means something other than what appears to everybody else.

Draft Resolution on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity Development

The United States joined consensus on this resolution of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, despite the fact that it took direct aim at US immigration laws and borders controls.

Amendments to the Draft Resolution on the Protection of Migrants Development

Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar

The United States is almost completely isolated on this UN General Assembly resolution which stands in opposition to many aspects of an American outlook - beginning with who, when and how has a "right" to develop. The vote in the UN Third Committee was 172 for, 2 against (U.S. and Marshall Islands), 5 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Sweden.) Put forward by the so-called Non-Aligned Movement plus China, representing 114 UN members, the resolution has an automatic majority.

Voting Record on the Draft Resolution on the Right to Development Development

The distortion in favor of a UN hero and US loser is astonishing. The New York Times headline, November 24, 2005: "U.S. and Europe Put Off Referral of Iran Case to Security Council"; The New York Times headline, September 25, 2005: "Nuclear Agency Votes to Report Iran to U.N. Security Council for Treaty Violations." The message here? The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize, is doing a great job. The United States is responsible for the failure to move Iran's efforts at mass destruction to the UN Security Council. The facts? The IAEA has never decided to move Iran's nuclear ambitions to the Security Council, and the one country trying hardest to change this inaction is the United States.

U.S. and Europe Put Off Referral of Iran Case to Security Council Article

Chris Patten

Answering the dilemma posed by Professor Steinberg requires answering two more questions. Why do positions of public authority (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, EU Commissioner for External Relations) lend incumbents to Jewish state-bating to a greater degree than positions of a more private character (university professor, research institute director, university chancellor)? Secondly, to what extent is the reference to familiar anti-semitism being used as a relatively easy vehicle towards changing a public persona, while averring clear statements that the demonization of Israel is a form of anti-semitism (and calling for its end)?

The Mary Robinson dilemma Article

November 23, 2005

The United States made a statement in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee in which it took strong exception to the references in the resolution to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was particularly concerned that the resolution quoted selectively from the ICC statute and in so doing misrepresented international law. And yet the US joined consensus in adopting the resolution after claiming its participation was subject to these "understandings." Those understandings will never be reproduced on any UN site, while the resolution itself will be paraded around the world.

Explanation of Vote by the United States on the Draft Resolution on the Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons Development

This resolution is another example of false consensus at the UN General Assembly. The American explanation of their vote (above) indicates serious disagreements that were not manifested in the actual vote.

Draft Resolution on the Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons Development

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia

The majority of UN member states either support motions to take no action on country-specific resolutions, or abstain in such numbers that the resolutions are doomed to failure. The argument against country-specific resolutions appropriates the essential language of human rights and then turns it on its head. Malaysia has made UN-gibberish an art-form.

Explanation of Vote by Malaysia on the Draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan Development

Cuba said the resolution on Uzbekistan "dooms to failure" the efforts to reform the UN human rights system. For Cuba, "reform" means moving from the current practice of identifying a miniscule number of states with human rights problems and reducing it to nil.

Voting record on the Draft resolution on the Situation of human rights in Uzbekistan Development

This motion to take no action in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on criticizing human rights violations in Uzbekistan came close to succeeding. 65 for and 75 against. The battle lines have firmed up. A motion to take no action on a resolution, which if successful avoids a straight up and down vote on the merits, permits two speakers for and against. The players? China and Belarus spoke in favor of no-action. Canada and the European Union spoke against.

Voting record on the no-action motion on the Draft Resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan Development

The European Union statement on the resolution critical of human rights violations by Uzbekistan, which was delivered in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, had a highly unusual component. For many years, the UN Commission on Human Rights has held closed door sessions on situations of "gross and systematic" human rights violations. In this resolution, the European Union referred to the proceedings taken against Uzbekistan in those closed door sessions. Perhaps this move opens up a new avenue for follow-up or increased scrutiny for many cases of gross and systematic abuse. For the vast majority of such cases these private proceedings are the last resort, because political alliances make it impossible to bring the situation onto the public agenda of the Human Rights Commission.

Draft Resolution on the Situation of human rights in Uzbekistan Development

The UN General Assembly once again sends the message that protecting human rights stands on the opposite side from countering terrorism. And yet, under siege for alleged human rights abuses "while countering terrorism," the United States decided to co-sponsor this resolution. The resolution, which was adopted by consensus in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, makes requests for a large number of reports and addresses a variety of UN bodies on the subject of "protecting human rights while countering terrorism." But there is not a single request for a report on the duty of states to protect citizens from the violations of rights resulting from terrorism.

Revised Draft Resolution on the Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Development

The Asian region (which includes many Arab states) is the only region in the world which does not have a regional human rights body. In other regions there are: the Organization of the American States and the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights; the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights; the Organization of African Unity and the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights. The underpinnings of each of these bodies are regional human rights treaties, which do not exist for Asia. This UN General Assembly resolution, which was adopted by consensus in the UN's Third Committee, calls for a UN-funded human rights training and documentation center for South-West Asia and the Arab region. It remains to be seen how accessible such a center or its services will be for people living in undemocratic states all over this region. Such escapades also have a tendency to substitute "technical cooperation" for actual improvements in government-controlled human rights conditions.

Draft Resolution on the Establishment of a United Nations human rights training and documentation centre for South-West Asia and the Arab region Development

Kofi Annan

The July 2005 UN announcment read: "The Secretary-General is pleased to announce the launch of an initiative for an "Alliance of Civilizations"." Multi-million dollar initial funding, a major gathering and the creation of "a high-level group of eminent persons" to serve as advisors. The UN Secretariat is fond of claiming that responsibility for what goes on at the UN lies with member states. This kind of operation makes it abundantly clear that the Secretary General and his entourage have enormous capacity to do good - or not. The original announcement said this about their raison d'etre: "Events of recent years have heightened the sense of a widening gap and lack of mutual understanding between Islamic and Western societies....The Alliance of Civilizations is intended as a coalition against such forces, as a movement to advance mutual respect for religious beliefs and traditions..." And to bridge that gap, UN-style, the "eminent persons" will feature many individuals from Islamic states and noone from the Jewish state. ("The Middle East" contingent will be represented by persons from Iran and Qatar.)

New U.N. Scheme: Alliance of Civilizations Article

November 22, 2005

The dangers of double-speak - at the UN "diversity" becomes a vehicle for conformity and homogeneity.

Cultural Buttinskis: An insidious United Nations treaty Article

A free Internet Article

Wang Guangya

The new UN buzzword "diversity of democratic systems in electoral processes." One clue as to the hidden meaning here: the main sponsor of this resolution is Cuba, and the co-sponsors include China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Cuba was quite unembarrassed about the agenda: "the wealth of diversity of democratic systems," or in the words of the resolution itself: "there is no single model of democracy or democratic institutions." In other words, the co-sponsors are themselves democracies. And the resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee by 106 for, 4 against (the United States, Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands), and 61 timid souls abstained.

Draft Resolution on the Respect for the principles of national sovereignty and diversity of democratic systems in electoral processes as an important element for the promotion and protection of human rights Development

This infamous resolution of the General Assembly (and the Commission on Human Rights,) which claims to be about the defamation of religions in general but mentions only Islam, indicates the power of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the UN. It is a rare example of a resolution that no other state is prepared to co-sponsor (openly and actively advocate.) And the OIC doesn't care. Yemen, who acted on behalf of the OIC, explained the intention behind the resolution as an effort to implement the results of 2001 UN Durban racism Conference. Egypt said it was only about respect for religion. It was adopted, but less than half of UN member states were prepared to vote for it. (88 for, 52 against, 23 abstentions) The opposition came out of the closet directly on the subject of Islamic exclusivity. Canada objected that the resolution "stressed protection of one religion above all others" and that it was concerned with "the protection of religion rather than the rights of adherents to the religion." Guatemala objected that the selection of only Islam meant the resolution "excludes the followers of other beliefs who are victims of human rights violations just because they profess a different religion than one recognized by state." Their objections fell on deaf ears.

Draft Resolution on Combating defamation of religions Development

A UN General Assembly resolution that provides sustenance to dictators. Zimbabwe, responsible for bringing substantial portions of its population to the brink of starvation, co-sponsored the resolution on "the right to food."

Draft Resolution on The right to food Development

Fidel Castro

Getting to know the UN this resolution superficially has a lovely title "the promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of human rights by all." Look more closely at the sponsors of this resolution. The main sponsor is Cuba alarm bell. The co-sponsors include China, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe - more alarm bells. Taking a closer look at the text we see the real intention is to claim that peace is a pre-requisite for the protection of human rights; it is to place another barrier in the way of responsibilities by states to protect the human rights of individuals; it is intended to redirect attention towards the relationship between states and away from the duty of states to protect the rights of their citizens. And it was adopted by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee by 113 for, 51 against and 8 abstentions.

Draft Resolution on the Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all Development

UN voting board

An attempt to avoid censuring Turkmenistan for human rights violations was only narrowly defeated at the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. The motion to take no action on the Turkmenistan resolution had 64 votes for and 70 against. Country-specific resolutions, or the belief that the UN human rights apparatus has something to do with identifying human rights violators, is clearly under seige.

Voting record on the no-action motion for the Draft Resolution on the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan Development

Many of the countries objecting in theory to the naming of a state which violates human rights, used UN "reform" negotiations over a Human Rights Council as a justification for silence. As Sudan said, "these resolutions undermine all efforts to reform the UN Commission on Human Rights." Translation: the world's worst human rights violators will stand in the way of UN reform in order to protect themselves - and of course attempt to lay the blame on the United States and Ambassador John Bolton.

Draft Resolution on the Situation of human rights in Turkmenistan Development

Who controls the UN General Assembly? Without a doubt, the so-called "Non-Aligned Movement." Here was a resolution which pitted the two sides against each other full stop. There were no statements, no explanations of voting position, and no abstentions. 121 for, 52 against.

Draft Resolution on Human rights and unilateral coercive measures Development

Caving in to the UN General Assembly majority. This resolution, sponsored by the so-called "Non-Aligned Movement," was adopted by consensus in the General Assembly's Third Committee. The title "enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights" sounds terrific. Look a little closer and you find that "states have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level." Translation: for those of you under the impression that human rights were about individuals, you were sadly mistaken. The General Assembly human rights machinery is a vehicle for heralding the entitlement of states to "equity."

Draft Resolution on the Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights Development

For the past three years children's rights were one of the most obvious examples of the chokehold of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the UN. There were three UN General Assembly resolutions on the rights of the child one on the rights of the child, one on the girl child, and one on Palestinian children. Two years ago Israel attempted to introduce a resolution on Israeli children, but was forced to withdraw it in response to Egyptian amendments (guaranteed to pass) to delete the word "Israeli" before every mention of the word "child." This year, however, the European Union insisted on a change. The result was the withdrawal on Monday of the resolution on Palestinian children, with concomitant changes to a resolution on assistance to the Palestinians to be adopted in the General Assembly in a couple of weeks. The details of what was given in exchange for withdrawal have yet to become public. It is clear, however, that firm European Union rejection of Palestinian - League of Arab states - OIC demands in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict has the potential to bring about real change in the UN agenda. If only such backbone was the rule instead of the exception.

Draft Resolution on The situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (Withdrawn) Development

This resolution was adopted by consensus even though it was the subject of profound objections by Western states. It is a classic example of capitulation or despair in the face of a non-democratic UN General Assembly majority which cannot be stopped. It also clearly indicates that UN "consensus" is so often a pretense for fundamental disagreements. On the one side, Algeria said : "self-determination is a pre-requisite to the enjoyment of all other human rights." Translation: self-determination is a tool for non-democratic regimes to perpetuate their grip on power or their failure to protect individual human rights. On the other side the European Union said: "Respect for the right of self-determination requires the holding of free, regular and fair elections within the framework of a democratic society. Full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms is also essential...[T]he text contains a number of inaccuracies under international law...[T]he EU firmly believes that self-determination is closely associated with respect for all human rights, it is not correct to suggest that self-determination as such is a pre-condition for the enjoyment of other human rights." This was their rationale for joining "consensus"!

Draft Resolution on the Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination Development

Monday, November 21, 2005

On Friday the UN released a new report on its renovation plans. Instead of responding to criticism that its earlier 1.2 billion dollar price tag was inflated, the new report revises the estimate upwards - to a total of a possible 1.9 billion dollars. (1.588 billion basic cost, plus $161 million for "additional security, sustainability and redundancy", $63.9 million for a conference room contemplated for a later stage, and $100 million for furniture and equipment.)

This enormous price tag, divided in the same proportions as assessed contributions to the UN's regular budget, would hit the American taxpayer with 22% of the bill. Congress has therefore been taking a much-warranted closer look at the project and its justification.

But the new report only deepens the mystery. Exactly which parts of the building(s) are to be renovated? Why is the estimated cost per square foot not commensurate with industry standards for renovation in New York City, which some developers estimate to be a maximum of $250 a square foot?

The report calculates the cost of renovations on the basis of an area of 2,587,000 square feet, an area which "includes all types of spaces, from the infrastructure-intensive technology centre to the functional spaces of the parking garages." The report estimates this will amount to $613 a square foot.

"All types of spaces" would include storage space, basements, and garages. What is the breakdown of the 2,587,000 square feet? What is the cost per square foot of the component parts, taking into account that such spaces ought to be able to be renovated at a much reduced price?

Time to get some straight answers.

Anne Bayefsky

On Friday the UN released a new report on its renovation plans. Instead of responding to criticism that its earlier 1.2 billion dollar price tag was inflated, the new report revises the estimate upwards - to a total of a possible 1.9 billion dollars. (1.588 billion basic cost, plus $161 million for "additional security, sustainability and redundancy", $63.9 million for a conference room contemplated for a later stage, and $100 million for furniture and equipment.)

The UN Renovation Plan: The Questions Grow Editor's Note

The cost of renovating the UN just got a whole lot bigger, according to progress report number three. Third strike and your out?

Report of the Secretary-General on the Third annual progress report on the implementation of the capital master plan Development

It will be important to keep a close eye on the new Internet Governance Forum.

Cease-Fire in Tunisia: The U.N.'s war on Internet freedom isn't over Article

Not nearly so complicated as the spin-masters make out. On the one side you have Ambassador Bolton and a commitment to real reform. On the other hand you have the majority in the General Assembly seeking to maintain the status quo. Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan's chief of staff says "I think in many ways it is setting the outcome of whether the United Nations matters or not in 10 years' time." And so it should.

U.S. Press for Reform Prompts Talk of Showdown at the U.N. Article

Paimaneh Hastaie

In a 20-minute address to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Friday, Iran declared "we firmly believe that might is not always right and we will act accordingly." And nobody laughed.

Statement of Iran on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran Development

Only 77 UN states voted in favor of a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee criticizing Iranian violations of human rights. (51 voted against and another 46 abstained.) Sudan who voted against - explained the problem this way: "the vibrant democratic practices in Iran are a source of admiration to my delegation." Are we supposed to be impressed? Turkmenistan who also voted against put it a little differently "Iran is our good neighbor and friend with whom we enjoy many financial and trade relations and therefore we will oppose." They think that explanation was fine - in the lead UN body on social and humanitarian affairs.

Voting record on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran Development

On Friday, the resolution criticizing human rights abuses in Iran came within 8 votes of being removed from the agenda of the General Assembly altogether by a motion to take no action. UN rules allow two countries to speak in favor of the "no-action" motion before the vote. Rushing to Iran's side were well-known rights luminaries Russia and Zimbabwe. They decried the practice of "naming and shaming," that is, actually mentioning the state responsible for the rights violations.

Voting record on the no action motion on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran Development

Allan Rock

The Canadian delegation, which was the main sponsor of the Iran resolution, was so afraid to lose a procedural motion to take no action in the General Assembly's Third Committee that it failed to incorporate the creation of a UN special rapporteur on human rights abuse by Iran. That position was eliminated by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2002. The resolution expressed "serious concern" about Iran's "continuing use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment such as flogging and amputations." The teeth? It "calls upon" Iran to please "uphold the moratorium on executions by stoning."

Draft Resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Development

Yemen withdrew its amendments to a resolution on religious intolerance adopted on Friday by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee after the European Union agreed to incorporate many of them. One item added was the seemingly neutral "respect" to the sentence which insisted that "states....promot[e] tolerance, respect and freedom of religion and belief." Then Syria spoke. Syria was unhappy because "we must have greater respect among religions...one part of the resolution is in contradiction with the precepts of Islam; the sponsors should not have insisted on the right of individuals to change their religion because this resolution is about respect."

Amendments proposed by Yemen to the draft resolution on the Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief Development

The resolution on religious intolerance was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee but only after a lengthy battle between the lead sponsor, the European Union, and the states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Among other things, the OIC did not like the fact that "anti-semitism" was mentioned, and wanted to refocus the resolution on various issues related to Islam. Although this resolution is about intolerance based on religion or belief, the OIC insisted on adding to the paragraph expressing deep concern with "Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia," concern about religious "and other" communities. Nobody knows what "other" means yet.

Draft Resolution on the Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief Development

Myanmar has fewer friends than Iran. A motion in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee to take no action lost by 24 votes. And the final resolution was adopted by consensus. Notwithstanding the apparent consensus, Malaysia was very upset by the turn of affairs. Cried the Malaysian representative, such "a resolution is incompatible with the governing human rights principles of objectivity, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference, impartiality, non-selectivity, and transparency." Veruca Salt would be proud. If I want to violate human rights, I will.

Voting record for the no action motion on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Mynamar Development

In the mysterious hierarchy of UN-terminology, this resolution was a notch up from Iran. It "expressed grave concern" (instead of "serious concern") at "the ongoing systematic violation of...human rights" in Myanmar, and with Myanmar's failure to cooperate with the UN investigators seeking entry into the country.

Draft Resolution on the Situation of human rights in Myanmar Development

A recent example of why the UN is not a harmless talking-shop but an organization that has become a vehicle for inciting violence, particularly towards an American target. Says the author "Armed resistance is in accordance with the 1978 UN general assembly resolution that reaffirmed "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle".

The Right to Rule Ourselves Article