Posts Tagged ‘75th anniversary of the UN’

75th Anniversary UN: Phil Lynch of the ISHR reflects

November 24, 2020

Our shared quest for equality, dignity and a healthy planet continues

On 20 October 2020 Phil Lynch, who as director of the International Service for Human Rights has enormous experience, reflects on the important role the UN still plays in making the world a better and fairer place:

We are all part of the one human family. We share a common humanity and strive to meet common needs – we all want to learn, to have peace and good health, to provide for our families and loved ones, and to live free and dignified lives, without discrimination on any grounds. We might not always agree on how to achieve these things, but there is far more that unites us than divides us.

That’s why it’s so important that we have places like the United Nations, where we can come together to talk, work through our differences and find solutions to our shared challenges. 

This week marks the 75th anniversary of when the UN Charter entered into effect and the United Nations officially came into being.

In the decades that have followed, the UN has played a vital role in maintaining peace and security by helping to resolve conflict and harnessing our collective knowhow to confront everything from health and humanitarian emergencies to gender inequality. The UN has also been a vital space for civil society and communities to testify against injustice, confront power, challenge impunity, demand accountability, and push for change. 

It’s by no means a perfect organisation, but without a shadow of a doubt the world today is a far better, fairer, healthier and safer one than it would be without the UN. This is due in no small part to the importance the UN places on the protection and promotion of human rights.

No matter who we are or where we live, our lives are better when we treat each other fairly and with respect. That’s what human rights are all about – making sure that values like freedom, equality and solidarity are at the heart of our decisions and are reflected in behaviours and laws around the world.

Unfortunately, sometimes  laws passed by governments are repressive or not sufficiently protecting us, in particular the most vulnerable among us. And companies may act in ways that put their profit first, at the expense of human rights. . Often it takes people and communities to hold powerful politicians and corporations to account and make sure that everyone can benefit from the human rights and freedoms that we are all meant to share.

Human rights defenders are the people that work to make this happen. 

These are the people that speak out against injustices like systemic racism, sexism or the climate crisis and who work on the frontlines with communities to find solutions and advocate for better ways of doing things. These are the people who make sure that, as humanity advances, no one is left behind.

It’s of the utmost importance that human rights defenders have a seat at the table so they can give voice to the concerns and ideas of the people impacted by the very policies, practices and objectives being discussed at the UN.

Unfortunately, some governments – concerned about facing criticism – try to lock human rights defenders out of the conversations. Worse still, in some countries, the government or groups with powerful vested interests harass or discredit people who defend human rights. In some countries, they are beaten up, imprisoned and even killed.

As the UN’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently told the General Assembly, the UN is only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals and each other. 

There is no way we can advance the UN’s noble aims if we continue to let members get away with human rights violations and reprisals against people who defend human rights. The duty falls to all member States and their diplomats to uphold the very principles at the heart of the UN’s mission – peace, equality, dignity and healthy planet –  and the promise that their country has made to support that mission.

At the International Service for Human Rights, we help human rights defenders access the UN system so their voices are heard. We build their capacity on the frontlines and at the UN. We work to strengthen the UN’s human rights systems and we seek justice and accountability for human rights violations.

As we celebrate 75 years of the UN, we know the world is facing many challenges, but as we’ve done so many times in the past, we can, we must and we will find our way through them – and that is always done best when we do it together acting with care and solidarity.

The pursuit of peace, equality, dignity and a healthy planet continues. Thanks for being a part of it.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/75-years-united-nations-our-shared-quest-equality-dignity-and-healthy-planet-continues

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid, speaks freely

June 28, 2020

Imogen Foulkes

Imogen Foulkes – who regularly reports from Geneva – wonders whether being UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is it the toughest job at the UN? On 27 June 2020 she published a lengthy interview with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2014-2018.

Zeid, as he likes to be known, is from a privileged background. He is a member of Jordan’s royal family, but never seems to have been comfortable with the term ‘prince’. His career with the UN began, he told me, almost by accident, when he accompanied his brother on a trip to the United States. He ended up in New York, where a friend at the United Nations told him the UN was recruiting for its work during the conflict in former Yugoslavia.….

Almost 20 years later, in 2014, Zeid was approached to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His initial reaction, perhaps based on his experience in former Yugoslavia, and his knowledge that the UN could at times be frustratingly ineffective, was to refuse. But he took a walk around New York’s Central Park to think about it. “That was probably fatal,” he remembers with a laugh. “If I had just said no, that would have been the end of it, but once I had thought about it I couldn’t say no.”

.…His maiden speech to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in September 2014 contained a withering attack on Islamic State, warning that any territory it controlled would be ‘a harsh, mean-spirited house of blood’. He also turned his attention to Europe’s rightwing populist leaders, calling the UK’s Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands ‘demagogues’. And when Donald Trump was running for office, Zeid described him as a ‘bigot’, and suggested it would be dangerous for him to get elected.

Clearly this is not a strategy designed to win friends in governments, but Zeid is unapologetic. Trying to keep governments on side, whatever their actions, is, he believes, a mistake the UN makes far too often.’…[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/15/not-so-diplomatic-diplomat-of-the-year-zeid/]..

Rather than worry what the reactions of government leaders might be to the words and deeds of UN officials, Zeid believes it is governments who should have a wary respect for the UN.

And while we may remember Zeid most for his outspoken comments about Donald Trump, in fact during his four years in office, he and the UN Human Rights Office were hard at work, often quietly behind the scenes, investigating human rights violations around the world. ,(Syria, investigations into the conflict in Ukraine, into the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, …..He described the violence as containing ‘elements of genocide’, and, in a final interview before leaving office, told me Aung San Suu Kyi should have resigned rather than preside over such atrocities.

Nowadays, Zeid is Professor of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of The Elders [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/25/two-human-rights-personalities-join-the-elders/]

But he remains a keen observer of the United Nations,and thinks to key to progress is persuading the permanent members of the UN Security Council to give up their veto when atrocity crimes are taking place. “That would unlock the possibility for collective action… and we can see the Security Council operating in the way it ought to be operating,” he said……

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/09/former-u-n-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-zeid-warns-about-the-moral-collapse-of-global-leadership/

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/is-it-the-toughest-job-at-the-un-/45863026

International Civil Society Week 2019: call for more NGO voice in the UN

April 14, 2019

The International Civil Society Week 2019 has finished. During the this meeting in Belgrade, that brought together over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens from across the world, a large number of contribution were made and I will make reference to some of them in separate posts. Here one of the results:

A World Citizens’ Initiative as an instrument of citizen participation at the United Nations was promoted on 11th April 2019 at a plenary session of the International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW). Presenting the idea of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI), Caroline Vernaillen of Democracy International stressed that addressing the UN’s democratic deficit needs to be on the agenda, too. “The UN is a club of representatives of member states. There are no means for ordinary citizens to take influence and this has to change,” she said. The activist from Belgium stated that a UNWCI would help “create a citizen-based global political sphere.

Caroline Vernaillen and Andreas Bummel with CIVICUS’ Secretary-General Lysa John (middle)

According to Vernaillen, the instrument of a UNWCI would allow global citizens to gather support for specific proposals which then would have to be considered and acted upon by the UN General Assembly. She emphasized that a similar instrument already exists in the European Union, the European Citizens Initiative.

CIVICUS, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders have started preparing an international campaign to promote a UNWCI and participants of the civil society week were invited to join their efforts. The UNWCI campaign is planned to be launched in September or October 2019 when the next session of the UN General Assembly begins.

Joe Mathews, a board member of Democracy International and Co-President of the Global Forum for Direct Democracy, commented on Twitter that a World Citizens’ Initiative was a “powerful new idea” in direct democracy, “open to people everywhere, to attack big problems and check global power.”

The UNWCI campaign will be launched with a view of the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020. On 11th April 2019, one of the numerous sessions of the civil society week dealt with this topic. Jeffery Huffines of CIVICUS gave an overview of the UN’s preparations of a UN2020 summit (see also this recent article). He urged civil society representatives to engage with this process and proposed that NGOs should think about whether there should be a global civil society forum on the occasion of UN2020.

The new initiative Together First was represented at this session by Giovanna Marques Kuele. She said that the UN needed to become “more democratic, more representative and more transparent.” Together First plans to identify the most important reform proposals and push for them ahead of a UN summit in 2020.

Speaking at the ICSW, the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Fabrizio Hochschild, stated that on the occasion of 2020 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will call for a global youth driven conversation on what kind of world we want 25 years from now, in 2045.

World Citizens’ Initiative promoted at international civil society week