Posts Tagged ‘Secretary-General of the United Nations’

The weakness of UN Secretaries General versus Big powers in speaking out

June 10, 2020

UN Chiefs Silenced by Big Powers with vetoes

as demonstrated again by George Floyd’s Killing

Protests in cities across the United States including in New York city. Credit: UN News/Shirin Yaseen
Thalif Deen wrote for the Santiago Times of 9 June a piece based on an IPS study about the lack of repsonse by the UN Secretary General.

…..But will any UN Secretary-General – past or present – have plucked up courage to condemn the political leadership either in the United States or China, two veto-wielding permanent members in the Security Council, in such harsh terms?

For a related issue, see: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/09/what-does-the-un-stand-for-anger-as-staff-told-not-to-join-anti-racism-protests

The piece then considers whether a single 7 year term (instead of a reelection for 5 years) would help?

…The problem is that both Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Guterres have paid no attention to the three most important words that open the Charter of the UN: “We the peoples”…“They both pay homage only to governments; it’s as if ‘the peoples’ of the world don’t exist. As a result, there is neither transparency nor accountability”, said Lewis, who was a UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and later co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World.

Guterres, he said, hides behind the Convention on Privileges and Immunities, or with willful arrogance refuses to answer questions put to him. “Thus, when asked why he’s silent on the turbulence in the United States, and in particular the excessive use of force, he defers to his spokesperson who provides fatuous nonsense in response.”

It was exactly the way Ban never felt the obligation to tell the truth about cholera in Haiti, nor to feel it necessary to explain why the $400 million fund was effectively abandoned, he noted.

Perhaps one of the few exceptions in the 75-year history of the UN was former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt who paid the supreme penalty of being vetoed out of a second term —even though he garnered an overwhelming 14 of the 15 votes in the UN Security Council. But the US ingloriously vetoed his claims for a second term….

The 1996 study sponsored by two major think tanks implicitly accused some of the world’s big powers of manipulating the election of the Secretary-General so as to ensure that U.N. heads are political creatures with no minds of their own. “It is impossible to escape the impression, that many governments, including some of the most powerful, do not want a strong, independent leader as Secretary-General,” said the study published under the auspices of the New York-based Ford Foundation and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation of Stockholm. The authors of the study – Brian Urquhart and Erskine Childers, both senior UN officials – said the selection of the Secretary-General is quite literally part of “an old-boy network.” “The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation, and governments have no intentions of giving up control of it.”

Lewis argued there is no freedom of information in the UN, and that’s what gets governments like Sweden frustrated and thinking of shortening the SG’s term. “The Secretary-General should be required to hold an open press conference at least once, preferably twice a week, with a critical media corps to ask questions. If that were the case, the entire culture of his office would change.” “It’s his behaviour rather than his longevity that needs reform,” declared Lewis.

In a hard-hitting article titled “As Protests Sweep the US, the UN Tweets Platitudes”, Dulcie Leimbach, a former editor at the New York Times and founder of PassBlue, a widely-read web publication covering the United Nations, wrote: “Amid curfews in New York City, constant marches and protests, sirens from the streets and helicopters whirring above, the United Nations top leader, António Guterres, has not appeared before the media to say anything directly about the convulsions exploding across the five boroughs and far beyond. Instead, he has relied on his spokespeople to provide responses.

Leimbach also wrote that the lack of direct reference to the killing of George Floyd, and the turn of events here in the city and elsewhere, extends to the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the US mission to the UN and other national delegations. Only the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, a Chilean who is based in Geneva, has directly addressed Floyd’s murder….

https://santiagotimes.cl/en/2020/06/09/un-chiefs-silenced-by-big-powers-with-vetoes/

43rd session HRC: UN Secretary General launches Call to Action on human rights

February 25, 2020

UN Secretary-General António Guterres attends the High Level Segment of the 43rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Violaine Martin
On 24 February 2020, with human rights under attack, António Guterres unveiled a blueprint for positive change. People’s basic human rights – their birth-right – are “under assault”, he said as he launched a Call to Action aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere. “Human rights are our ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom,” he told Member States on the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council’s 43rd session in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/24/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-43rd-human-rights-council/]

In his speech he detailed a seven-point blueprint for positive change and issued an appeal for solidarity. “People across the world want to know we are on their side,” he said. “Whether robbed of their dignity by war, repression of poverty, or simply dreaming of a better future, they rely on their irreducible rights – and they look to us to help uphold them.” Echoing the call for change, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that although threats to human rights, development and peace were on the rise, so were the practical, actionable solutions to these issues.

In his pledge to utilize the full weight of his office and the UN family to fulfil the Call to Action, Mr. Guterres highlighted the enduring value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Highlighting the document’s proclamation that human rights are ‘humanity’s highest aspiration’, Mr. Guterres insisted that all States had a responsibility to protect and promote people’s “dignity and worth”. National sovereignty “cannot be a pretext for violating human rights”, Mr. Guterres insisted, while also maintaining that greater equality “strengthens States and societies, thereby reinforcing sovereignty”.

Positive change is possible, the UN chief insisted, recalling his own experience living under dictatorship in Portugal, which finally gave way to a democratic movement when he was 24 years old. Other “human rights struggles and successes inspired us”, the UN chief said, noting how these had secured the end of apartheid in South Africa and colonial rule. One billion people have also been lifted out of poverty in a generation, he continued, and there have also been major advances in improving access to drinking water, along with big declines in child mortality. ..

Chief among these challenges are several protracted, unresolved conflicts that have left families trapped in war-torn enclaves, “starved and bombed in clear violation of international law”, he said.  Human trafficking also affects “every region of the world”, the UN chief noted, leaving women and girls “enslaved, exploited and abused”, unable to realise their potential.  Journalists and civil society are also under threat, with activists jailed, religious groups and minorities – including indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and the LGBTI community – persecuted under “overly broad definitions of national security”.

Global hunger is also increasing, Mr. Guterres said, before highlighting a series of 21st century issues linked to huge problems that affect all countries: the climate crisis, population growth, urbanization and the dark underbelly of technological progress. “People are being left behind. Fears are growing. Divisions are widening,” he said. “Some leaders are exploiting anxieties to broaden those gaps to breaking point.”

Introducing his Call to Action blueprint, Mr. Guterres explained that its aim was to “transform the ambitions of the Universal Declaration into real-world change on the ground”.

Heading the seven-point protocol is a call to put human rights at the core of sustainable development – a reference to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed to by the international community in 2015 under the Agenda 2030 banner. “The vast majority of the goals and targets correspond to legally binding human rights commitments made by every Member State,” Mr. Guterres said. “When we help lift people out of abject poverty – when we ensure education for all, notably girls – when we guarantee universal healthcare…we are enabling people to claim their rights and upholding the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave nobody behind.”

Among the other priorities, the UN Secretary-General highlighted that much more needs to be done to prevent violence against women. “Violence against women is the world’s most pervasive human rights abuse,” he said, in a call to “every country” to support policies that promote gender equality, repeal discriminatory laws…ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights, and strive for women’s equal representation.

Turning to 21st century challenges, Mr. Guterres reiterated that the climate crisis was “the biggest threat to our survival”. It has already threatened human rights around the world and would continue to do so in future, he noted, before underscoring people’s right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable planet that the Call to Action is designed to achieve. Young people will be empowered to participate in this process, the UN chief insisted, so that they do “not simply speak, but to participate and shape decisions that will affect their future”.

Finally, on the challenges posed to human rights by new technology, Mr. Guterres explained that progress in this field “are too often used to violate rights and privacy through surveillance, repression and online harassment and hate”. Facial recognition and robotics should never be used to deepen inequality, he insisted, while also reiterating his call for online-ready human rights norms such as the Internet Governance Forum.

Following this announcement Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director, said: “…We hope this will translate to a genuine, effective and coordinated UN response to address ongoing human rights crises around the world – from the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar, to the systematic targeting of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and the mass internment of almost one million Uighurs in China – and to hold states to account. “We welcome any initiative that seeks to put human rights front and centre at the UN across its operations. To ensure the success of this initiative, the Secretary-General must lead by example in his willingness to speak up when abuses are taking place, and must ensure adequate funding for the protection of human rights within the UN. Mr. Guterres has described his new initiative as a call for action. Now we need to see the action.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/02/1057961

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/un-action-plan-on-human-rights-bold-leadership/

UNESCO: 9 out of 10 killings of journalists go unpunished

November 4, 2019

The report, called Intensified Attacks, New Defences, covers the period 2014-2018. It assesses trends in the safety of journalists and media professionals around the world and provides an update on the status of journalist killings, based on condemnations issued by the Director-General and recorded in the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists. 2Key findings include the rise in the number of journalist killings and other attacks, as well as the continued trend of widespread impunity. The report highlights the changing nature of violence against journalists, with more and more journalists being killed outside of conflict areas, and the growing prevalence of threats and harassment in the online sphere. It also highlights the specific risks being faced by women journalists, including online where they are disproportionately targeted by harassment and abuse. The intensified attacks against journalists are being met with a growing commitment to monitoring, protection, prevention and prosecution mechanisms for the safety of journalists. New coalitions, involving Members States, civil society, the media and academia reflect a stronger and more coordinated response to the protection of journalists, in line with the logic of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The report also notes that killings of journalists have risen by about 18 percent in the past five years (2014-2018), compared to the previous five-year period.

The deadliest countres for journalists, according to the statistics, are Arab States, where almost a third of the killings took place. The Latin American and Caribbean region (26 percent), and Asian and Pacific States (24 per cent) are the next most dangerous. Journalists are often murdered for their reporting on politics, crime and corruption, and this is reflected in the study, which reveals that, in the past two years (2017-2018), more than half of journalist fatalities were in non-conflict zones. In his statement, the UN Secretary-General noted the rise in the scale and number of attacks on journalists and media workers, as well as incidents that make their work much harder, including “threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access, and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them”….“Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making, is severely hampered.

A high-profile example is the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. The case is being followed by independent UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard, among others, who has suggested that too little has been done by the Maltese authorities to investigate the killing. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/26/son-of-maltese-journalist-daphne-caruana-galizia-tells-un-impunity-continues/]

India has similarly horrifying stories to tell, where the brutal murder of Bangalore-based journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 made headlines. Lankesh, the editor of Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike, was shot dead in cold blood by religious activists at her residence, allegedly because of her liberal views. Though one of the six arrested gang members confessed to the crime last year, no convictions have been secured in the case. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/27/un-rapporteurs-ask-india-to-protect-journalist-rana-ayyub-and-refer-to-fate-of-gauri-lankesh/]

This year UNESCO has launched the #KeepTruthAlive social media campaign, which draws attention to the dangers faced by journalists close to their homes, highlighting the fact that 93 percent of those killed work locally, and featuring an interactive map created for the campaign, which provides a vivid demonstration of the scale and breadth of the dangers faced by journalists worldwide.

Can the UN do more to resolve Khashoggi’s murder?

October 3, 2019

Agnès Callamard
Callamard is speaking on the subject at Columbia University.

Exactly a year after Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, remains categorical: UN Secretary-General António Guterres can and should do more about the murder, and so should member states. “I am asking the secretary-general of the United Nations, the various heads of states, including in Europe, Canada and Australia, to speak publicly about the situation and to do so in places and circumstances where it is difficult to do it,” Callamard told PassBlue. “The demand I am making should not carry a heavy political cost if it is done in a more collective fashion.”In her June report investigating the murder of Khashoggi — the only official UN word on the matter — Callamard called on Guterres and UN member countries to launch an international criminal investigation and asked heads of state to rally against Saudi Arabia’s blatant attack on freedom of the press. See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/19/news-un-expert-agnes-callamard-says-saudi-arabia-is-responsible-for-extrajudicial-killing-of-khashoggi-and-calls-it-international-crime/

Callamard also explored other options to hold the perpetrators accountable in Turkey and in the US, saying in the report, “The killing of Mr Khashoggi thus constitutes an international crime over which other states should claim universal jurisdiction.

 

Callamard supports the notion of a Security Council resolution — which are legally binding — to call on countries around the world to unite behind a push to resolve the murder. But that’s easier said than done. Saudi Arabia, an influential, oil-rich country in the troubled Middle East, has a record of human-rights abuses, but it is often left alone by the UN Human Rights Council (of which it is currently a member) and other nations, including democratic ones in the West. Amal Clooney, Britain’s special envoy on media freedom, told The Guardian on Oct. 1 that “she expected a specialist legal panel, set up by the UK government and due to report soon, to champion a new standing UN investigatory mechanism into such killings.” It is unclear if other permanent members of the Security Council besides Britain — China, France, Russia and the US, some of them close allies and big suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia — are willing to stick their necks out to defend press freedom and pursue the gruesome murder of a 59-year-old journalist who worked for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, has traveled the world to ask countries to help resolve the murder. She was warmly greeted in many of them, she said at a conference at Columbia University, in New York, on Sept. 27, speaking through an interpreter. But not only did they resist her request for action, “they never said anything negative against Saudi Arabia.” Even members of the European Union, known to be outspoken about human-rights violations, have shown no formal or informal support to act.

Callamard, who is French and directs the Global Freedom of Expression project at Columbia University, said that she, too, traveled to many European countries during her investigation, and while they cooperated with her, none offered to help. She said she hoped that European and other Western countries, including the US and Canada, would unite to denounce Saudi Arabia’s crime in a more concerted way. (The US did denounce the murder but left it to the Saudi government to handle the case.)She worries that letting the case go will set a precedent, sending the message that persecuting journalists is something any country is free to do with impunity.

 

 

https://www.passblue.com/2019/10/02/the-un-can-do-much-more-to-resolve-khashoggis-murder-says-agnes-callamard/

ISHR on Reprisals: UN and States must do more to address reprisals

May 13, 2019

On 6 May 2019 the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) submitted two reports to the UN Secretary General on the topic of reprisals against human rights defenders. The conclusion is that many defenders still face unacceptable risks and are unable to cooperate safely with the UN and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms. The reports were prepared in response to the call made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights inviting representatives of civil society to provide information on preventing and addressing acts of intimidation and reprisals related to cooperation with the United Nations. This blog has devoted many posts to this nefarious issue, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

Read the rest of this entry »

Next Secretary General of the UN: human rights NGOs know what they want but candidates still vague

April 19, 2016

Who will be the next secretary-general? The field is still wide open but thanks in part to the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, campaigning for the job is – for the first time in UN history – mostly public, even if the decision is ultimately made by General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. There are strong arguments in favor of a woman (first time ever, see link below) and someone from Eastern Europe (‘their turn’ in the informally agreed regional rotation).  Of the nine candidates currently in the running, UN insiders and others close to the process see UNESCO head Irina Bokova, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and former Slovenian President Danilo Türk as the frontrunners (if the bookmakers are right).

Last week, for the first time ever, nine candidates presented their visions for the UN to the General Assembly in New York Read the rest of this entry »

Ban Ki-Moon calls civil society “an indispensable part of the United Nations”

March 27, 2014

Civil society actors must be able to do their work freely, independently, safe from fear, retaliation or intimidation. This requires collective action to denounce reprisals and defend free voices and protect those targeted,” said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, referring to civil society as “an indispensable part of the United Nations”. “We must expand the space for civil society to meaningfully participate and contribute,” he added in a video statement screened at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space, in the context of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Civil society actors around the world face risks ranging from threats and intimidation to horrible reprisals, even killings”, said UN Human Rights Deputy, Flavia Pansieri at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space. “From the NGO who is prohibited from receiving funding to the whistle-blower who is imprisoned for revealing corruption… we must work to protect civil society from such practices,” she said.

Hina Jilani, Read the rest of this entry »

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons Statements

August 29, 2013

English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文

The UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon gave the Annual Leiden Freedom Lecture, in the Netherlands, on 28 August 2013 and made a number of strong points relevant to human rights defenders: Read the rest of this entry »