Thursday, April 07, 2005

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Urges Human Rights Commission Reform

In a rare moment of lucidity, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, proclaimed today that the UN Human Rights Commission needs to be reformed so that it can move from a policy of “declaration” to “implementation”. So, can the world’s oppressed take comfort in this dawning of a new era where the UN will respond with the resources required to put down genocidal catastrophes in global trouble spots such as Sudan, the Congo and Somalia? Only if they’ve been pumped full of more hallucinogens than Timothy Leary at a Grateful Dead concert.

It will take an awful lot more than idle lip service from Mr. Annan to transform the UN Human Rights Commission from an entity that impotently whines about the evil atrocities that occur across the world’s hottest flashpoints into an organization that effectively combats them. In its present state, the United Nations lacks two critical characteristics that are absolute requirements to successfully confront the systematic oppression of unimaginable numbers of the our fellow human beings every day.

First and foremost, the UN lacks the will to even try to stamp out rampant human rights abuses. To try and stop an unfolding catastrophic event, such as the tragedy currently taking place in Darfur, intervention by a force other than the Sudanese military is obviously required. It is incredibly unlikely that the Janjaweed will be willing to lay down their arms and leave the Darfurians alone as the result of a few polite requests from Amnesty International and the United Nations’ wishful thinking. Of course, deploying such a force is certain to entail a fair amount of risks. Infrastructure will be destroyed, lives will be lost and from a political viewpoint, there are certainly going to be some people, namely the Sudanese government, the Janjaweed and whatever allies they may have, that are not going to be happy about the development. Regardless, those are the risks that are going to have to be taken if the world is genuinely serious about ending the crisis. If the UN is unwilling to take the risks inherent to resolving the very worst of the world’s human rights catastrophes, it has no business taking on the responsibility to. The global tax dollars spent to support this activity should be diverted to an organization that is willing to take on the job.

Secondly, the UN Human Rights Commission also lacks the basic credibility required to effectively carry out the task it is charged with. One need go no further than the UNHRC’s roll of member nations to see that glaring fact. Congo, a tropical paradise where a civil war, rife with systematic rape, torture, random massacres and the occasional documented case of cannibalism as a terrorism tactic that has raged almost since the nation’s inception, is a member of the commission until 2006. Zimbabwe, a nation ruled by Robert Mugabe, an iron-fisted thug who has systematically confiscated the property of and effectively economically expelled a segment of its minority population based upon nothing other than their race and prosperity is also serving a stint on the commission that ends later this year. Credible accusations of human rights violations are also routinely leveled against China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. Then of course, there is the granddaddy of them all: Sudan. This Nubian corner of Hell, who is currently hosting the worst governmentally facilitated humanitarian crisis on the planet, is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. If this does not blow the chances of this organization of ever reaching a semblance of respectability among the citizenry of the developed world, I have no idea what will. Letting Sudanese President Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir dictate to the rest of the world how its governments should treat their people is kind of like letting Hannibal Lector do menu planning at a convention for militant vegetarians.

The UN Human Rights Commission has the potential to accomplish great things, but unless its membership antes up to the challenge and accepts the risks that come along with the responsibilities, it will remain nothing more than an organization pursuing a perpetual exercise in futility. It will take a very strong Secretary General to take on this task and produce any tangible results. Kofi Annan, unfortunately, is not this person. This is a man who, just a couple of years ago, presided over this body when it elected Libya to be its champion of human rights, apparently believing that it must treat its own citizens a little better than it did Pan Am airline travelers flying over Lockerbie Scotland in 1989.

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