Furthermore, in the 1990s, the UN made amajor step towards the integration of women’s and children’s rights into thehuman rights system when it established Special Rapporteurs on violence againstwomen and children.
This promoted equal rights among man, women and children.It also helped in understanding that “rights of man” doesn’t mean rights of themale person. Positive trends have been noted withregard to the elimination of sex-based discrimination in national legislation.In some countries, special programmes have been adopted to strengthen thesocial status of women and to encourage gender equality in the workplace aswell as women’s participation in policy-making and decision-making (Eide.
A.1999). Furthermore, human rights bodies and activists have repeated appealed tomember states to eradicate traditional practices affecting the health of womenand girl children. Beforethe adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),which now is almost universally ratified, countless children around the worldwere exposed to dangers that hamper their growth and development. Althoughchildren still suffer social dislocation caused by aggression, foreignoccupation and annexation, and as casualties of war and violence and victims ofracial discrimination, to some extent, these acts have greatly reduced. In addition, the UNHRC is credited forintroducing a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that bases its reports from governmentto non-government organisation’s contributions.
Under UPR, International andnon-government organisations are included in the discussion process, forexample, Amnesty International called for an inquiry on May 31, 2010 into thedeaths caused by Israel’s military action and the UNHRC responded on June 2,2010 by adopting a resolution to provide the dispatch of an independentfact-finding mission. This example shows an improved dialogue between theseorganisations. The UPR ensures that all states, including members of thecouncil are subject to the review of their human rights record. Terlingensuggests the UPR allows holding states to become more accountable.
Under theauspices of the UPR apparatus, the conception of which has been lauded as theCouncil’s most innovative reform, the human rights record of every UN memberstate will be examined and judged every four years through a method of writtenreports and interstate discourse (Harrington, 2010). Historians of the UnitedNations system will note that the former Human Rights Commission established asimilar reporting practice in the 1950s and 1960s, which was eventuallyabolished in 1981 because the reports produced were considered to be of littleto no use (Gaer, 2007). Despite this revelation, Harrington asserts there arethose that believe the UPR mechanism of the HRC will nurture a means toimpartially assess every state’s performance of its human rightsresponsibilities. Further, there is the hope the UPR apparatus will allow forthe allocation of best practices among states, support interstate collaborationin the promotion of human rights, and enable the establishment of technicalassistance by identifying states in need (Harrington, 2010; United Nations,2007).
If the UPR mechanism is an effective means for these aspired ends, itcan be confidently asserted that the prospects for the promotion and protectionof human rights will be greatly enhanced. Despite the fact that human rightsfailures of the United Nations are often highlighted, one can argue the UNCharter and institutions constitutes a major development in progressiveexpansion of international human rights law. Sundberg (2009) believes the lackof a global enforcement mechanism inhibits the progression of human rightsthough admits that the special rapporteurs of the commission has had partialimpact on accountability. Furthermore, Sundberg claims the establishment of theInternational Criminal Court in 2002 is a significant step forward to enforcerespect for certain human rights.
The UN Charter can be also looked uponas the further harmonization of human rights. The UN Charter created thecharter based organs responsible for the protection and promotion of humanrights. The United Nations General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies caninitiate studies on human rights issues such as the recent studies on humanrights, human trafficking, indigenous people, and the study on children ininternal conflicts. In accordance with article 13, the Charter also providesfor the codification and progressive development of human rights law.
The UNGeneral Assembly has the power to establish committees on human rights issuessuch as the establishment of: the Committee for the Inalienable rights of thePalestinian people (2010); and the Special Committee to investigate Israelipractices affecting the human rights of the population of Arab occupiedterritories (2010). In addition, the Security Council is a principle organ ofthe United Nations that has the ability to put a human rights mandate intopeacekeeping operations. The Security Council can consider gross violations ofhuman rights that can threaten peace and security in accordance with articles39-42 and recommend enforcement measures.
Finally, the Security Councilpossesses the power to establish international criminal tribunals and examplesinclude: the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the Commission for Reception,Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (2010). UnitedNations inefficiencies in promoting and protecting human rights In contrast, Forsythe (2006) considersthe United Nations to be a decentralised and poorly coordinated system becausethe UN Human Rights Commission has been unable to resolve most human rightsproblems. Françoise Hampson (2007) argue that before the UNHRC replaced thehighly politicized CHR, the later was heavily criticized for allowing countrieswhich had poor human rights records to become members1. However, the UNHRC is slowlyfollowing the same trend since it criticized for acting in accordance withpolitical considerations as opposed to a blatant desire to promote humanrights.
The Council is believed to be controlled and influenced by a bloc ofIslamic and African states, supported by China, Cuba and Russia, who protecteach other from criticism. It is further accused by many a prominent entitiesfor focusing to greatly on the Israeli, Palestinian conflict2. Freedman (2013) offers a very pointedand negative assessment of the HRC activities thus far. She asserts that theCouncil has failed, systematically, to protect and promote human rights,principally through its disregarding, or being prohibited from addressing,copious dire human rights situations. The most disappointing characteristic ofthe Council has been its continued politicisation, a characteristic thattremendously hinders the effectiveness of the HRC (Human Rights Watch, 2010).Despite the bleak outlook for the HRC, there is still hope the organisation maybe an effective institution. Furthermore,nations continue to dispute the importance of civil and political versuseconomic, social, and cultural rights.
National governments sometimes resistadhering to international norms they perceive as contradicting local culturalor social values. Western countries, especially the United States, resistinternational rights cooperation from a concern that it might harm business,infringe on autonomy, or limit freedom of speech. The world struggles tobalance democracy’s promise of human rights protection against its historicallyWestern identification. Saudi Arabia is an apt example. The country hasratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminationagainst Women (CEDAW), but one RUD states that the convention is not applicablewhen it conflicts with sharia law, which allows Riyadh to continue denyingbasic rights to women. Similarly, many have argued that the United States hasundermined its already limited commitments on human rights by invoking complexRUDs.
For example, Washington ratified the Convention on the Elimination of AllForms of Racial Discrimination, but with the qualifier that it would not trumpU.S. constitutional protection for freedom of speech, and therefore not requirebanning hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. To some scholars, the Universal Periodic Review will surelybecome obsolete and be of little use to the international community if the HCRfails to take into account the shortcomings that occurred in the 1950s and1960s,. Despite these initial aspirations for the UPR, the political nature ofthe UN has reared its ugly head and disallowed, thus far, effectivenessmeasures to come to fruition that were espoused previously.
Freedman (2013) offers a detailedanalysis of the UPR to date. Freedman asserts that the UPR has been politicisedin a number of ways: the apparatus has been deficient in equitable treatment ofdifferent states, especially those that have been singled out as “adversaries”of the main groups of the HRC. Freedman further elucidates that the first cycleof sessions exhibits regional manoeuvres, specifically where developing statesprotect each other through various means, consistent with other Councilproceedings.
Regionalism and group tactics used by blocs of states to shieldthose with lacklustre human rights records were employed during the firstsession of the UPR. This was enabled by the emphasis on cooperation and consentas the UPR’s main bases. As a result, states ignored human rights issues thatwere raised in the reviews, deflected attention away from gross and systemicviolations, and avoided considering recommendations (Abebe, 2009). In light ofthese revelations, one would not be remised to assert the overall effectivenessof the first round of the UPR was a dismal failure.
Blocs of states had theability to obstruct and avoid the recommendations of the UPR. One such exampleis the African Group acting in accord during the Special Sessions to shield itsregional ally, Sudan, throughout the Special Session that focused on thesituation in Darfur. Perhaps with a commendable amount of foresight, there havebeen attempts made to push the HRC and its utilization of the UPR to adhere toits founding principles, namely from the United States, to avoid situationspreviously discussed. Inthe aftermath of the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s, where UN peacekeepers onthe ground failed to prevent mass killing and sexual violence, efforts toestablish preventive and responsive norms to atrocities accelerated.
To holdperpetrators accountable, the Rome Statute established the InternationalCriminal Court (ICC) as the standing tribunal for atrocities. The ICC waslargely considered an alternative to ad hoc tribunals like those for the formerYugoslavia and Rwanda, which were criticized for proceeding too slowly and forrequiring redundant and complex institution building. The ICC is the result ofUN efforts to evaluate the prospects for an international court to addresscrimes like genocide as early as 1948.TheUnited States was at best ambivalent about the ICC, given concerns that its ownmilitary actions would be subject to accusations. President Clinton signed theRome Statute but recommended against ratification. The George W.
Bushadministration informed the UN secretary-general that the United States nolonger considered itself a signatory, and set about negotiating (after acongressional mandate threatening to cut aid to states that refused to signsuch agreements) to avoid having its troops handed over to the court.Ultimately, however, that administration tacitly cooperated on an ICC caseagainst Sudan for atrocities in Darfur. The Obama administration reengaged asan active observer at the Conference of the Rome Statute Parties, despite itswariness over ICC attempts to define the crime of aggression. The ICC’s firstprosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, vigorously pursued the first indictment of asitting head of state, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, but others have suggested thatICC proceedings have occurred no more quickly than those of ad hoc tribunalsand remain too focused on pursuing cases in Africa. ConclusionThis paper has shown there areweaknesses regarding the Commission on Human Rights on whether it served as aprotector of victims of human rights violations or as a shield for violators.
The latter is more evident, due to the Secretary-General’s High-level Panelreport and the creation of the Human Rights Council to replace the Commissionon Human Rights. The establishment of the UN Human Rights Council is animportant step for the promotion and protection of human rights. It has beenestablished that member states must take into account the shortcomings of theCommission and build upon the successes of the HRC, incrementally improving theeffectiveness of the Council. Furthermore, Kofi Annan former Secretary-General(2005) and Yvonne Terlingen (2007) provide strong persuasive arguments tojustify the creation of the UNHRC. The Vienna Conference played a pivotal rolein establishing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for HumanRights and together with the UNHRC ensured improved coordination and monitoringof human rights activities and investigating human rights violations.
Inaddition, there should be recognition of peace and security as they areinterwoven within human rights issues.The paper has focused on the positiveand negative aspects of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UNHigh Commissioner for Human Rights. Although, the United Nations continues toassert inter-dependence and promote human rights, the tension over the humanrights doctrine is inevitable, when statesmen believe in differing politicalideologies specifically regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(Alves, 2000; Freeman, 2009; Waltz, 2001). It is clear there is a limitedconsensus on human rights doctrines due to the inability to differentiate betweenbasic human rights and secondary human rights. While UN members are obligatedto promote human rights domestically and internationally, there is nointernational agreement about the role human rights should play in foreignpolicy.
It is essential states and the UN principle organs should work closerwith each other. Consequently, the relationship between the UNHRC, OHCHR, andother UN bodies must mutually support one another and therefore enhancing thelikelihood progress is achieved. 1 FrançoiseJ. Hampson, (2007) ‘An Overview of theReform of the UN Human Rights Machinery’ Human Rights Law Review 7(1) 7, 272 MeghnaAbraham (2010, ‘Building the new Human Rights Council’ (article on the outcomeand analysis of the institution building year)