Mark Lagon is one of the people in the International Organizations bureau at State who can play ball with high-level Bush appointees and still make the case for a strong U.S.-U.N. relationship. When John Bolton fought to vote against the Human Rights Council after his negotiating blunders, Lagon played a huge role keeping us engaged and supportive.
So I have mixed feelings about seeing him promoted to direct the Department’s trafficking work. Lagon deserves it, no doubt about that, but the country will miss his voice in the IO bureau.
Lagon’s nomination came just a month before the Bush administration decided against running for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the second straight year.
It’s a sad day when the U.S. lacks the moral standing or the influence to win a seat on an international human rights body. Most observers suspect the U.S. isn’t willing to spend the political capital necessary to win a seat.
Geneva misses a strong U.S. presence. I harbor no illusions about the performance of the Human Rights Council last year. The Organization of the Islamic Conference succeeded in focusing the Council almost entirely on Israel, ignoring other situations that sorely need international attention.
Yet on almost all the votes that mattered over the past year, the margins were extremely slim. A change of heart by only a few countries could make the difference between failure and success for the Council, and there are more than a few countries who will listen to the United States – should the administration have anything to say.
Appointing a Special Envoy to the Human Rights Council to lobby the swing votes in the Council could make the difference. There has been some openness to the idea in the administration, but still no movement.
This is just the kind of situation where we’ll miss Mark Lagon’s contributions.
— Scott Paul