Delivering the Right Way on Human Rights


human rights council logo.jpgOne of my frustrations with the global justice community has been a general aversion to thinking through and articulating clear road maps to secure human rights advancements in a way that can stand up to cost/benefit assessments of other contending policy goals.
There are some exceptions in the field — Tom Malinowski at Human Rights Watch, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke during his career, and some others — have a refreshingly Machiavellian approach (which I mean as a compliment) in securing major human rights deliverables. They both tend to be flexible in the means by which they achieve these ends — and they are quite aware of political and other constraints on American power at the moment.
Ted Piccone, Deputy Director for Foreign Policy at Brookings, has impressed this morning with a piece he has just published at Global Post on other parts of the human rights puzzle that make a great deal of sense to me.
While focusing on American engagement in the UN Human Rights Council that former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton worked hard to kill off as the reformed institution was being relaunched and rebranded a few years ago, Piccone outlines some of the ways that human rights gains “should” be advanced by nations.
Piccone writes:

. . .human rights defenders from around the world are focused, organized and engaged in cross-border advocacy to shine a spotlight on the worst abusers and to urge governments to defeat them.
Their message gets results because the instrument of competitive elections gives governments a viable choice in the voting booth. It is therefore critical that competition continues if, over time, we are to see an improved cast of characters in Geneva. In this regard, the United States must set the right example by insisting on competitive slates for its regional group, unlike last year when it pushed New Zealand aside to run unopposed.
Now that the U.S. is on the council, it seems to be making a positive difference. It campaigned quietly but determinedly to block Iran’s candidacy. It is building cross-regional coalitions to address contentious issues like freedom of expression and hate crimes and terrible violence in countries like Guinea and Sudan. And it appears to be taking seriously its first-ever submission later this year to the Universal Period Review process, a new mechanism that now requires every state’s human rights record to be evaluated in proceedings web simultaneously broadcast throughout the world.
The Obama administration is off to a good start, then, in its re-engagement policy at the U.N. Human Rights Council, but it must do much more, starting with our own actions at home. Seen from the eyes of human rights defenders on the ground, the most important thing Washington can do is to lead by example.

Piccone outlines the right way to help secure sustainable human rights change — as opposed to thinking that the US military should be responsible for delivering in this arena.
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “Delivering the Right Way on Human Rights

  1. JohnH says:

    “actually the world’s worst human rights offenders have an agreement among themselves to spend 80% of their time bashing Israel.”
    And Israel obligingly serves up lots for them to criticize! Most countries do their nasty business in the dark of night. But Israel, intent on extracting money from the diaspora and US taxpayers, makes sure it is front page news on the New York Times, under the bizarre guise of trying to convince people that killing women and children in Gaza is self defense!


  2. nadine says:

    …actually the world’s worst human rights offenders have an agreement among themselves to spend 80% of their time bashing Israel. Which ought to lead you to reconsider the quality of the reporting you are hearing on the subject.


  3. JohnH says:

    With that cast of human rights abusers, I’m surprised they don’t welcome Israel into their midst and give it a prominent position…


  4. nadine says:

    Not to worry, John, UN Human Rights Committee are always stuffed with the worst offenders who all agree not to wash each others’ dirty laundry in public. Iran just joined the UN Committee on Women’s Rights. So there you go, Iran needn’t worry about anybody bashing its hanging of protesters or officially-sanctioned rape of virgin girls who are condemned to death.
    Happy now?


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Apparently Piccone’s definition of human rights is different from mine, and from most peoples’ in the world, if he thinks that the US can be taken seriously as an advocate for human rights. That is, human rights shouldn’t include illegal wars which kill, injure and displace huge numbers of people; or kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of thousands; or deadly rocket attacks which kill innocents in allied countries; or support for war crimes conducted by other countries; or . . .the list goes on.


  6. Mr.Murder says:

    “Late yesterday, the Obama administration went on record for the first time in the case of Arar v. Ashcroft, CCR’s ongoing fight to hold Bush officials accountable for the rendition and torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar. The Supreme Court will be considering whether or not to hear the case. The Obama administration did not need to get involved, but it has chosen to come to the defense of Bush administration officials by opposing Mr. Arar’s petition and arguing that even if these officials conspired to send him to torture, they should not be held accountable by the courts.”


  7. JohnH says:

    Yes, if I were setting up a human rights council, I would want to be sure that the likes of Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia were selected, so that the council could focus on the horrors in IRAN!!!
    And, most of all, I would want to make sure to appoint, as a shining example to all, a country that started a major war of choice, presided over the deaths of hundreds of thousands, displaced several million, and routinely bombs funeral and wedding parties in Afghanistan.
    With a human rights cast like that how could we possibly fail to attain “the right way to help secure sustainable human rights change?”


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