United Nations Human Rights Highest Body Holds Elections for Members to Support Global Movement to Defend Dignity, Ensure Equality & Forge Freedom

0
241

Write4Rights “Round Our World
United Nations Human Rights Highest Body Holds Elections for Members to Support Global Movement to Defend Dignity, Ensure Equality & Forge Freedom

There was an election the week prior to the U.S. Presidential that didn’t get a great deal of coverage in comparison. The election didn’t grab major political headlines; however, it’s results will generate direction of human rights for the planet.

The election season for the United Nations Human Rights Council usually offers creative campaigning and promising pledges of what the candidate countries voluntarily vow. Each seat on the 47 member UN body is important to set the standard to promote and protect human rights in every State.

While the U.S. Presidential election dominated the news and has global implications, the UN Human Rights Council election every year will determine a great deal in the guarantee of daily rights for people all over the planet.

The UN Human Rights Council provides significant reforms from its predecessor creating three sessions — March, June and September — every year to replace the one six week session in March. The UN Human Rights Council meets for 10 weeks. It has also created the Universal Periodic Review, where the human rights record of every State is reviewed, with 6 more weeks of human rights work.

There are some significant results from the secret ballot on the October 28, 2016 election at the UN General Assembly in New York. In UN GA Resolution 60/251 para 7, a majority of the UN General Assembly members must cast their ballot for the country to secure a seat.

Brazil, China, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States of America will begin the three-year term on January 1, 2017. If they work diligently to demand recognized human rights they can be re-elected for another three-year term. One of the new rules for the UN Human Rights Council is two consecutive terms is all that’s allowed to ensure more States serve to stand up for social justice in the annual election. Council members are ineligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.

The UN Human Rights Council is the global institution to influence on-the-ground realization of human rights. The Council is a forum for dialogue that adopts resolutions while elaborating universal human rights norms and promoting overall State cooperation with all human rights mechanisms from the Council’s special procedures to the core human rights treaty bodies.

The UN Human Rights Council, created by UN GA Resolution 60/251, is a new international institution being born out of the six decade old UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR). In 2006, the result of global negotiations guaranteed an equitable geographical membership body from all five official UN regions — Africa has 13 seats; Asia-Pacific has 13 seats; Latin America & Caribbean has 8 seats; and Western Europe and Other States 7 seats and Eastern Europe has 6 seats.

The new feature of the election guarantees freedom in the direct vote in the UN General Assembly requiring nearly 100 votes to be able to serve. This is a big difference where prior, the UN Economic and Social Council 54-member body would select the members. Some members never left the CHR serving for 60 years without a break denying more members an opportunity. According to UN GA Resolution 60/251, para 8, candidate countries provide voluntary pledges to enhance their chances to be considered to be chosen for one of the coveted seats. There are less seats –47 in total– on the UN Human Rights Council than its predecessor and before casting their ballots, countries are required to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto…”

So far in the first decade of existence, a majority of States have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council. In the ten years of elections, 100 states have served or are serving one term.

There have also been important initiatives by the major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and States sponsoring a side event at the UN in New York every summer where States can present their pledges and also answer questions from fellow UN members and NGO representatives. The International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sponsor the session prior to the election. In 2016, ISHR and AI hosted the first ever during the September session of the UN Human Rights Council. Not every State participates but it sets a standard to be one factor to assist States to consider when casting their votes.

Tunisia earned the most votes this election earning 189 with South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt, China, Japan, Iraq, United Kingdom and United States of America all received over 170 votes in the UN General Assembly. Russia failed to win a seat.

It’s only been a decade and there must be more reforms to ensure the elections mean something to people promoting and protecting human rights in own communities, countries and global civil society.

An alarming pattern that persists in weakening accountability is clean slate elections where States coordinate so only enough States run for the opening seats and not challenge one another. Africa leads so far in this problematic award with 8 of the 9 elections being clean slates. Western European & Others and Asia Pacific have coordinated 6 of the 9 elections to have clean slates. Eastern Europe and Latin America and Caribbean have best record — but still troubling — 5 of the 9 elections being clean slates.

An important part of the new UN Human Rights Council is that members could have their membership rights suspended by the GA when caught committing gross and systematic violations of human rights. This must be done more frequently especially when we see some members.

The UN Human Rights Council is still very important to intentional human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council builds on the CHR drafting core human rights treaties from the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) continuing the tradition with approving the adoption of the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances at the first session on June 2006. There are a couple more conventions to cover human rights for all peoples on the planet to still be drafted. The UN Human Rights Council, in its first decade of existence, has started the conversation on a Business and Human Rights convention.

The UN Human Rights Council also creates special procedures to focus on important international issues that impact human rights of peoples. While some States wanted to eliminate such mandates and decrease the number of special procedures, there has been a steady increase in imminent issues with new independent experts, special rapporteurs and working groups in its decade of existence.

Each new mandate shows the universality and understanding of human rights. The special procedures are the eyes and ears assisting and advising to realize human rights. They do country visits, issue communications on urgent matters and report annually. The UN Human Rights Council has created most recently an Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. One independent expert mandate on environment evolved after successful reports and research into the current Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment. There was also action on Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to create the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.

The UN Human Rights Council annual election should receive more consideration by every country and its citizens demanding greater commitment to human rights. The record of a State and its voluntary pledges including its participation in events to promote one’s promises if elected should be major factors to determine which States defend human rights as members of the UN Human Rights Council. The Universal Rights Group, a think-tank, creates an annual election guide. It’s vital reading to decide who will be best ally to realize human rights. The guide shares which governments have fulfilled previous voluntary pledges and commitments; current key pledges and commitments; voting record on resolutions during previous sessions; joint statements in Council debates, discussion and dialogues; and if cited for committing reprisals against human rights defenders.

The guide also tells which governments serve in the Council bureau, voluntary contribute to OHCHR and have a national presence with a country or regional office as well as if they have an accredited National Human Rights Institution and its accreditation status. All of this should be weighed when States cast their ballot annually every fall in New York. More important, NGOs must play more prominent role with campaigns to promote specific candidates and reject specific States.

Most significant in the Universal Rights Group guide is the information sharing State record of cooperation with UN human rights charter and tracy mechanisms covering standing invitations for special procedures; visits of special procedures completed; longest outstanding visit requests; communication response rate with special procedures; core conventions ratified, communication procedures accepted; most overdue reports to treaty bodies; level of delegation to the Universal Periodic Review. All of the factors determine if fundamental freedoms will be weakened and worsened or if world will be in the best hands to promote and protect human rights.

While the U.S. Presidential election dominated the news and has global implications, the UN Human Rights Council election every year will determine a great deal in the guarantee of daily rights for people all over the planet.

While the U.S. Presidential election dominated the news and has global implications, the UN Human Rights Council election every year will determine a great deal in the guarantee of daily rights for people all over the planet.

LEAVE A REPLY