Kofi Annan And the Human Rights Council

Kofi Annan takes to the pages of the Christian Science Monitor for Human Rights Day on December 10 to extol the value, utility and virtue of the Human Rights Council:

In June, the Council took a historic step by adopting a resolution to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons, helping to establish that sexual orientation cannot be grounds for discrimination and the abuse of rights. The effort was led by South Africa, despite vigorous opposition from neighbouring countries, along with support from Brazil, Colombia, the United States, and many others.

Council action in response to the human rights situations in Iran, Libya, and Syria has, in each case, been possible due to the support of countries from Africa and Latin America, and even from within the Middle East.

It is true that conducting effective diplomacy and changing political dynamics is hard, but working to find agreement with countries that have disparate worldviews has always been a difficult endeavor. Nevertheless, it is important and worthwhile…

If we let the UN Human Rights Council fail, which will surely happen if democratic states weaken their commitment and engagement with it, we leave the field free to tyrants to call the shots. That would be a betrayal of those who are, or might one day be, the target of oppression and violence. These people rely on the protection the UN might offer, however imperfect, and even more rely on those committed to human rights to work within the UN to strengthen that protection and make it truly universal.