Thursday, 1 October 2015
The United Nations Human Rights Council
is one of many United Nations councils, committees, forums and the like. Some are more useful than others. It is all supposed to be very "democratic" and lead to better things.
Yes, I have some doubts. I have probably had more to do with the United Nations as an organisation than most "ordinary" people - those not in positions of power. I am well aware of the "individual action" requirement. The United Nations does not do things. Individual member states do.
The United Nations is not about international cooperation. It is about politics, internal, external and international.
Australia wants a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. It would put the country on the world stage for human rights for three years - or so some believe.
The reality is that, once there, they could do very little. Australia could raise issues but it is unlikely that they would get debated in depth. The Council is as much about suppressing debate as it is about encouraging it. Countries like Saudi Arabia do not want gender equality debated and they will see that it is not. Countries like Pakistan have powerful forces within them which stifle the education debate. Namibia simply does not have the funds to assist all those disabled by land mines. They don't want that discussed. I could go on.
But there is also Australian politics at work. The President of the Human Rights Commission, President Gillian Triggs, was undermining the idea of a bid yesterday. She used it to push her own agenda, claiming that Australia's record had shown "a decrease in compliance with international law" over the past nine years. The Greens Senator, Richard di Natale, came out with a similar statement. Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Tanya Plibersek, was a little more measured - but only just. All three were using the bid to try and force their view of human rights on the Australian government. It's understandable. They will do it even if it undermines the bid - because it may help to bring down the present government and increase their own power.
Buying a seat on the Human Rights Council will be expensive. Yes, it comes at a cost. Votes are bought, not won. Foreign aid will need to be directed towards countries who will agree to vote for Australia's inclusion. It will have to be directed towards projects that those countries want - not necessarily the projects a country needs.
I have seen all this happen over and over again.
My own view is that Australia would be better off not making the bid and using the money saved on projects that will allow people to help themselves. That will have a much greater impact.
If anyone doubts that then here is a list of the countries currently on the Human Rights Council. It makes interesting reading doesn't it?
Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam.