Appreciating the Value of the UN Human Rights Council

Posted by Esther Brimmer
December 9, 2011
11th Session of Human Rights Council at UN in Geneva

I'm often in Geneva -- a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. It is also a city embraced by people from around the world as a focal point for addressing some of the world's most challenging issues. As the home to many international organizations including the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, and the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva is a global crossroads.

And so, when the Secretary was looking for an appropriate location to deliver a groundbreaking speech outlining U.S. views on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) persons, Geneva was the obvious choice. Speaking at the Palais des Nations in the run-up to International Human Rights Day, the Secretary reminded her audience that LGBT rights are no less universal than other rights we defend. She stressed that every person, irrespective of social orientation, is imbued with human rights. Secretary Clinton said, "It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave."

This most recent visit by the Secretary to Geneva only further reinforces the U.S. commitment to employing multilateral tools to advance our global human rights priorities, and reinforces a landmark LGBT resolution passed by the Council in June of this year.

These actions are further reminders that the Human Rights Council's performance has changed for the better, and that the United States has been instrumental in fostering that change. When we ran for a seat on the Council in 2009, we argued that our vocal, authoritative presence on the Council would make a difference, and that only by working with the Council could we advance effectively our human rights goals. Two years later, I believe this approach has been validated.

Just last week, the Council held a special session where it further illuminated the Syrian Government's brutal conduct and endorsed renewed efforts to expose that conduct to the light of day. The Commission of Inquiry report that framed this session is important reading for all concerned about the situation in Syria.

This special session is the latest example of the Council's improving performance, which in recent months has included attention to country situations in Yemen, Cote d'Ivoire, Iran, Sudan, Belarus, Somalia, Libya, and Kyrgyzstan. It has featured innovative action on freedom of assembly, internet freedom, freedom of religion, on discrimination against women, and more.

Nobody is suggesting that the Human Rights Council is a perfect institution. Challenges remain. I am suggesting, however, that U.S. leadership on the Council has made a crucial difference in the Council's effectiveness, and that this leadership must be sustained.

Comments

Comments

Maggie
|
Ohio, USA
December 9, 2011

Maggie in Ohio writes:

I love these posts--things are always more interesting when written from a firsthand perspective. Could you put little mini-bios up for your contributors? I would love to know more about each writer's role and experience in DoS.

Zharkov
|
United States
December 9, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

Our alleged ally, Saudi Arabia, is about to beat to death some Australian guy with 500 lashes for insulting some long-dead associate of Mohammed.

If the UN can't stop that violation of human rights, what good is it?

Saudi Arabia shouldn't even be a member of the UN if that kind of punishment is doled out for tourists who temporarily forget their manners.

Zharkov
|
United States
December 11, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

Another alleged ally, Thailand, imprisoned an American, Joe Gordon, for publishing in America a biography about the King of Thailand.

To impose Thai law on an American who exercised his right to free speech inside America is clearly a violation of Mr. Gordon's civil rights in America, for which the Thai government should be held liable for money damages.

Why are countries having "royals", mullahs, and dictators who violate human rights allowed to remain members of the U.N., a supposedly democratic institution?

Are there no standards of conduct or decency for U.N. membership? Can any murderous tyrant join the U.N. and thereby lower the standard of human rights for the rest of the membership?

Harry M.
|
United States
December 19, 2011

Harry M. in the U.S.A. writes:

Do you think that Syria spying on dissidents?

.

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