By Arul Louis,
INDIA has called for focusing UN human rights endeavours on advocacy and consensus building, while eschewing ideologically-driven pronouncements and striving for impartiality.
Indian Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Monday:
“The focus should be on advocacy and consensus building through promotion of better understanding of human rights issues” while ensuring “full respect for the sovereign equality, territorial integrity, and political independence of all UN member-states”.
He was speaking at the UNGA discussion on the report of the Human Rights Council (HRC), to which India was elected to a second term last month polling the highest number of votes for an Asian region state.
HRC’s strength, he said, “lies in its adherence to the principles of universality, transparency, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and constructive international dialogue”.
Adhering to these principles was a running theme that came up in the addresses by several national representatives, with some saying the HRC came up short on some of them.
Advocating these core values in the functioning of the HRC, Mukerji drew attention to the role and work of experts who are sometimes referred to as special rapporteurs and are mandated with reporting and advising on human rights in selected countries or on specific topics. They have to be truly independent, act with sensitivity and their recommendations, he said, “should be specific, constructive and be relevant to the country and not ideologically driven“.
He warned that the special rapporteurs — known in UN parlance as “Special Procedures” — making “sweeping generalisations” would not further the cause of human rights nor would overstepping their mandates.
Another area for caution, Mukerji said, is “the damaging power of misinformation” propelled by the speed and reach of the Internet”.
“Serious attention needs to be paid on how information related to human rights situations is analysed and reported,” he said.
The US was among those critical of the working of the HRC over what was perceived as its selectivity. Jill Derderian, a counsellor at the US mission, said her country noted with regret the HRC’s “myopic focus on Israel” and the bias it faced.
Advocating a non-selective and impartial approach, Shaojun Yao, a counsellor at the Chinese mission, said “naming and shaming” of some countries and assuming an attitude of political confrontation could be counterproductive to the promotion of human rights.
Ambassdor Girma Asmerom Tesfay of Eritrea, whose country was one of 14 assigned a special rapporteur, asserted that since every country had human rights problems, singling out Eritrea was a waste of time.
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Mukerji emphasised a holistic approach to human rights and it was another theme that reverberated in the addresses by developing countries.
“The indivisibility, interrelatedness and interdependence of all human rights including the right to development has been reiterated time and again by this assembly,” Mukerji declared. “The right to development is an inalienable human right central to the purpose and mission of the UN.”
Brazil’s Ambassador Guilherme De Aguiar Patriota said that while it was acknowledged that human rights comprised a single spectrum from economic, social, and cultural rights to political and civil rights, he found it surprising that the resolution on the right to development had to be voted on every year. He said that to promote human rights among developed and developing countries, it was necessary to reconsider the questioning of the right to development as a human right.
Describing the right to development as a “cornerstone” of human rights, Malaysia’s Ambassador Hussein Haniff said the international community should consider it while developing the post-2015 Development Agenda.
Some countries brought up various issues of special interest to them during the discussions. Without naming the US, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan, attacked the use of armed drones against targets in his country, which he said had a devastating impact on children and families and affected religious practices. The drones violated his country’s sovereignty and should be immediately stopped, he said.
Emad Morcos Mattar, a first secretary in Egypt’s UN Mission, brought up the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Egypt was concerned that without building an international consensus, an attempt was being made to enforce ideas about them through the HRC.