Friday, March 18, 2011

Clash of Civilations at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

The 16th session Human Rights Council, which is entering its final week in Geneva sharply depicts the clash of civilizations in two of the resolutions, which have been tabled for agreement by the plenary

The first of these resolutions tabled by the Russian Federation
“Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional Values of Humankind”

This resolution affirms that dignity, freedom and responsibility are traditional values, shared by the entire humanity and embodied in universal human rights instruments. It also recognizes that a better understanding and appreciation of these values contribute to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The resolution also notes the important role of family, community, society and educational institutions in upholding and transmitting these values, which contributes to promoting respect for human rights and increasing their acceptance at grassroots […]

The resolution also requests the advisory committee to prepare a study on how a better understanding and appreciation of the traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights and to present this study to the Council before its 21st session.

This resolution is in stark contrast with a resolution tabled by South Africa
“ The imperative need to respect the established procedures and practices of the United Nations General Assembly in the elaboration of new norms and standards and their subsequent integration into existing international human rights law “

This resolution requires the Human Rights Council to establish a new intergovernmental working group to elaborate new concepts such as sexual orientation and, others which may emerge in this regard, defining such concepts and their scope and parameters in international human rights law

This resolution also seeks to declare that this new group shall be the sole authority within the UN system to consider the issue  
“[…] the working group shall be the single modality and framework of the UN Human Rights Council within which all the deliberations on sexual orientation including other initiatives and action shall be undertaken,”. It also wants the group to commence work before the 19th session of the Human Council and subsequently to meet annually for 10 days

There is still time to influence the outcome of both resolutions by contacting your Department of Foreign affairs and we would recommend that readers of all nationalities should do so immediately or alternatively to contact your countries’ mission in Geneva. Link to Geneva Missions

It will be fascinating to watch how these two widely different concepts of human rights are resolved in the Council plenary next week.