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February 23, 2006

Bush responsibility for a weak UN Human Rights Council
Posted by Jeffrey Laurenti

Mort Halperin, in bringing to this blog the insights of Human Rights Watch's Larry Moss on the negotiations for a United Nations Human Rights Council, underscores the issues on how the Council will be only modestly improved over the 60-year-old Human Rights Commission it's intended to replace. The obvious question is why the reform is so modest.

And the bottom-line answer is: John Bolton.

Bolton, of course, is simply the personification of a broader Bush administration strategy of confrontation and steam-rollering. That strategy backfired in the reform negotiations for the September summit, as it has repeatedly in other foreign-policy debacles, and the watering down of Kofi Annan's ambitious plan to upgrade international human rights machinery is just the latest proof.

We could have had a strong Human Rights Council approved when national leaders were in town in New York in September, wrapped into a summit package that repeated previously agreed commitments on development goals, development aid, and nuclear controls. But John Bolton -- who by all accounts really reports to Dick Cheney, not the Secretary of State -- insisted on waging war against the development goals and aid targets, derailing the tentatively agreed package. That sent the poor majority of countries into immediate opposition, and wholesale deletions of proposals and commitments followed -- a "race to the bottom" in the summit declaration. And once the summit was over, the details of the Human Rights Council could only be traded off against other details of the Council -- not against assistance for the development priorities that poorer countries care most passionately about.

So, deprived of leverage, having no sweeteners to give in exchange for a body that will dispense human rights condemnations, Western negotiators have had to give way on the size of the majorities that would be required for election, on the time the Council would be in active session, on the rigor of standards for membership, etc.

Moreover, as Mort and Larry pointed out, after all the reform debate about making membership on the new Council conditional on meeting fundamental human rights standards, Bolton astonished the international community by floating a proposal to seat the five permanent members of the Security Council permanently on the Human Rights Council. That, plus the US coolness to the calls by human rights reformers and Kofi Annan for competitive electdions to the Council settled by a two-thirds majority vote, exposed the Bush administration's recognition of the glaring weakness of its own human rights record. The government that trumpets democracy promotio is now so associated worldwide with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo that it fears it cannot win an election against Sweden or Germany or Ireland for a seat on the Council.

Thus goes American "leadership" in the first decade of the 21st century.


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an interesting take on a fun subject. [Read More]


Crazy --- Abortion a Felony in South Dakota

Hope this craziness does not spread

I am very grateful to Jeffrey Laurenti for drawing attention to my observations regarding the mixed messages given out by the U.S. during the Human Rights Council negotiations. I did not intend to place all the responsibility for this on Ambassador Bolton, but only to suggest that overall the US emphasis on a provision which would bar countries under Security Council sanctions from serving on the new Council was misplaced, and a better result might have obtained had the U.S. joined in vigorous and consistent advocacy for a provision that would require a 2/3 supermajority for election to the Council.

Mr. Moss, that's okay; Mr. Laurenti seems more than willing to place it all on Bolton. Everyone knows that without him being there all those countries currently sitting on the HRC to protect their butts would have rolled right over, if a nice guy/girl were the USPermRep.
"Bolton, of course, is simply the personification of a broader Bush administration strategy of confrontation and steam-rollering" which started when Bush went to the UN in September 2002 and is further demonstrated by his administration's strategy on issues such Cote d"Ivoire (supported the French and the UN all the way), Sierra Leone (supported the UK and UN all the way), Sudan (supported the AU), Liberia (supported ECOWAS) NK (6 party talks), Iran (EU-3 lead) and the MEPP (the Quartet) and the Doha Round where the US recently offered major agricultural concessions, especially on cotton.
Those Bush guys and girl are such confrontational people; why can't they just support others?

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