LAW watch

The UN: Fostering or failing?

Challenges in implementing human rights through the UN mechanisms begin with the need to decide among competing priorities and strategically categorising the best use of its limited resources.

UN's peacekeeping force has pulled it back from implementing human rights, which to the naked eye seems like an ironic challenge. Though the peacekeeping force has done a praiseworthy job since its emergence, it has made major errors, among others, during Rwanda Genocide (1994) being largely ineffective to protect a million Tutsi minority from being killed; outright failure to undertake preventive measures in Srebrenica massacre (1995). Allegations of rape and child sex abuse in Congo (early 2005) have nothing but increased the organisation's already subsisting challenges. Bangladesh genocide (1971) committed by Pakistani Army saw the massive letdown of this peacekeeping organisation plainly because there's no apparent consequence for violating a Security Council resolution. The restrictive administrative structure (especially the controversial veto) has affected decisions relating to human rights.  

Achieving the 30 rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains utopia and some of the failures must be attributed to the UN itself. Repeatedly they have been blamed for internal politicisation of the organisation which is to say that the agencies of the UN are being used for irrelevant political debate rather than their respective functions. The sensitive accusation of favouritism against the UN has been somewhat proved by UNSC solely addressing the calculated interests of its five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) while plainly ignoring the poorer nations (for example, protecting oil-rich Kuwaitis in 1991 as opposed to worse-off Rwandans in 1997). Only to stir the pot, this peacekeeping body is further criticised for having its legislative, judiciary and executive branches concentrated in the UNSC - conflicting the idea of the UN being a democratic organisation. The five permanent members are allegedly the top five arms exporting countries (according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) which only lengthens the strings of challenges against the organisation that pledges to keep peace yet allots the highest authority to the countries most likely to instigate warfare for their own interests.

Opportune and precise information can possibly reduce politicisation and build consensus. Information about the abuse of human rights could prompt a basis for policy development while creating a diminishing effect on those who abuse it. Sadly, some regions have violated human rights so severely that these have been deemed to become 'human rights free zone'. Strengthening relationship between the UNHQ and such regions may result into improvement of the situation

The Arab-Israeli conflict has forever been a challenge to the UN. In 2007 UNHRC President Doru Romulus Costea admitted that the UN has failed to take care of it. Despite sponsoring several peace negotiations between Israel and its neighboring countries, there has been anything but peace in that region.

Furthermore, the catastrophic condition of human rights in Syria has swayed the confidence away from the UN. According to Professor Robert S Wistrich there hasn't been a single resolution mentioning the violations in Syria as opposed to those directed to Israel.  

It's questionable whether the UN is relevant at all in this century at the face of fundamental miscarriage of the principles of peace upon which it was founded. Achieving the human rights goal isn't the UN's sole responsibility even though they have expressly and inherently volunteered to establish human rights. Undeniably the responsibilities are vested in the Member States. Although highly arguable, the United Nations remains an apparent agent to uphold human rights that can be better implemented if the challenges are overcome.


The writer is a Law Desk Contributor.


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