Friday, March 03, 2006

Human Rights Reform

Don't miss this issue of the Economist.

Here is some portion of an interesting article:

The wrong approach to rights?

The United Nations is mulling over the creation of a new council to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights. Some think the proposal now on the table, though far from perfect, is worth adopting. America begs to differ.
The United States, along with most other developed nations and human-rights groups, wanted the present 53-member commission, with an open membership that often includes some of the worst violators of human rights, replaced by a much smaller council whose members would be elected by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly on the basis of their human-rights credentials. Instead, the new body has almost as many members (47) and is open to all without restriction apart from the usual UN requirement of “equitable geographic distribution”. Indeed, the regional group with the most solid human-rights credentials—the Western Europe and Others Group, which includes America and various white Commonwealth countries—will now have fewer members than before—just seven, which is less than half the number allotted to violence-riddled Africa, for example.
Many are beginning to fear that the whole idea of a new human-rights framework—once described by Mark Malloch Brown, Mr Annan's chief-of-staff, as “the litmus test of UN renewal”, could now founder. Yet, as Mr Eliasson points out, human rights is supposed to be one of the three pillars holding up the UN. “If we cannot agree on a new, more efficient human-rights body, it will have serious ramifications for the whole organisation,” he says. Some, including America, have suggested a “cooling-off period”, giving time for some extra arm-twisting. But with tensions between America and the Group of 77 already so high, this could end up further poisoning the atmosphere.


At 4:55 p.m., Blogger Inquisitor said...

Perhaps they should first decide what is a human right and how they are going to decide on acceptable reasons for not following them. I understand that there is a UN Declaration of Human rights and perhaps that can be used as a starting point as a prerequisite for being considered a candidate for the committee.
That said, many countries have different values and morals. For instance, the length of time you can sit in jail without being charged varies greatly across western nations. The US is one of the top administrators of capital punishment, at least admitted as some countries do not divulge their statistics.
So first they should finally decide on what standards they are going to at least agree to.
I will try not to rant here about how the UN is a democracy of un-democratic nations and how anti-democratic nations use democratic-style decision-making in the UN against democracies.

At 9:34 p.m., Blogger Bahar said...

I don't know much about UN and how it really functions. But when it comes to human rights, it bothers me to see that nations who claim to protect it, violate it just as well.

But another thing I wonder is that if morals have anything to do with human rights!

e.g. defending a criminal (as a lawyer) may not moral but certainly a criminal's right.

Right to marriage for homosexuals doesn't sound so "moral" , either.

Who determines what is moral? Our concience? Our parents? Out traditions? The supreme Court? UN? Declaration of human rights? Canadian charter of rights?

At 4:39 p.m., Blogger Inquisitor said...

I think that basic morals are universal, it's just in how they are applied. The moral of not killing others is universal, but some groups term it to mean; do not kill anyone, or do not kill one of your own kind.
That is why it is so difficult for people in Canada to understand why others in various parts of the world act without seemingly having morals.
In some countries, religious difference are the source or font of a dehumanizing aspect. See Iraq and Northern Ireland now and most of Europe during the reformation. Also the early colonization of America involved many religious sects forced out of Europe.

In some other countries, ethnic or racial differences dehumanize others. See Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Sometimes it can be just simple tribal ties or families that everything is broken down to.

A group of people has to collectively decide for themselves (or sometimes they will look to a leader - political, religious, ethnic or otherwise- to make the decision for them) what they will accept as reasonable.

The real challenge is for a group to tolerate minorities who do not have as much power. This too can happen in democracies as well. In its worst form, a democracy can be a tyranny of the majority. It cannot be underestimated, the importance of the generosity of a majority to a minority.

Don't laugh, but it is not so long ago in North America that left-handed people were not allowed to write with their left hand in school as it was seen as deviant or wrong. And women were not recognized as persons. And non-Northern Europeans were not encouraged to immigrate to Canada.

It is a slow and gradual process that must involve the acceptance by the majority of the people.

At 5:12 p.m., Blogger Bahar said...

"A group of people has to collectively decide for themselves (or sometimes they will look to a leader - political, religious, ethnic or otherwise- to make the decision for them) what they will accept as reasonable."

That is where all the differences come from. According to the President of USA, homosexual marriage is not reasonable and according to the President of the Netherlands (e.g.) it is. According to the President of Iran, Jews should be wiped out of the Middle East!

One leader follows religion, the other one follows tradition and one might prefer to follow his common sense. They all think they are doing the right thing.

Funny thing is that in the middle east, no group of people can collectively decide on anything! :D (this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but is partly true) It is some sort of a regional attitude. Peaceful debate doesn't mean much and everyone wants to follow his very own path toward "justice".

At 5:18 p.m., Blogger Bahar said...

I started questioning religion when my common sense and sense of compassion conflicted with the teachings.

Where I got my common sense, sense of compassion or fairness, I don't know. Perhaps my upbringing had a lot to do with it.

May people my age, who grew up in the same town and went to the same school, had a whole different set of rules in their common sense.

I suppose it could be a function of time (when you where born), place (where you were born), upbringing (parents' beliefs), education (what you were taught) and life experiences (whether or not you had to face injustice in your life). I suppose that's how you develop your common sense (or morals and values).


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