Furthermore, children. This promoted equal rights among man, women

Furthermore, in the 1990s, the UN made a
major step towards the integration of women’s and children’s rights into the
human rights system when it established Special Rapporteurs on violence against
women and children. This promoted equal rights among man, women and children.
It also helped in understanding that “rights of man” doesn’t mean rights of the
male person.

 

Positive trends have been noted with
regard to the elimination of sex-based discrimination in national legislation.
In some countries, special programmes have been adopted to strengthen the
social status of women and to encourage gender equality in the workplace as
well as women’s participation in policy-making and decision-making (Eide. A.
1999). Furthermore, human rights bodies and activists have repeated appealed to
member states to eradicate traditional practices affecting the health of women
and girl children.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

 

Before
the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
which now is almost universally ratified, countless children around the world
were exposed to dangers that hamper their growth and development. Although
children still suffer social dislocation caused by aggression, foreign
occupation and annexation, and as casualties of war and violence and victims of
racial discrimination, to some extent, these acts have greatly reduced. 

In addition, the UNHRC is credited for
introducing a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that bases its reports from government
to non-government organisation’s contributions. Under UPR, International and
non-government organisations are included in the discussion process, for
example, Amnesty International called for an inquiry on May 31, 2010 into the
deaths caused by Israel’s military action and the UNHRC responded on June 2,
2010 by adopting a resolution to provide the dispatch of an independent
fact-finding mission. This example shows an improved dialogue between these
organisations. The UPR ensures that all states, including members of the
council are subject to the review of their human rights record. Terlingen
suggests the UPR allows holding states to become more accountable. Under the
auspices of the UPR apparatus, the conception of which has been lauded as the
Council’s most innovative reform, the human rights record of every UN member
state will be examined and judged every four years through a method of written
reports and interstate discourse (Harrington, 2010). Historians of the United
Nations system will note that the former Human Rights Commission established a
similar reporting practice in the 1950s and 1960s, which was eventually
abolished in 1981 because the reports produced were considered to be of little
to no use (Gaer, 2007). Despite this revelation, Harrington asserts there are
those that believe the UPR mechanism of the HRC will nurture a means to
impartially assess every state’s performance of its human rights
responsibilities. Further, there is the hope the UPR apparatus will allow for
the allocation of best practices among states, support interstate collaboration
in the promotion of human rights, and enable the establishment of technical
assistance by identifying states in need (Harrington, 2010; United Nations,
2007). If the UPR mechanism is an effective means for these aspired ends, it
can be confidently asserted that the prospects for the promotion and protection
of human rights will be greatly enhanced.

 

Despite the fact that human rights
failures of the United Nations are often highlighted, one can argue the UN
Charter and institutions constitutes a major development in progressive
expansion of international human rights law. Sundberg (2009) believes the lack
of a global enforcement mechanism inhibits the progression of human rights
though admits that the special rapporteurs of the commission has had partial
impact on accountability. Furthermore, Sundberg claims the establishment of the
International Criminal Court in 2002 is a significant step forward to enforce
respect for certain human rights.

The UN Charter can be also looked upon
as the further harmonization of human rights. The UN Charter created the
charter based organs responsible for the protection and promotion of human
rights. The United Nations General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies can
initiate studies on human rights issues such as the recent studies on human
rights, human trafficking, indigenous people, and the study on children in
internal conflicts. In accordance with article 13, the Charter also provides
for the codification and progressive development of human rights law. The UN
General Assembly has the power to establish committees on human rights issues
such as the establishment of: the Committee for the Inalienable rights of the
Palestinian people (2010); and the Special Committee to investigate Israeli
practices affecting the human rights of the population of Arab occupied
territories (2010). In addition, the Security Council is a principle organ of
the United Nations that has the ability to put a human rights mandate into
peacekeeping operations. The Security Council can consider gross violations of
human rights that can threaten peace and security in accordance with articles
39-42 and recommend enforcement measures. Finally, the Security Council
possesses the power to establish international criminal tribunals and examples
include: the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the Commission for Reception,
Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (2010).

                                            

United
Nations inefficiencies in promoting and protecting human rights    

 

In contrast, Forsythe (2006) considers
the United Nations to be a decentralised and poorly coordinated system because
the UN Human Rights Commission has been unable to resolve most human rights
problems. Françoise Hampson (2007) argue that before the UNHRC replaced the
highly politicized CHR, the later was heavily criticized for allowing countries
which had poor human rights records to become members1. However, the UNHRC is slowly
following the same trend since it criticized for acting in accordance with
political considerations as opposed to a blatant desire to promote human
rights. The Council is believed to be controlled and influenced by a bloc of
Islamic and African states, supported by China, Cuba and Russia, who protect
each other from criticism. It is further accused by many a prominent entities
for focusing to greatly on the Israeli, Palestinian conflict2.
 

Freedman (2013) offers a very pointed
and negative assessment of the HRC activities thus far. She asserts that the
Council has failed, systematically, to protect and promote human rights,
principally through its disregarding, or being prohibited from addressing,
copious dire human rights situations. The most disappointing characteristic of
the Council has been its continued politicisation, a characteristic that
tremendously hinders the effectiveness of the HRC (Human Rights Watch, 2010).
Despite the bleak outlook for the HRC, there is still hope the organisation may
be an effective institution.

 

Furthermore,
nations continue to dispute the importance of civil and political versus
economic, social, and cultural rights. National governments sometimes resist
adhering to international norms they perceive as contradicting local cultural
or social values. Western countries, especially the United States, resist
international rights cooperation from a concern that it might harm business,
infringe on autonomy, or limit freedom of speech. The world struggles to
balance democracy’s promise of human rights protection against its historically
Western identification. Saudi Arabia is an apt example. The country has
ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW), but one RUD states that the convention is not applicable
when it conflicts with sharia law, which allows Riyadh to continue denying
basic rights to women. Similarly, many have argued that the United States has
undermined its already limited commitments on human rights by invoking complex
RUDs. For example, Washington ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination, but with the qualifier that it would not trump
U.S. constitutional protection for freedom of speech, and therefore not require
banning hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

 

To some scholars,  the Universal Periodic Review will surely
become obsolete and be of little use to the international community if the HCR
fails to take into account the shortcomings that occurred in the 1950s and
1960s,. Despite these initial aspirations for the UPR, the political nature of
the UN has reared its ugly head and disallowed, thus far, effectiveness
measures to come to fruition that were espoused previously.

Freedman (2013) offers a detailed
analysis of the UPR to date. Freedman asserts that the UPR has been politicised
in a number of ways: the apparatus has been deficient in equitable treatment of
different states, especially those that have been singled out as “adversaries”
of the main groups of the HRC. Freedman further elucidates that the first cycle
of sessions exhibits regional manoeuvres, specifically where developing states
protect each other through various means, consistent with other Council
proceedings. Regionalism and group tactics used by blocs of states to shield
those with lacklustre human rights records were employed during the first
session of the UPR. This was enabled by the emphasis on cooperation and consent
as the UPR’s main bases. As a result, states ignored human rights issues that
were raised in the reviews, deflected attention away from gross and systemic
violations, and avoided considering recommendations (Abebe, 2009). In light of
these revelations, one would not be remised to assert the overall effectiveness
of the first round of the UPR was a dismal failure. Blocs of states had the
ability to obstruct and avoid the recommendations of the UPR. One such example
is the African Group acting in accord during the Special Sessions to shield its
regional ally, Sudan, throughout the Special Session that focused on the
situation in Darfur. Perhaps with a commendable amount of foresight, there have
been attempts made to push the HRC and its utilization of the UPR to adhere to
its founding principles, namely from the United States, to avoid situations
previously discussed.

 

In
the aftermath of the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s, where UN peacekeepers on
the ground failed to prevent mass killing and sexual violence, efforts to
establish preventive and responsive norms to atrocities accelerated. To hold
perpetrators accountable, the Rome Statute established the International
Criminal Court (ICC) as the standing tribunal for atrocities. The ICC was
largely considered an alternative to ad hoc tribunals like those for the former
Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which were criticized for proceeding too slowly and for
requiring redundant and complex institution building. The ICC is the result of
UN efforts to evaluate the prospects for an international court to address
crimes like genocide as early as 1948.

The
United States was at best ambivalent about the ICC, given concerns that its own
military actions would be subject to accusations. President Clinton signed the
Rome Statute but recommended against ratification. The George W. Bush
administration informed the UN secretary-general that the United States no
longer considered itself a signatory, and set about negotiating (after a
congressional mandate threatening to cut aid to states that refused to sign
such agreements) to avoid having its troops handed over to the court.
Ultimately, however, that administration tacitly cooperated on an ICC case
against Sudan for atrocities in Darfur. The Obama administration reengaged as
an active observer at the Conference of the Rome Statute Parties, despite its
wariness over ICC attempts to define the crime of aggression. The ICC’s first
prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, vigorously pursued the first indictment of a
sitting head of state, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, but others have suggested that
ICC proceedings have occurred no more quickly than those of ad hoc tribunals
and remain too focused on pursuing cases in Africa.

 

Conclusion

This paper has shown there are
weaknesses regarding the Commission on Human Rights on whether it served as a
protector of victims of human rights violations or as a shield for violators.
The latter is more evident, due to the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel
report and the creation of the Human Rights Council to replace the Commission
on Human Rights. The establishment of the UN Human Rights Council is an
important step for the promotion and protection of human rights. It has been
established that member states must take into account the shortcomings of the
Commission and build upon the successes of the HRC, incrementally improving the
effectiveness of the Council. Furthermore, Kofi Annan former Secretary-General
(2005) and Yvonne Terlingen (2007) provide strong persuasive arguments to
justify the creation of the UNHRC. The Vienna Conference played a pivotal role
in establishing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights and together with the UNHRC ensured improved coordination and monitoring
of human rights activities and investigating human rights violations. In
addition, there should be recognition of peace and security as they are
interwoven within human rights issues.

The paper has focused on the positive
and negative aspects of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights. Although, the United Nations continues to
assert inter-dependence and promote human rights, the tension over the human
rights doctrine is inevitable, when statesmen believe in differing political
ideologies specifically regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(Alves, 2000; Freeman, 2009; Waltz, 2001). It is clear there is a limited
consensus on human rights doctrines due to the inability to differentiate between
basic human rights and secondary human rights. While UN members are obligated
to promote human rights domestically and internationally, there is no
international agreement about the role human rights should play in foreign
policy. It is essential states and the UN principle organs should work closer
with each other. Consequently, the relationship between the UNHRC, OHCHR, and
other UN bodies must mutually support one another and therefore enhancing the
likelihood progress is achieved.

 

1 Françoise
J. Hampson, (2007)  ‘An Overview of the
Reform of the UN Human Rights Machinery’ Human Rights Law Review 7(1) 7, 27

2 Meghna
Abraham (2010, ‘Building the new Human Rights Council’ (article on the outcome
and analysis of the institution building year)