The U.N. Human Rights Council: Success or Failure - An Assessment of the First Year
Recorded on May 3, 2007
Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
The U.N. General Assembly voted in March 2006 to replace the
Commission on Human Rights with the Human Rights Council.
The General Assembly took this drastic action because the
Commission, dominated by human rights abusers who used their
influence to block scrutiny or criticism, proved unable to champion
human rights. As former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
noted in 2005, "We have reached a point at which the Commission's
declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the
United Nations system."
Annan called the new Human Rights Council "a great opportunity
to make a fresh start." High Commissioner for Human Rights
Louise Arbour stated, "The decision of the General Assembly to
create the Council is momentous. It responds to the hope that
the global community could come together and create a strong
institution at the heart of the international human rights
system." Human rights non-governmental organizations and U.S.
elected officials were more cautious, stating that the Council was
an improvement over the Commission - albeit not as much of an
improvement as they had hoped - and should be supported by the
United States. The U.S. voted against the resolution establishing
the Council, however, based on its concern that it would not be an
improvement over the discredited Commission. Moreover, the U.S.
decided not to run for a seat on the new Council.
In its first year the Human Rights Council has held four
sessions and four special sessions. How has the Council
performed? Has it been an improvement over the
Commission? Have the reforms adopted to address the flaws of
the Commission proven effective? Has the new election process
resulted in an improved Council membership and what can we expect
in the upcoming May election? What are the prospects for the
Council going forward?