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Waning interest in UN activities on human rights

Apr 07,2018 - Last updated at Apr 07,2018

top-ranking UN official at the Office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights in Geneva complained recently during a meeting with members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) about the reduced funding to the UN human rights activities across the world, which he deemed most regrettable given the rise of human rights violations.

I was there at the occasion in my capacity as one of the eighteen members of the CESCR. I could not help but make a comment about this remark by asking the UN high official whether the reduced funding for human rights activities reflect a reduced interest in human rights worldwide.

I continued to ask our interlocutor whether the weakening international interest and faith in human rights issues and the agencies dealing with them can be attributed to the proposition that most of the UN human rights activities are rhetorical and words-oriented with little or no real effect on the ground.

I cited the example of the Syrian conflict, now in its eight year, during which half a million people lost their lives and millions became either internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries and beyond.

The UN high official in question drew a parallel, and rightly so, between the inability of even the UN Security Council to take any meaningful decision on Syria, whereas the UN Human Rights Council had adopted a series of powerful resolutions on the conflict.

My concern, and I believe the concern of many other observers, is that while it is true that the UN Human Rights Council adopted good and appropriate resolutions on conflicts like Syria, these resolutions, for no fault of the council, had no real impact on the status of human rights in the countries they targeted.

I noted that people across the globe have become cynical about the role of the UN in addressing human rights violations as they discern no real effect on the ground. People want action and not speeches or resolutions. The UN system is, unfortunately, long on words and short on actions, and the international community has become disillusioned therefore from anything that comes out of the international organisation or its organs.

Of course, the case of Syria is only one example. One can add the situation in the West Bank, the Yemen war, the continued bloody conflict in Libya, so on and so forth.

If the UN system feels that that it has done all that it takes to address grave human rights violations, it is obviously wrong. People, especially victims of human rights violations, want something concrete on the ground and not speeches or resolutions, as good sounding as they maybe.

That's why there is a waning sympathy or support to the UN human rights activities worldwide and funding to them is coming down.

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