* The International Labour Organization (ILO) convened the 86th session of its annual International Labour Conference (ILC). After a two year respite, the ILC once again held a special sitting concerning the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories.
Analysis: The ILC considers labour conditions and standards throughout the world. Only Israel, however, is singled out for a special sitting.
Especially troubling is the fact that the special sitting does not offer dialogue on the situation of workers of the territories. Once again, it turned into another “Israel bashing” event – an all too familiar scene inside the UN halls. Delegates poured blame for the stalled peace process on Israel alone. Statements accused Israel of killing innocent people and practicing the “worst forms of colonialism,” to name just a couple aspersions.
The ILC is not a forum for political discussion. The special sitting had nothing to do with labour, nor with management. States were simply given free license to castigate Israel and fan the flames of anti-Israel sentiment. Such discussions have nothing to do with the situation of workers in the territories, nor do they contribute to the overall peace process. The ILC should cease holding these special sittings which are wholly political, irrelevant, and undermine the important work of the ILO.
* The UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights celebrated the official opening of its new headquarters in Geneva’s Palais Wilson, an impressive building sitting on the banks of Lake Geneva.
Analysis: The UN’s Centre for Human Rights joined the High Commissioner for Human Rights in September of 1997 to form the new United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. With palatial grounds to house its activities, it is now up to the human rights machinery to earn its keep.
In today’s UN, human rights have become politicized, hindering the potential of human rights bodies. The High Commissioner’s office – invested with principal responsibility for UN human rights activities – was established “to improve coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness.” The hope is that Mary Robinson will distance herself from the increasingly politicized UN human rights agenda. Indeed, the resolution establishing the Commissioner’s office requires her to be “impartial, [and] objective.”