Issue 8: PLO granted additional UN powers; and Geneva hosts a variety of important UN human rights meetings

With a vote of 124 to 4, the UN General Assembly granted the PLO additional powers, including the right to participate in the general debate of the assembly (and any international conferences convened by the UN), the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions on Palestinian and Middle East issues, and the rights to reply and raise points of order.

Analysis: For several months the PLO has been seeking to change its UN status, but these efforts largely have been stalled by European objections. The present decision to improve the PLO’s status is more than symbolic; it offers evidence of both the growing marginalization of Israel within the UN, and a global willingness to overlook PLO violations of the Oslo Accords. It may also be part and parcel of the EU’s persistent desire to insert itself into the Middle East peace process.

Clearly, notions of fairness, balance, or the objective examination of the PLO’s stated intentions and record of behavior since the Oslo signing ceremony have not played a part in the decision-making of the UN majority.  Is it whimsy to ask how UN members would react to the granting of special status to Taiwan, Tibet, East Timor, Quebec separatists, or liberation movements of the Basques, or Irish Republicans?  One-sidedness in the Arab-Israeli conflict continues to be an ingrained component of the UN equation.


* Geneva will host a variety of important UN human rights meetings this summer, starting with the Human Rights Committee that convened two days ago.

Analysis:  Summer is a busy time for the UN’s human rights machinery. Two treaty bodies – one overseeing the fight against racial discrimination, another charged with the protection of civil and political rights – will hold hearings over the next six weeks.  In addition, the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities – which considers everything from the role and equal participation of women in development to concerns regarding human rights in scientific and technological development – will meet throughout August.

Once again, the system will rely upon “independent experts” who will assess the state of human rights worldwide. These experts have the opportunity to behave with fairness and analytical rigor, or to give full effect to personal prejudices and political agendas. This is the constant story of the UN’s human rights experience, and the conclusion can almost always be foretold.

UN Watch