Néstor Osorio, president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), has informed delegations that Sudan — whose leader is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court — would chair the humanitarian affairs segment of its annual session. A sharp protest by Canada, the US, and the EU has now sparked further consultations. Click here for details.
The welcome new outrage by Western diplomats over the UN’s legitimizing of Sudan discredits earlier attempts by several UN players to minimize Khartoum’s political victory.
When UN Watch first protested Sudan’s November election to ECOSOC, Human Rights Watch’s Peggy Hicks — in a bizarre move for a human rights activist clearly opposed to genocide in Darfur — rushed to Twitter to downplay the move.
Hicks, herself a former UN human rights official, sought to stem outrage over Sudan’s election by challenging UN Watch’s description of ECOSOC as a top UN body dealing with human rights.
Hicks’ pleas for everyone to just calm down over the election of Omar Al-Bashir’s genocidal regime were echoed the same day by the Ted Turner-funded UN Dispatch, a blog dedicated to knee-jerk apologetics for UN abuses, in a post entitled “No, Sudan Was Not Elected to ‘Top Human Rights Body’“.
What both Hicks and UN Dispatch declined to mention is that (a) ECOSOC is the sole principal organ under the UN Charter mandated to adopt resolutions for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms; (b) ECOSOC exercises regulatory oversight of human rights groups, with — as Human Rights Watch well knows — the final appellate power to decide which NGOs can participate at the UN Human Rights Council; (c) ECOSOC adopts resolutions on subjects ranging from Internet freedom to female genital mutilation; and (d) ECOSOC decides which nations sit on, among others, the UN Commission for Social Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Executive Board of the UN Children’s Fund and the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. And of course this week we now also learn that (e) ECOSOC (and potentially Sudan) oversees humanitarian matters. If that’s not a top UN human rights body, we don’t know what is.
That UN insiders would be the ones to describe all of this as insignificant is inconsistent and ironic. That they would scramble for arguments to defend the UN’s elevation of a murderous regime is simply sad.
While it’s nice to now see democracies finally speaking out, when we exposed Sudan’s election to ECOSOC in November, the only country to condemn it was Canada, in a statement from Foreign Minister John Baird. (Because only 17 countries voted against Sudan, it means that at least 10 of the EU’s 27 member states were among the 176 that elected Sudan, even though they are treaty-bound to arrest its leader for genocide.)
And when in January ECOSOC went on to elect Sudan as its Vice-President, country delegates were silent. Mia Farrow and UN Watch were the first to protest.
In response, however, US representative Joe Torsella did tweet his disappointment — but, like Hicks, attempted to quiet concerns by downplaying the election as merely “ceremonial.”
What Ambassador Torsella meant by this term is far from clear given that all decisions of the UN human rights system are declaratory, non-binding and carry purely moral weight. It’s all “ceremonial.”
But if the election of Sudan is a mere trifle, well then so are all the UN human rights resolutions which US diplomats work so hard to adopt.
But they are not a trifle. Words matter. Messages sent by the world’s highest international bodies, which resonate globally, matter.
And that simple reality was recognized when Western diplomats belatedly did the right thing by pushing back over ECOSOC’s despicable attempt to place Sudan in charge of humanitarian affairs.
Let’s hope they win. And if Qaddafi could get finally kicked out of the UNHRC, why can’t we also remove Sudan from ECOSOC entirely?