8 May 2003

UN reform
Matthew Iglesias and others have raised UN reform in terms of remaking the Security Council to reflect the real world. Since Charter amendments require a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly including all of the Security Council's permanent members I somehow doubt that either France or Britain are about to throw themselves on their swords. I doubt that any of the Big 5 are prepared to have the veto restricted to Chapter VII matters either.

Of course, since many of these calls are part of the neocon Francophobe hysteria I guess the Bush administration could break the road block by announcing that it is opposed to the veto and will surrender its own but I would more than mildly surprised if they did. Along with one or two others.

Reforming the UN Commission on Human Rights is an easier project. The push comes from 2 or 3 directions. The Howard government promotes 'democratic exceptionalism' - a new form of colonialism in which the UN human rights machinery ignores the Anglosphere and becomes the scourge of tyrants. If they're not white. The second direction comes from the US and promotes the United States (but no-one else) as exceptions to the system. The third push comes from the human rights community itself.

NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch are calling for the exclusion from the commission of any state which doesn't meet basic requirements.

Amnesty proposes a state would have to:

Extend a standing invitation to the special procedures of the Commission and to co-operate with their requests to undertake visits,
Ensure full and prompt implementation of the recommendations of the special procedures,
Ratify key international human rights treaties and their optional protocols, and provide for communications procedures and on-site investigation,
Ensure full and prompt implementation of the recommendations of the treaty monitoring bodies,
Ensure timely submission of periodic reports to treaty monitoring bodies.

Neither Australia nor the US would be enthusiastic about this but neither government is enthusiastic about Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights. If either state is genuine about the universality of human rights they might consider putting themselves at the head of the NGO campaign. Sadly, I'm not quite ready to hold my breath waiting.

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