Thanks to the heroic emergency credentialing of Charles Graves of Interfaith International, I got my badge this morning and entered into the hallowed halls of Geneva’s Fortress United Nations. Many, many thanks to Charles and Interfaith for allowing me to be a part of their delegation, and of course, any opinions expressed within these reports do not reflect the views of Interfaith International unless clearly stated.
The High Level Segment of the CHR continued today with dignitaries and foreign ministers from all around the world giving fifteen minute statements each on a variety of issues, from UN reform to religious intolerance in the world to genocide, general statements about the status of the promotion and protection of human rights in the world. This morning, the halls were totally empty, like a ghost town abandoned by cowboys and avenging angels alike. A far cry from yesterday’s session, I heard, which was packed to the brim with government representatives, UN delegates and NGOs fighting for an earpiece to listen in on the proceedings.
Because the High Level Segment is the least substantial of the CHR discussions, I will only highlight a few points I found most interesting and you can read the politically correct UN Briefing at www.ohchr.org. For those who don’t know, the entire first week of the CHR is time dedicated to dignitaries to address whatever issue(s) they feel are relevant to the Commission’s proceedings. Some take the Name and Shame stance right from the beginning and list the various nations in the world they feel have committed grievous human rights violations since the last CHR. Others make Pre-Emptive Defense Statements right from the get-go, detailing the shopping list of advances their country has made in the field of human rights in whatever form, through the passing of new legislation, with the adoption of UN Treaties, or general work of the government to further the rights of whatever segment of society may have in the past been marginalized, etc. There is an eerie litany repeated by each and every government which affirms their ‘commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all peoples’ which in most cases is an outright lie if one knows anything about the reality of the policies and practices of the said government.
Finland opened the morning with a speech by their Minister of Foreign Affairs in the context of a Greenpeace campaign outside the walls of Fortress UN noting the abuse of Saami forest rights by the Finnish government. But of course, Finland is wholeheartedly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights both at home and in the international community, including the human rights of indigenous peoples of the world. They continued with the mantra supporting democracy and rule of law, the evilness of genocide that must be eradicated, their support of the rights of women, blah blah blah, going through every agenda item on the CHR roster with a brief note on how they are committed to advancing said issue.
And thus began the whitewashing work of the dignitaries, who made simply glorious and gorgeous statements about the highly evolved state of human rights protection in their countries. It was stunning really in its fictiticiousness because, in all honesty, if things are as perfect as each of these dignitaries would have us believe, then why is there even need for a Commission on Human Rights? The subtitles would read the lyrics to ‘What a Wonderful World.’
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia made a very interesting statement in which he claimed that Armenians were the first victims of genocide in the 20th Century. I think that the 300+ million indigenous peoples of the world would disagree with this claim as their genocide has been ongoing for the last 500 years without reprieve. To his credit he did also note that ‘governments that commit genocide must be persecuted and prosecuted,’ to which I began making my own list of genocidal governments to present to the CHR with the USA and Canada at the very top. He also stated that financially bankrupt nations are taken to international financial institutions to rectify the situation, but what of morally bankrupt nations? Where shall they go and where can we take them?
Many Foreign Ministers discussed the issues of Islamophobia, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, UN reforms as well as the CHR reforms, combating human trafficking, and like I said, going through the shopping list of issues on the CHR agenda. Very many statements, such as from Mauritania, Yemen, Albania, Slovenia, Mexico, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Nepal continued with what I am calling the Pre-Emptive Defense Statement in which they detail every little advance their country has made in the furthering of human rights and their successes in the promotion and protection of said human rights. These statements are Pre-Emptive because, as you will see, during the substantive sessions of the CHR the developed (First World) nations will begin to attack and expose all of the human rights violations from these developing nations. Even though these nations could easily point out the numerous human rights violations of these developed nations, they instead choose the Pre-Emptive Defense. I am not sure if this is out of fear or a genuine desire to demonstrate to the world that they really are trying to be better, but in any case, they give the skewed perception that the developed nations have no problems (as these First World nations NEVER admit to human rights violations. EVER!) and actually aid in the double standard of Naming and Shaming that is so criticized within the CHR proceedings.
I was shocked that Mexico did not even mention the timely completion of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a project that they have been very supportive of within the context of the Working Groups to the point where they had become something of beacons of hope within a dismally failing process. I was further shocked to read that Canada, in their statement yesterday afternoon, claimed that the Draft Declaration process only needs one more session in order to successfully complete the work and adopt a Declaration that will be suitable for indigenous peoples and governments alike. Oh yes, Alice, I am with you in Wonderland trying to figure out what the collective Canadian government must be smoking to come up with that brilliant statement.
For me, the real kicker of the day was the preposterous statement made by the Sri Lankan government in their remarks about the after-effects of the horrific tsunami which struck the country on December 26, 2004. As many of you know, my father is Sri Lankan, and although the tsunami disaster thankfully did not affect any immediate family or friends, we all were indescribably moved by the horror of it, many of us sinking into depressions the more the brutality of the situation unfolded during the Christmas holidays. The Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka claimed that ‘The government moved into action within less than one hour [after the disaster] and commenced the distribution of food and other relief items to the north, south, east and west, without any discrimination whatsoever…[And] The government apparatus for the distribution of supplies has been effectively in place.’ LIARS! First of all, it wasn’t until the day after the tsunami hit that anyone in the unaffected parts of Sri Lanka even knew what happened, but secondly and even more disgustingly, the Sri Lankan government has been withholding aid from the North and the East because these are the areas where they are at war with the Tamils! When I heard the Foreign Minister make such grandiose claims, it made me want to spit, and I only pray that others listening also knew the truth about it. The Sri Lankan government refused aid from the World Bank because part of the package would have required the distribution of this wealth into the Tamil regions of the country! An entire aid package turned down because only a small part of the money would have had to have traveled to Tamil-held regions, and they come into the Commission claiming that within an hour they had assisted said areas with food and relief items? Yeah right. And somehow, in the rewriting of history, the Sri Lankan government benevolently sprung into action just mere moments after the tsunami devastated much of the country. If only life were made of such poetry. To lie so blatantly in the so-called esteemed halls of the United Nations was a slap in the face of all that is decent and respectful of human life. In the afterwards, how easy it is for governments to turn it all around as if they were the good guys all along. Many NGOs in Sri Lanka, while doing the job of relief which the Sri Lankan government was not doing, were informing citizens interested in donating that if donations were to be made effective, the best place to put them was not through the UN agencies (whose funds will go directly to the government) but rather through organizations such as Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders as they would ensure the money actually ended up for relief of the tsunami victims and not tied up in the corrupt and discriminatory policies of the government. Shameful. I wonder how they sleep at night, really I do. I mean, I myself have trouble sleeping after I hear stuff like this, and I wonder how it must affect them and their families, their lives.
As Charmaine White Face so eloquently puts it, these meetings are an opportunity for people’s souls to grow. I find it a crying shame that so few seem to be up for the challenge and rather sink into the prescribed politically correct bog that has since become the norm. And here we are, just at the beginning, and not even into the substantial discussions as of yet! Impressive, no?
So tomorrow, I will be back again with another update on the continuing High Level Segment and down, down, down, will we travel along the rabbit hole.
Blessings to all of you and toksa.
For Grampa Tony,