Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse · United Nations

From a distance (or the Nineteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-First reports on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights 12-14 April, 2005)

*Sorry for the late posting of this report, I was unable to access the website from home for some reason beyond the comprehension of my technical inexpertise!

As you all can imagine, after four weeks of consistent attendance and reporting on the Commission, at the culmination of what was to me the high point of Item 15, Indigenous Issues, I was seriously burned out. This coupled with the impending financial ruin this jaunt in Geneva has brought upon me, as well as the recent casualty of my indispensable laptop which somehow did not make the journey from Sevilla to Geneva had forced me to withdraw from the UN to regroup on many levels and also to get some work for school done that I may not be able to do when I get back to Sevilla and find that my computer is really and truly dead. Right now, she’s hanging on barely but the Computer Doctor told me that every time I turn it off there is the chance it will never come back on, and so she’s on right now and I pray she will make it back home and at least make it for a few months so I can figure out work and get another. Anyone who knows of job opportunities, freelance or otherwise, having to do with writing or editing please let me know as any leads would be a huge help at this point.

This said, and stress aside, this report will be based on the UN Briefings, and so will not be nearly as provocative as other reports since they are based on the politically correct and seriously guarded gaze of the OHCHR interns who are not allowed to have opinions and certainly not able express them in public. Interns have become the new concubines, forced into the background to look paintedly pretty (this is a scary trend, I have yet to see one intern who is of average good-looks, and so very few young men in general…translated to mean that most UN interns seem to be very gorgeous young women…draw your own conclusions with this one, not so difficult) and never stop smiling even when being treated like scum because if not they won’t get a glowing recommendation that makes the thousands of francs they spent paying for their internship worth it on a level that I will never truly understand, being someone who will not buy into the UN system (although obviously, buying into other just as problematic systems at the same detriment).

The events of this week’s voting on the controversial items of 9 and 10 have even made it into the news, as the resolution to continue the special mechanism regarding human rights in Cuba was renewed, much to the consternation of the Cuban delegation who have come forward with a resolution against the USA regarding prisoner rights violations in Guantanamo Bay. I will go through each day with a little summary of what items were discussed and any notable comments that I noticed within the UN Briefings.

On Tuesday the 12th of April the Commission discussed issues regarding Item 14 on Specific groups and individuals, a) Migrant workers, b) minorities, c) mass exoduses and displaced persons, d) other vulnerable groups and individuals. It was noted by governments that migrant workers play a very important part in the economies of most nations in the world, but in turn are faced with grave human rights violations such as xenophobia, racism and other horrible problems. It would appear that there were very many Pre-Emptive Defense Statements as well as a lot of Avoidance Interventions during this day’s sessions. Cuba made a harsh indictment against the double-standard policies that the USA contains with regards to migrants in that they give Mexican immigrants a very difficult time to immigrate to the USA, but when it comes to illegal Cuban migrants, they make the process easy for them as to have ‘hostages’ they can then use against the Cuban government and people. Reading the UN Briefing, it just seems like more of the same form-style interventions, except this time about minorities and migrants.

There was also voting on the 12th with regards to the resolution on defamation of religions and the right to development. The resolution on the defamation of religions was adopted by a vote of 31 in favor, 16 against, and five abstentions. This resolution has as its core the protection of Muslim and Arab peoples in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the USA which have prompted a worldwide Islamophobia and campaign of misinformation regarding the religion and peoples associated with it. It is in an attempt to promote peace, tolerance and understanding in the world and protect those populations who are being victim to the defamation of their religion. The voting was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (16): Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (5): Armenia, Honduras, India, Peru and Republic of Korea.

Absent (1): Gabon.

The EU voted against this resolution because they felt that even though religious intolerance is a huge problem in their nations, this resolution is unbalanced and they would return to being in its favour if it returned to language contained in past adoptions. The USA voted against it for the same reason and also because the problem of media-encouraged defamation of religions was not present in the text.

The resolution on the right to development was adopted by a vote of 48 in favour, 2 opposed and 2 abstentions. This resolution attempts to encourage developed nations to assist developing nations on a number of levels and will extend the mandate on the Working Group on the Right to Development for further elaborations and discussions. The voting was as follows:

In favour (48):Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia,

Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine,

United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (2): Canada and Japan.

Absent (1): Gabon.

The USA voted against this because they only see the right to development as an individual’s right to grow and develop fully in society, and because they have consistently found the language in the resolution objectionable they had no choice but to call a vote and vote against it. Australia had nothing to say for themselves apparently, but I think we all know why they voted against the resolution as well (repeat after me: ‘Sit! Gooood, doggy, now Fetch! That’s a gooood boy. Now you get your special treat, come sit in daddy’s lap…’) Canada abstained because of concerns about the text as well as the discussion on a binding instrument with regards to this right.

Aside from voting and the beginning of discussions for Item 14, there was a special discussion on UN reform that took place on the 12th which seems to have noted many of the comments stated in other areas of Commission discussion. That the Commission has become too politicized, that the OHCHR should have more funds to do its work more effectively, but it would appear that there were many dissenting voices as well from governments with regards to Mr. Annan’s proposed reforms. Some said that the real problem of the UN is the lack of political will from wealthy nations to assist developing nations, and the lack of political will in general to uphold the sanctity of UN decisions and resolutions, which have, over time, undermined all of the workings of the UN.

On Wednesday the 13th the Commission heard speakers under Item 18, National Human Rights Institutions, which is the only other fixed date on the Commission calendar for discussions. 26 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) spoke and noted that the main problem they face in their work is the lack of funding to adequately address all human rights issues in their nation. Furthermore, many speakers stated that they would prefer to be able to address the Commission under all agenda items as opposed to solely Item 18. Several reports were also adopted today with regards to the Secretary-General, technical assistance from the UN and others.

Voting on some of the very controversial agenda Items began on Thursday the 14th. Four resolutions were adopted in the morning. 1) on practices fuelling contemporary forms of reacism, 2) on the question of Israeli settlements in Palestine and Syria, 3) Israeli practices affecting human rights of Palestinians and 4) Israeli practices affecting Syrians in the occupied territories.

The resolution on contemporary racism was adopted by a vote with 46 in favour, none opposed and 4 abstentions. This resolution focuses on the issue of neo-Nazi behaviours and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights of all, as well as other contemporary forms of pervasive racism throughout the world. The vote went as follows:

In favour (46): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Against (0)

Abstentions (4): Australia, Canada, Japan and United States.

Absents (2): Eritrea and Mauritania.

The USA called the vote and claimed that they would abstain because, as much as they are in favour of condemning contemporary forms of racism, the resolution did not detail the fine line between racism and freedom of expression! Yes, I had to read it myself a few times with my jaw dropped to believe it. So, let me get this straight: in America, you are a terrorist if you are a brown person in general and you can be put in any of the hidden detention centres that dot the fascist landscape of the United States, but when it comes to a resolution that very clearly condemns contemporary forms of racism, they abstain from the vote because it is not clear what is racist and what is freedom of expression? Oh, I get it! It’s because they would have to admit that half of what the Bush administration says would be considered in the line of neo-Nazi propaganda! Of course, makes perfect sense. Thank you, o bearers of freedom and champions of democracy in this world that would collapse without you for clearing this very murky issue up for the rest of us peons. I won’t even start on Australia, Japan and Canada. Lucky for them, my pen feels poisonous right now, wouldn’t want to force them into an attack of conscience or anything that would further damage the Demons attached to their backs which maybe by now, they are used to and possibly even enjoy their dark weight.

The resolution on Israeli settlements was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, 2 opposed and 12 abstentions. This resolution calls Israel’s attention to the illegality of their settlement policies and urges them to discontinue the practices at once. The voting was as follows:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (12): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Togo and United Kingdom.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Pretty intense, no? The abstainers claimed that it was due to the unbalancedness of the resolution that they would choose not to participate. The USA voted against it because they feel it is unbalanced and that it is the fault of these resolutions against Israel that the Commission has lost its credibility (yeah, he wishes, that way none of the problems with the UN are America’s fault, which in my view, are more than anyone else’s.). Those who voted in favour spoke about ending the ongoing illegal occupation of these territories by Israel and the further illegal expansionist settlement policy which has been condemned not only by the Commission in past years, but also by the ICJ in a recent ruling. Australia scarily silent, I wonder if we are to assume that the USA’s comments are also Australia’s comments? Or are they just trying to keep a low profile? Hah!

On the issue of Israeli practices against the Palestinian peoples the resolution was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 10 opposed and 14 abstentions. This resolution detailed the huge losses of life by Israeli violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, and further urged Israel to comply with international law and human rights standards in regards to their occupation of Palestine. Voting went like this:

In favour (29): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (10): Australia, Canada, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (14): Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Those who abstained and voted against the text did so because they felt it was unbalanced and did not reflect the true advances on the ground.

Israeli treatment of Syrians in the occupied territories was also adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 2 opposed and 19 abstentions. This is a very similar resolution to the previous one about Israeli practices in Palestine, one of the noteworthy differences being the condemnation of the Israeli policy of imposing Israeli citizenship and passports/identity cards on Syrian citizens. But oddly, the voting was markedly different than in the previous resolution, heightening our awareness of the extreme politicization of the voting practices. It went as follows:

In favour (32): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (19): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Amazing, isn’t it, how much more politicized and polarizing is the space of Palestine compared to Syria. This would make a fantastic anthropological study on constructions of space and its policing within the United Nations. What makes Palestine so notable that Israel wants it so badly and that people are so scared to address this desire? Many more voted ‘no’ on the resolution with regards to Palestine than in Syria, the same governments of which abstained from voting instead. I don’t know enough about this region of the world to make a very clear analysis, but I am sure that someone must and would urge them to look into this issue. It’s a very striking comparison, I think.

During the afternoon of the 14th, five more resolutions were adopted and one decision was taken up by the Commission. These were as follows (and boy am I sad that I missed these ones! Next year I will pace myself better so that I can make it though the entire six weeks, everyone thought I was insane to think I could do the whole thing and I am not too proud to admit that they were right.):

A resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was adopted by consensus, and Myanmar pointed out that the resolution wasn’t entirely fair as it overlooked all of the good things their government was doing. Myanmar said that this resolution was an attempt for other governments to meddle in their sovereign nation and didn’t appear to appreciate that meddling all that much.

The controversial resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) was adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 9 against, and 14 abstentions. DPRK categorically rejected the resolution (and quite heatedly I am sure as their delegate really demonstrates his distaste of the Commission in his voice and demeanor when he speaks) which they claim has been fabricated and propagandized by their enemies. It scares me a bit that the world really keeps poking at the DPRK because they have their finger so close to that nuclear button, they have nothing to lose, and I fear that one of these days a diplomat is going to say the wrong thing and we can say goodbye to Japan or South Korea or worse. The vote was as such:

In favour (30): Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (9): China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (14): Burkina Faso, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Swaziland and Togo.

Pretty darn smart of China and South Korea to either vote against or abstain because they are the ones who need to stay on DPRK’s good side. Japan should begin saying their goodbye’s, in my view.

The even more divisive resolution on human rights in Cuba was adopted by a very close vote of 21 in favour, 17 against, and 15 abstentions. The vote went like this:

In favour (21): Armenia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (17): China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (15): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic,

Ecuador, Gabon, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Swaziland and Togo.

The Cuba Resolution was notable this year because apparently, either the USA could not find anyone to do their dirty work for them and sponsor it, or they felt the need to sponsor it themselves for once because it was brought to the table under the banner of an American resolution against Cuba. Cuba, in response, pointed out to the Commisison that it is in fact the USA who is the world’s worst human rights violator, effecting regime change in numerous nations around the world, illegal occupation, assassination attempts, and of course high levels of violence and racism against their own people. But, yes, sadly the resolution passed and once again the Empire won the little battle. But not for long (cue the Darth Vader music from Star Wars…)

A resolution against Belarus was adopted narrowly by a vote of 23 in favour, 16 against and 14 abstentions. The voting machine tallied the following:

In favour (23): Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France,

Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (16): Armenia, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India,

Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (14): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Guinea,

Honduras, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Togo.

Before the vote there was a no-action motion on the resolution put forward by Russia which was rejected by the Commission, also by a recorded roll-call vote! This voting went like:

In favour (22): Armenia, Bhutan, China, Congo, Cuba, Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (23): Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (7): Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Gabon, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Absent (1): Mauritania

Really intense! The Empire and its allies truly are beginning to crumble. I think many would agree with me that in years past the votes on these issues would have been really one way or the other, not so close to toeing the line as they have been (and continue to be even in the borders of the Superpower where the margin between King Bush and Mr. Kerry was the smallest ever in the history of recorded votes).

It was becoming clear through the Briefings that many States were voting against these resolutions because in their view they were the epitome of politicized resolutions aimed at ‘naming and shaming’ developing countries. What is odd to me is how the Myanmar resolution was passed without a vote. Anyone else notice that and the problematics that arise? This would mean that certain countries, in the view of the anti-name-and-shamers, should be named-and-shamed but not others. Are they not then beginning their own double standard of naming and shaming? When did everything get so complicated?

A resolution on cooperation with UN mechanisms and bodies was adopted by consensus.

In a Commission Decision on the question of Cyprus remaining specifically on the Commission agenda, it was decided that the mention will remain and be taken up again in the 62nd Commission. Also a resolution on the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel will be deferred until next year’s Commission also.

With regards to Item 10 on Economic, social and cultural rights, a resolution on unilateral and coercive measures of States was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This resolution calls upon States to comply with international law and cease from implementing unilateral and coercive measures against other States. This vote went like:

In favour (37): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Zimbabwe.

Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (2): Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.

It would appear that none of the governments had anything to say for themselves, although the most base of creative minds could infer what the USA and their ‘coalition of the willing’ would say in response to this resolution.

In the resolution on the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes and human rights, it was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This text condemns the illicit dumping of wastes and dangerous products in developing countries. Voting went:

In favour (37): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (2): Armenia and Ukraine.

Only Japan spoke to explain why they would vote against the resolution. Shame on all of the governments voting against, and let us note that these are the governments that continue to dump toxic wastes not only in developing countries, but in the poor parts of their own countries. How do they sleep at night?

The resolution on human rights and extreme poverty was adopted without a vote. Thankya, kind sirs for doing at least one good thing today. Though certainly you all have the means to do much more, but we will leave that for now. It must take a lot out of you as surely you are not used to it.

On the issue of globalization and its impact on human rights, a resolution was adopted by 38 in favour, 15 against with no abstentions. This resolution details the horrible and widening gap between developed and developing nations, urging developed nations to fulfill their obligations to assist. The roll-call vote went like this:

In favour (38): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (15): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

The EU said that the Commission is not the competent body to address this enormous issue of globalization only in one resolution and so would vote against it. Hm. Japan voted against it because it does not go through both the positive and negative impacts of Globalization, and due to this unbalanced nature they would have to vote against it.

The resolution on the right to food was adopted by a vote of 52 in favour and one against. Anyone want to guess who was the one nation to vote against the right to food? Anyone? Anyone? Here is the briefing of the delegation who voted against it as cited in the UN Briefing for this day:

“LINO J. PIEDRA (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the United States had proven by its actions its profound commitment to promoting food security around the world. Although the United States Government agreed with much that was stated in the resolution, it could not support the text as drafted and would call for a vote. The attainment of any right to adequate food or right to be free of hunger was a goal to be realized progressively that did not give rise to any international obligation nor diminish the responsibilities of national governments to their citizens. The resolution took note of the report of report and work of Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler, with which the United States delegation disagreed in many respects. The Rapporteur continued to use his reports as a forum for advancing novel legal assertions on issues related to food that were not grounded in existing international law.”

I especially like the part about their ‘profound commitment.’ I think they mean profound in its American meaning of being superficial, politically correct, and as a sidenote.

The theme of economic policy reform, debt and human rights carried with it the adoption of the resolution in a vote of 33 in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions. This resolution allows for an expert consultation that will assist the independent expert in drafting guidelines for States on this topic. Voting tallies were:

In favour (33): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (6): Armenia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Ukraine.

The EU was the only one to speak as to why they voted against the resolution, and of course it is not because they do not agree that this is a right that developing nations should enjoy. Rather, they disagree with certain parts of the text, they feel it reiterates things already mentioned in other treaties, and furthermore it is not within the Commission’s expertise to tackle this issue. Oh shut up! We all know you voted against it because you would rather continue getting fat off of the starvation, suffering and poverty of the nations indebted to you who are as such because of your brutal and horrific colonization. If I had been in the room, I am positive I would have seen each of the EU delegate’s noses growing from the lies until I would have been forced to leave for lack of space.

And finally, the resolution on the promotion of cultural rights of everyone including respect for cultural identities was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions. This voting went like this:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania and United Kingdom.

Before the vote, the USA had proposed to delete several paragraphs from the text, paragraphs which I am positive were key to outlining this right and allowing the USA to support the text with their very limited and racist view of what cultural rights and identities would mean to the pea-brain of a Republican dictator. But this is just my supposition, and only based on speculation and inference due to past behaviours and limited reasoning capacities of the American delegation. Their amendments were rejected as they cut out the substance of the article, and the resolution subsequently adopted. Australia finally spoke to say that UNESCO is the proper forum for issues of culture and identity, hence their abstention.

As an anthropologist, and studying sociology at the moment, I find this voting process to be qualitatively and quantitatively very interesting and culturally telling. When does a nation choose to vote against or abstain? Some notable problematics with this, as in some areas the USA did not vote against but abstained. What is to gain from an abstention or an against vote? Very obviously, cultural and political biases are evident in the voting procedures, where it is appropriate for a resolution that names Myanmar, but not one that names DPRK, Cuba, etc. And why is there never a resolution against the USA which most people have criticized in the Commission and outside for its horrific human rights record over the years? Many people know that the USA tends to base many of their foreign aid packages on this voting process, and I would be curious to investigate further this idea. It gives me lots of food for thought, be it rotting and sickening, food nonetheless when so many are starving in the world.

Hopefully this will suffice you for the moment. Over the weekend I will do my best to do an update again based on the UN Briefings of the Commission proceedings and the ongoing voting procedures. Rest assured that I will be present in Room 17 on the coming Tuesday when voting for Item 15, Indigenous Issues will take place and will send out a briefing on this by Wednesday afternoon.

In honour of Tony Black Feather,

Sezin

From a distance (or the Nineteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-First reports on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights 12-14 April, 2005)

*Sorry for the late posting of this report, I was unable to access the website from home for some reason beyond the comprehension of my technical inexpertise!

 

As you all can imagine, after four weeks of consistent attendance and reporting on the Commission, at the culmination of what was to me the high point of Item 15, Indigenous Issues, I was seriously burned out. This coupled with the impending financial ruin this jaunt in Geneva has brought upon me, as well as the recent casualty of my indispensable laptop which somehow did not make the journey from Sevilla to Geneva had forced me to withdraw from the UN to regroup on many levels and also to get some work for school done that I may not be able to do when I get back to Sevilla and find that my computer is really and truly dead. Right now, she’s hanging on barely but the Computer Doctor told me that every time I turn it off there is the chance it will never come back on, and so she’s on right now and I pray she will make it back home and at least make it for a few months so I can figure out work and get another. Anyone who knows of job opportunities, freelance or otherwise, having to do with writing or editing please let me know as any leads would be a huge help at this point.

 

This said, and stress aside, this report will be based on the UN Briefings, and so will not be nearly as provocative as other reports since they are based on the politically correct and seriously guarded gaze of the OHCHR interns who are not allowed to have opinions and certainly not able express them in public. Interns have become the new concubines, forced into the background to look paintedly pretty (this is a scary trend, I have yet to see one intern who is of average good-looks, and so very few young men in general…translated to mean that most UN interns seem to be very gorgeous young women…draw your own conclusions with this one, not so difficult) and never stop smiling even when being treated like scum because if not they won’t get a glowing recommendation that makes the thousands of francs they spent paying for their internship worth it on a level that I will never truly understand, being someone who will not buy into the UN system (although obviously, buying into other just as problematic systems at the same detriment).

 

The events of this week’s voting on the controversial items of 9 and 10 have even made it into the news, as the resolution to continue the special mechanism regarding human rights in Cuba was renewed, much to the consternation of the Cuban delegation who have come forward with a resolution against the USA regarding prisoner rights violations in Guantanamo Bay. I will go through each day with a little summary of what items were discussed and any notable comments that I noticed within the UN Briefings.

 

On Tuesday the 12th of April the Commission discussed issues regarding Item 14 on Specific groups and individuals, a) Migrant workers, b) minorities, c) mass exoduses and displaced persons, d) other vulnerable groups and individuals. It was noted by governments that migrant workers play a very important part in the economies of most nations in the world, but in turn are faced with grave human rights violations such as xenophobia, racism and other horrible problems. It would appear that there were very many Pre-Emptive Defense Statements as well as a lot of Avoidance Interventions during this day’s sessions. Cuba made a harsh indictment against the double-standard policies that the USA contains with regards to migrants in that they give Mexican immigrants a very difficult time to immigrate to the USA, but when it comes to illegal Cuban migrants, they make the process easy for them as to have ‘hostages’ they can then use against the Cuban government and people. Reading the UN Briefing, it just seems like more of the same form-style interventions, except this time about minorities and migrants.

 

There was also voting on the 12th with regards to the resolution on defamation of religions and the right to development. The resolution on the defamation of religions was adopted by a vote of 31 in favor, 16 against, and five abstentions. This resolution has as its core the protection of Muslim and Arab peoples in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the USA which have prompted a worldwide Islamophobia and campaign of misinformation regarding the religion and peoples associated with it. It is in an attempt to promote peace, tolerance and understanding in the world and protect those populations who are being victim to the defamation of their religion. The voting was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (16): Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (5): Armenia, Honduras, India, Peru and Republic of Korea.
Absent (1): Gabon.

 

The EU voted against this resolution because they felt that even though religious intolerance is a huge problem in their nations, this resolution is unbalanced and they would return to being in its favour if it returned to language contained in past adoptions. The USA voted against it for the same reason and also because the problem of media-encouraged defamation of religions was not present in the text.

 

The resolution on the right to development was adopted by a vote of 48 in favour, 2 opposed and 2 abstentions. This resolution attempts to encourage developed nations to assist developing nations on a number of levels and will extend the mandate on the Working Group on the Right to Development for further elaborations and discussions. The voting was as follows:

In favour (48):Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia,
Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine,
United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.
Against (2): Australia and United States.
Abstentions (2): Canada and Japan.
Absent (1): Gabon.

 

The USA voted against this because they only see the right to development as an individual’s right to grow and develop fully in society, and because they have consistently found the language in the resolution objectionable they had no choice but to call a vote and vote against it. Australia had nothing to say for themselves apparently, but I think we all know why they voted against the resolution as well (repeat after me: ‘Sit! Gooood, doggy, now Fetch! That’s a gooood boy. Now you get your special treat, come sit in daddy’s lap…’) Canada abstained because of concerns about the text as well as the discussion on a binding instrument with regards to this right.

 

Aside from voting and the beginning of discussions for Item 14, there was a special discussion on UN reform that took place on the 12th which seems to have noted many of the comments stated in other areas of Commission discussion. That the Commission has become too politicized, that the OHCHR should have more funds to do its work more effectively, but it would appear that there were many dissenting voices as well from governments with regards to Mr. Annan’s proposed reforms. Some said that the real problem of the UN is the lack of political will from wealthy nations to assist developing nations, and the lack of political will in general to uphold the sanctity of UN decisions and resolutions, which have, over time, undermined all of the workings of the UN.

 

On Wednesday the 13th the Commission heard speakers under Item 18, National Human Rights Institutions, which is the only other fixed date on the Commission calendar for discussions. 26 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) spoke and noted that the main problem they face in their work is the lack of funding to adequately address all human rights issues in their nation. Furthermore, many speakers stated that they would prefer to be able to address the Commission under all agenda items as opposed to solely Item 18. Several reports were also adopted today with regards to the Secretary-General, technical assistance from the UN and others.

 

Voting on some of the very controversial agenda Items began on Thursday the 14th. Four resolutions were adopted in the morning. 1) on practices fuelling contemporary forms of reacism, 2) on the question of Israeli settlements in Palestine and Syria, 3) Israeli practices affecting human rights of Palestinians and 4) Israeli practices affecting Syrians in the occupied territories.

 

The resolution on contemporary racism was adopted by a vote with 46 in favour, none opposed and 4 abstentions. This resolution focuses on the issue of neo-Nazi behaviours and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights of all, as well as other contemporary forms of pervasive racism throughout the world. The vote went as follows:

In favour (46): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.
Against (0)
Abstentions (4): Australia, Canada, Japan and United States.
Absents (2): Eritrea and Mauritania.

 

The USA called the vote and claimed that they would abstain because, as much as they are in favour of condemning contemporary forms of racism, the resolution did not detail the fine line between racism and freedom of expression! Yes, I had to read it myself a few times with my jaw dropped to believe it. So, let me get this straight: in America, you are a terrorist if you are a brown person in general and you can be put in any of the hidden detention centres that dot the fascist landscape of the United States, but when it comes to a resolution that very clearly condemns contemporary forms of racism, they abstain from the vote because it is not clear what is racist and what is freedom of expression? Oh, I get it! It’s because they would have to admit that half of what the Bush administration says would be considered in the line of neo-Nazi propaganda! Of course, makes perfect sense. Thank you, o bearers of freedom and champions of democracy in this world that would collapse without you for clearing this very murky issue up for the rest of us peons. I won’t even start on Australia, Japan and Canada. Lucky for them, my pen feels poisonous right now, wouldn’t want to force them into an attack of conscience or anything that would further damage the Demons attached to their backs which maybe by now, they are used to and possibly even enjoy their dark weight.

 

The resolution on Israeli settlements was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, 2 opposed and 12 abstentions. This resolution calls Israel’s attention to the illegality of their settlement policies and urges them to discontinue the practices at once. The voting was as follows:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Against (2): Australia and United States.
Abstentions (12): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Togo and United Kingdom.

 

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Pretty intense, no? The abstainers claimed that it was due to the unbalancedness of the resolution that they would choose not to participate. The USA voted against it because they feel it is unbalanced and that it is the fault of these resolutions against Israel that the Commission has lost its credibility (yeah, he wishes, that way none of the problems with the UN are America’s fault, which in my view, are more than anyone else’s.). Those who voted in favour spoke about ending the ongoing illegal occupation of these territories by Israel and the further illegal expansionist settlement policy which has been condemned not only by the Commission in past years, but also by the ICJ in a recent ruling. Australia scarily silent, I wonder if we are to assume that the USA’s comments are also Australia’s comments? Or are they just trying to keep a low profile? Hah!

 

On the issue of Israeli practices against the Palestinian peoples the resolution was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 10 opposed and 14 abstentions. This resolution detailed the huge losses of life by Israeli violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, and further urged Israel to comply with international law and human rights standards in regards to their occupation of Palestine. Voting went like this:

In favour (29): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (10): Australia, Canada, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (14): Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

 

Those who abstained and voted against the text did so because they felt it was unbalanced and did not reflect the true advances on the ground.

 

Israeli treatment of Syrians in the occupied territories was also adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 2 opposed and 19 abstentions. This is a very similar resolution to the previous one about Israeli practices in Palestine, one of the noteworthy differences being the condemnation of the Israeli policy of imposing Israeli citizenship and passports/identity cards on Syrian citizens. But oddly, the voting was markedly different than in the previous resolution, heightening our awareness of the extreme politicization of the voting practices. It went as follows:

In favour (32): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (2): Australia and United States.
Abstentions (19): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

 

Amazing, isn’t it, how much more politicized and polarizing is the space of Palestine compared to Syria. This would make a fantastic anthropological study on constructions of space and its policing within the United Nations. What makes Palestine so notable that Israel wants it so badly and that people are so scared to address this desire? Many more voted ‘no’ on the resolution with regards to Palestine than in Syria, the same governments of which abstained from voting instead. I don’t know enough about this region of the world to make a very clear analysis, but I am sure that someone must and would urge them to look into this issue. It’s a very striking comparison, I think.

 

During the afternoon of the 14th, five more resolutions were adopted and one decision was taken up by the Commission. These were as follows (and boy am I sad that I missed these ones! Next year I will pace myself better so that I can make it though the entire six weeks, everyone thought I was insane to think I could do the whole thing and I am not too proud to admit that they were right.):

 

A resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was adopted by consensus, and Myanmar pointed out that the resolution wasn’t entirely fair as it overlooked all of the good things their government was doing. Myanmar said that this resolution was an attempt for other governments to meddle in their sovereign nation and didn’t appear to appreciate that meddling all that much.

 

The controversial resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) was adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 9 against, and 14 abstentions. DPRK categorically rejected the resolution (and quite heatedly I am sure as their delegate really demonstrates his distaste of the Commission in his voice and demeanor when he speaks) which they claim has been fabricated and propagandized by their enemies. It scares me a bit that the world really keeps poking at the DPRK because they have their finger so close to that nuclear button, they have nothing to lose, and I fear that one of these days a diplomat is going to say the wrong thing and we can say goodbye to Japan or South Korea or worse. The vote was as such:

In favour (30): Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Against (9): China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Abstentions (14): Burkina Faso, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Swaziland and Togo.

 

Pretty darn smart of China and South Korea to either vote against or abstain because they are the ones who need to stay on DPRK’s good side. Japan should begin saying their goodbye’s, in my view.

 

The even more divisive resolution on human rights in Cuba was adopted by a very close vote of 21 in favour, 17 against, and 15 abstentions. The vote went like this:

In favour (21): Armenia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Against (17): China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Abstentions (15): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Gabon, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Swaziland and Togo.

 

The Cuba Resolution was notable this year because apparently, either the USA could not find anyone to do their dirty work for them and sponsor it, or they felt the need to sponsor it themselves for once because it was brought to the table under the banner of an American resolution against Cuba. Cuba, in response, pointed out to the Commisison that it is in fact the USA who is the world’s worst human rights violator, effecting regime change in numerous nations around the world, illegal occupation, assassination attempts, and of course high levels of violence and racism against their own people. But, yes, sadly the resolution passed and once again the Empire won the little battle. But not for long (cue the Darth Vader music from Star Wars…)

 

A resolution against Belarus was adopted narrowly by a vote of 23 in favour, 16 against and 14 abstentions. The voting machine tallied the following:

In favour (23): Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France,
Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Against (16): Armenia, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India,
Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Abstentions (14): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Guinea,
Honduras, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Togo.

 

Before the vote there was a no-action motion on the resolution put forward by Russia which was rejected by the Commission, also by a recorded roll-call vote! This voting went like:

In favour (22): Armenia, Bhutan, China, Congo, Cuba, Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (23): Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (7): Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Gabon, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.
Absent (1): Mauritania

 

Really intense! The Empire and its allies truly are beginning to crumble. I think many would agree with me that in years past the votes on these issues would have been really one way or the other, not so close to toeing the line as they have been (and continue to be even in the borders of the Superpower where the margin between King Bush and Mr. Kerry was the smallest ever in the history of recorded votes).

 

It was becoming clear through the Briefings that many States were voting against these resolutions because in their view they were the epitome of politicized resolutions aimed at ‘naming and shaming’ developing countries. What is odd to me is how the Myanmar resolution was passed without a vote. Anyone else notice that and the problematics that arise? This would mean that certain countries, in the view of the anti-name-and-shamers, should be named-and-shamed but not others. Are they not then beginning their own double standard of naming and shaming? When did everything get so complicated?

 

A resolution on cooperation with UN mechanisms and bodies was adopted by consensus.

 

In a Commission Decision on the question of Cyprus remaining specifically on the Commission agenda, it was decided that the mention will remain and be taken up again in the 62nd Commission. Also a resolution on the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel will be deferred until next year’s Commission also.

 

With regards to Item 10 on Economic, social and cultural rights, a resolution on unilateral and coercive measures of States was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This resolution calls upon States to comply with international law and cease from implementing unilateral and coercive measures against other States. This vote went like:

In favour (37): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Zimbabwe.
Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (2): Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.

 

It would appear that none of the governments had anything to say for themselves, although the most base of creative minds could infer what the USA and their ‘coalition of the willing’ would say in response to this resolution.

 

In the resolution on the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes and human rights, it was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This text condemns the illicit dumping of wastes and dangerous products in developing countries. Voting went:

In favour (37): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (2): Armenia and Ukraine.

 

Only Japan spoke to explain why they would vote against the resolution. Shame on all of the governments voting against, and let us note that these are the governments that continue to dump toxic wastes not only in developing countries, but in the poor parts of their own countries. How do they sleep at night?

 

The resolution on human rights and extreme poverty was adopted without a vote. Thankya, kind sirs for doing at least one good thing today. Though certainly you all have the means to do much more, but we will leave that for now. It must take a lot out of you as surely you are not used to it.

 

On the issue of globalization and its impact on human rights, a resolution was adopted by 38 in favour, 15 against with no abstentions. This resolution details the horrible and widening gap between developed and developing nations, urging developed nations to fulfill their obligations to assist. The roll-call vote went like this:

In favour (38): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (15): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

 

The EU said that the Commission is not the competent body to address this enormous issue of globalization only in one resolution and so would vote against it. Hm. Japan voted against it because it does not go through both the positive and negative impacts of Globalization, and due to this unbalanced nature they would have to vote against it.

 

The resolution on the right to food was adopted by a vote of 52 in favour and one against. Anyone want to guess who was the one nation to vote against the right to food? Anyone? Anyone? Here is the briefing of the delegation who voted against it as cited in the UN Briefing for this day:

“LINO J. PIEDRA (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the United States had proven by its actions its profound commitment to promoting food security around the world. Although the United States Government agreed with much that was stated in the resolution, it could not support the text as drafted and would call for a vote. The attainment of any right to adequate food or right to be free of hunger was a goal to be realized progressively that did not give rise to any international obligation nor diminish the responsibilities of national governments to their citizens. The resolution took note of the report of report and work of Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler, with which the United States delegation disagreed in many respects. The Rapporteur continued to use his reports as a forum for advancing novel legal assertions on issues related to food that were not grounded in existing international law.”

 

I especially like the part about their ‘profound commitment.’ I think they mean profound in its American meaning of being superficial, politically correct, and as a sidenote.

 

The theme of economic policy reform, debt and human rights carried with it the adoption of the resolution in a vote of 33 in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions. This resolution allows for an expert consultation that will assist the independent expert in drafting guidelines for States on this topic. Voting tallies were:

In favour (33): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (6): Armenia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Ukraine.

 

The EU was the only one to speak as to why they voted against the resolution, and of course it is not because they do not agree that this is a right that developing nations should enjoy. Rather, they disagree with certain parts of the text, they feel it reiterates things already mentioned in other treaties, and furthermore it is not within the Commission’s expertise to tackle this issue. Oh shut up! We all know you voted against it because you would rather continue getting fat off of the starvation, suffering and poverty of the nations indebted to you who are as such because of your brutal and horrific colonization. If I had been in the room, I am positive I would have seen each of the EU delegate’s noses growing from the lies until I would have been forced to leave for lack of space.

 

And finally, the resolution on the promotion of cultural rights of everyone including respect for cultural identities was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions. This voting went like this:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Against (1): United States.
Abstentions (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania and United Kingdom.

Before the vote, the USA had proposed to delete several paragraphs from the text, paragraphs which I am positive were key to outlining this right and allowing the USA to support the text with their very limited and racist view of what cultural rights and identities would mean to the pea-brain of a Republican dictator. But this is just my supposition, and only based on speculation and inference due to past behaviours and limited reasoning capacities of the American delegation. Their amendments were rejected as they cut out the substance of the article, and the resolution subsequently adopted. Australia finally spoke to say that UNESCO is the proper forum for issues of culture and identity, hence their abstention.

 

As an anthropologist, and studying sociology at the moment, I find this voting process to be qualitatively and quantitatively very interesting and culturally telling. When does a nation choose to vote against or abstain? Some notable problematics with this, as in some areas the USA did not vote against but abstained. What is to gain from an abstention or an against vote? Very obviously, cultural and political biases are evident in the voting procedures, where it is appropriate for a resolution that names Myanmar, but not one that names DPRK, Cuba, etc. And why is there never a resolution against the USA which most people have criticized in the Commission and outside for its horrific human rights record over the years? Many people know that the USA tends to base many of their foreign aid packages on this voting process, and I would be curious to investigate further this idea. It gives me lots of food for thought, be it rotting and sickening, food nonetheless when so many are starving in the world.

 

Hopefully this will suffice you for the moment. Over the weekend I will do my best to do an update again based on the UN Briefings of the Commission proceedings and the ongoing voting procedures. Rest assured that I will be present in Room 17 on the coming Tuesday when voting for Item 15, Indigenous Issues will take place and will send out a briefing on this by Wednesday afternoon.

In honour of Tony Black Feather,

 

SezinFrom a distance (or the Nineteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-First reports on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights 12-14 April, 2005)

*Sorry for the late posting of this report, I was unable to access the website from home for some reason beyond the comprehension of my technical inexpertise!

As you all can imagine, after four weeks of consistent attendance and reporting on the Commission, at the culmination of what was to me the high point of Item 15, Indigenous Issues, I was seriously burned out. This coupled with the impending financial ruin this jaunt in Geneva has brought upon me, as well as the recent casualty of my indispensable laptop which somehow did not make the journey from Sevilla to Geneva had forced me to withdraw from the UN to regroup on many levels and also to get some work for school done that I may not be able to do when I get back to Sevilla and find that my computer is really and truly dead. Right now, she’s hanging on barely but the Computer Doctor told me that every time I turn it off there is the chance it will never come back on, and so she’s on right now and I pray she will make it back home and at least make it for a few months so I can figure out work and get another. Anyone who knows of job opportunities, freelance or otherwise, having to do with writing or editing please let me know as any leads would be a huge help at this point.

This said, and stress aside, this report will be based on the UN Briefings, and so will not be nearly as provocative as other reports since they are based on the politically correct and seriously guarded gaze of the OHCHR interns who are not allowed to have opinions and certainly not able express them in public. Interns have become the new concubines, forced into the background to look paintedly pretty (this is a scary trend, I have yet to see one intern who is of average good-looks, and so very few young men in general…translated to mean that most UN interns seem to be very gorgeous young women…draw your own conclusions with this one, not so difficult) and never stop smiling even when being treated like scum because if not they won’t get a glowing recommendation that makes the thousands of francs they spent paying for their internship worth it on a level that I will never truly understand, being someone who will not buy into the UN system (although obviously, buying into other just as problematic systems at the same detriment).

The events of this week’s voting on the controversial items of 9 and 10 have even made it into the news, as the resolution to continue the special mechanism regarding human rights in Cuba was renewed, much to the consternation of the Cuban delegation who have come forward with a resolution against the USA regarding prisoner rights violations in Guantanamo Bay. I will go through each day with a little summary of what items were discussed and any notable comments that I noticed within the UN Briefings.

On Tuesday the 12th of April the Commission discussed issues regarding Item 14 on Specific groups and individuals, a) Migrant workers, b) minorities, c) mass exoduses and displaced persons, d) other vulnerable groups and individuals. It was noted by governments that migrant workers play a very important part in the economies of most nations in the world, but in turn are faced with grave human rights violations such as xenophobia, racism and other horrible problems. It would appear that there were very many Pre-Emptive Defense Statements as well as a lot of Avoidance Interventions during this day’s sessions. Cuba made a harsh indictment against the double-standard policies that the USA contains with regards to migrants in that they give Mexican immigrants a very difficult time to immigrate to the USA, but when it comes to illegal Cuban migrants, they make the process easy for them as to have ‘hostages’ they can then use against the Cuban government and people. Reading the UN Briefing, it just seems like more of the same form-style interventions, except this time about minorities and migrants.

There was also voting on the 12th with regards to the resolution on defamation of religions and the right to development. The resolution on the defamation of religions was adopted by a vote of 31 in favor, 16 against, and five abstentions. This resolution has as its core the protection of Muslim and Arab peoples in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the USA which have prompted a worldwide Islamophobia and campaign of misinformation regarding the religion and peoples associated with it. It is in an attempt to promote peace, tolerance and understanding in the world and protect those populations who are being victim to the defamation of their religion. The voting was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (16): Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (5): Armenia, Honduras, India, Peru and Republic of Korea.

Absent (1): Gabon.

The EU voted against this resolution because they felt that even though religious intolerance is a huge problem in their nations, this resolution is unbalanced and they would return to being in its favour if it returned to language contained in past adoptions. The USA voted against it for the same reason and also because the problem of media-encouraged defamation of religions was not present in the text.

The resolution on the right to development was adopted by a vote of 48 in favour, 2 opposed and 2 abstentions. This resolution attempts to encourage developed nations to assist developing nations on a number of levels and will extend the mandate on the Working Group on the Right to Development for further elaborations and discussions. The voting was as follows:

In favour (48):Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia,

Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine,

United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (2): Canada and Japan.

Absent (1): Gabon.

The USA voted against this because they only see the right to development as an individual’s right to grow and develop fully in society, and because they have consistently found the language in the resolution objectionable they had no choice but to call a vote and vote against it. Australia had nothing to say for themselves apparently, but I think we all know why they voted against the resolution as well (repeat after me: ‘Sit! Gooood, doggy, now Fetch! That’s a gooood boy. Now you get your special treat, come sit in daddy’s lap…’) Canada abstained because of concerns about the text as well as the discussion on a binding instrument with regards to this right.

Aside from voting and the beginning of discussions for Item 14, there was a special discussion on UN reform that took place on the 12th which seems to have noted many of the comments stated in other areas of Commission discussion. That the Commission has become too politicized, that the OHCHR should have more funds to do its work more effectively, but it would appear that there were many dissenting voices as well from governments with regards to Mr. Annan’s proposed reforms. Some said that the real problem of the UN is the lack of political will from wealthy nations to assist developing nations, and the lack of political will in general to uphold the sanctity of UN decisions and resolutions, which have, over time, undermined all of the workings of the UN.

On Wednesday the 13th the Commission heard speakers under Item 18, National Human Rights Institutions, which is the only other fixed date on the Commission calendar for discussions. 26 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) spoke and noted that the main problem they face in their work is the lack of funding to adequately address all human rights issues in their nation. Furthermore, many speakers stated that they would prefer to be able to address the Commission under all agenda items as opposed to solely Item 18. Several reports were also adopted today with regards to the Secretary-General, technical assistance from the UN and others.

Voting on some of the very controversial agenda Items began on Thursday the 14th. Four resolutions were adopted in the morning. 1) on practices fuelling contemporary forms of reacism, 2) on the question of Israeli settlements in Palestine and Syria, 3) Israeli practices affecting human rights of Palestinians and 4) Israeli practices affecting Syrians in the occupied territories.

The resolution on contemporary racism was adopted by a vote with 46 in favour, none opposed and 4 abstentions. This resolution focuses on the issue of neo-Nazi behaviours and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights of all, as well as other contemporary forms of pervasive racism throughout the world. The vote went as follows:

In favour (46): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Against (0)

Abstentions (4): Australia, Canada, Japan and United States.

Absents (2): Eritrea and Mauritania.

The USA called the vote and claimed that they would abstain because, as much as they are in favour of condemning contemporary forms of racism, the resolution did not detail the fine line between racism and freedom of expression! Yes, I had to read it myself a few times with my jaw dropped to believe it. So, let me get this straight: in America, you are a terrorist if you are a brown person in general and you can be put in any of the hidden detention centres that dot the fascist landscape of the United States, but when it comes to a resolution that very clearly condemns contemporary forms of racism, they abstain from the vote because it is not clear what is racist and what is freedom of expression? Oh, I get it! It’s because they would have to admit that half of what the Bush administration says would be considered in the line of neo-Nazi propaganda! Of course, makes perfect sense. Thank you, o bearers of freedom and champions of democracy in this world that would collapse without you for clearing this very murky issue up for the rest of us peons. I won’t even start on Australia, Japan and Canada. Lucky for them, my pen feels poisonous right now, wouldn’t want to force them into an attack of conscience or anything that would further damage the Demons attached to their backs which maybe by now, they are used to and possibly even enjoy their dark weight.

The resolution on Israeli settlements was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, 2 opposed and 12 abstentions. This resolution calls Israel’s attention to the illegality of their settlement policies and urges them to discontinue the practices at once. The voting was as follows:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (12): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Togo and United Kingdom.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Pretty intense, no? The abstainers claimed that it was due to the unbalancedness of the resolution that they would choose not to participate. The USA voted against it because they feel it is unbalanced and that it is the fault of these resolutions against Israel that the Commission has lost its credibility (yeah, he wishes, that way none of the problems with the UN are America’s fault, which in my view, are more than anyone else’s.). Those who voted in favour spoke about ending the ongoing illegal occupation of these territories by Israel and the further illegal expansionist settlement policy which has been condemned not only by the Commission in past years, but also by the ICJ in a recent ruling. Australia scarily silent, I wonder if we are to assume that the USA’s comments are also Australia’s comments? Or are they just trying to keep a low profile? Hah!

On the issue of Israeli practices against the Palestinian peoples the resolution was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 10 opposed and 14 abstentions. This resolution detailed the huge losses of life by Israeli violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, and further urged Israel to comply with international law and human rights standards in regards to their occupation of Palestine. Voting went like this:

In favour (29): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (10): Australia, Canada, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (14): Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Those who abstained and voted against the text did so because they felt it was unbalanced and did not reflect the true advances on the ground.

Israeli treatment of Syrians in the occupied territories was also adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 2 opposed and 19 abstentions. This is a very similar resolution to the previous one about Israeli practices in Palestine, one of the noteworthy differences being the condemnation of the Israeli policy of imposing Israeli citizenship and passports/identity cards on Syrian citizens. But oddly, the voting was markedly different than in the previous resolution, heightening our awareness of the extreme politicization of the voting practices. It went as follows:

In favour (32): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (19): Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Amazing, isn’t it, how much more politicized and polarizing is the space of Palestine compared to Syria. This would make a fantastic anthropological study on constructions of space and its policing within the United Nations. What makes Palestine so notable that Israel wants it so badly and that people are so scared to address this desire? Many more voted ‘no’ on the resolution with regards to Palestine than in Syria, the same governments of which abstained from voting instead. I don’t know enough about this region of the world to make a very clear analysis, but I am sure that someone must and would urge them to look into this issue. It’s a very striking comparison, I think.

During the afternoon of the 14th, five more resolutions were adopted and one decision was taken up by the Commission. These were as follows (and boy am I sad that I missed these ones! Next year I will pace myself better so that I can make it though the entire six weeks, everyone thought I was insane to think I could do the whole thing and I am not too proud to admit that they were right.):

A resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was adopted by consensus, and Myanmar pointed out that the resolution wasn’t entirely fair as it overlooked all of the good things their government was doing. Myanmar said that this resolution was an attempt for other governments to meddle in their sovereign nation and didn’t appear to appreciate that meddling all that much.

The controversial resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) was adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 9 against, and 14 abstentions. DPRK categorically rejected the resolution (and quite heatedly I am sure as their delegate really demonstrates his distaste of the Commission in his voice and demeanor when he speaks) which they claim has been fabricated and propagandized by their enemies. It scares me a bit that the world really keeps poking at the DPRK because they have their finger so close to that nuclear button, they have nothing to lose, and I fear that one of these days a diplomat is going to say the wrong thing and we can say goodbye to Japan or South Korea or worse. The vote was as such:

In favour (30): Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (9): China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (14): Burkina Faso, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Swaziland and Togo.

Pretty darn smart of China and South Korea to either vote against or abstain because they are the ones who need to stay on DPRK’s good side. Japan should begin saying their goodbye’s, in my view.

The even more divisive resolution on human rights in Cuba was adopted by a very close vote of 21 in favour, 17 against, and 15 abstentions. The vote went like this:

In favour (21): Armenia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (17): China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (15): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic,

Ecuador, Gabon, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Swaziland and Togo.

The Cuba Resolution was notable this year because apparently, either the USA could not find anyone to do their dirty work for them and sponsor it, or they felt the need to sponsor it themselves for once because it was brought to the table under the banner of an American resolution against Cuba. Cuba, in response, pointed out to the Commisison that it is in fact the USA who is the world’s worst human rights violator, effecting regime change in numerous nations around the world, illegal occupation, assassination attempts, and of course high levels of violence and racism against their own people. But, yes, sadly the resolution passed and once again the Empire won the little battle. But not for long (cue the Darth Vader music from Star Wars…)

A resolution against Belarus was adopted narrowly by a vote of 23 in favour, 16 against and 14 abstentions. The voting machine tallied the following:

In favour (23): Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France,

Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (16): Armenia, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India,

Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (14): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Guinea,

Honduras, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Togo.

Before the vote there was a no-action motion on the resolution put forward by Russia which was rejected by the Commission, also by a recorded roll-call vote! This voting went like:

In favour (22): Armenia, Bhutan, China, Congo, Cuba, Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (23): Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (7): Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Gabon, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Absent (1): Mauritania

Really intense! The Empire and its allies truly are beginning to crumble. I think many would agree with me that in years past the votes on these issues would have been really one way or the other, not so close to toeing the line as they have been (and continue to be even in the borders of the Superpower where the margin between King Bush and Mr. Kerry was the smallest ever in the history of recorded votes).

It was becoming clear through the Briefings that many States were voting against these resolutions because in their view they were the epitome of politicized resolutions aimed at ‘naming and shaming’ developing countries. What is odd to me is how the Myanmar resolution was passed without a vote. Anyone else notice that and the problematics that arise? This would mean that certain countries, in the view of the anti-name-and-shamers, should be named-and-shamed but not others. Are they not then beginning their own double standard of naming and shaming? When did everything get so complicated?

A resolution on cooperation with UN mechanisms and bodies was adopted by consensus.

In a Commission Decision on the question of Cyprus remaining specifically on the Commission agenda, it was decided that the mention will remain and be taken up again in the 62nd Commission. Also a resolution on the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel will be deferred until next year’s Commission also.

With regards to Item 10 on Economic, social and cultural rights, a resolution on unilateral and coercive measures of States was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This resolution calls upon States to comply with international law and cease from implementing unilateral and coercive measures against other States. This vote went like:

In favour (37): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Zimbabwe.

Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (2): Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.

It would appear that none of the governments had anything to say for themselves, although the most base of creative minds could infer what the USA and their ‘coalition of the willing’ would say in response to this resolution.

In the resolution on the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes and human rights, it was adopted by a vote of 37 in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This text condemns the illicit dumping of wastes and dangerous products in developing countries. Voting went:

In favour (37): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (2): Armenia and Ukraine.

Only Japan spoke to explain why they would vote against the resolution. Shame on all of the governments voting against, and let us note that these are the governments that continue to dump toxic wastes not only in developing countries, but in the poor parts of their own countries. How do they sleep at night?

The resolution on human rights and extreme poverty was adopted without a vote. Thankya, kind sirs for doing at least one good thing today. Though certainly you all have the means to do much more, but we will leave that for now. It must take a lot out of you as surely you are not used to it.

On the issue of globalization and its impact on human rights, a resolution was adopted by 38 in favour, 15 against with no abstentions. This resolution details the horrible and widening gap between developed and developing nations, urging developed nations to fulfill their obligations to assist. The roll-call vote went like this:

In favour (38): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (15): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

The EU said that the Commission is not the competent body to address this enormous issue of globalization only in one resolution and so would vote against it. Hm. Japan voted against it because it does not go through both the positive and negative impacts of Globalization, and due to this unbalanced nature they would have to vote against it.

The resolution on the right to food was adopted by a vote of 52 in favour and one against. Anyone want to guess who was the one nation to vote against the right to food? Anyone? Anyone? Here is the briefing of the delegation who voted against it as cited in the UN Briefing for this day:

“LINO J. PIEDRA (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the United States had proven by its actions its profound commitment to promoting food security around the world. Although the United States Government agreed with much that was stated in the resolution, it could not support the text as drafted and would call for a vote. The attainment of any right to adequate food or right to be free of hunger was a goal to be realized progressively that did not give rise to any international obligation nor diminish the responsibilities of national governments to their citizens. The resolution took note of the report of report and work of Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler, with which the United States delegation disagreed in many respects. The Rapporteur continued to use his reports as a forum for advancing novel legal assertions on issues related to food that were not grounded in existing international law.”

I especially like the part about their ‘profound commitment.’ I think they mean profound in its American meaning of being superficial, politically correct, and as a sidenote.

The theme of economic policy reform, debt and human rights carried with it the adoption of the resolution in a vote of 33 in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions. This resolution allows for an expert consultation that will assist the independent expert in drafting guidelines for States on this topic. Voting tallies were:

In favour (33): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (14): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (6): Armenia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Ukraine.

The EU was the only one to speak as to why they voted against the resolution, and of course it is not because they do not agree that this is a right that developing nations should enjoy. Rather, they disagree with certain parts of the text, they feel it reiterates things already mentioned in other treaties, and furthermore it is not within the Commission’s expertise to tackle this issue. Oh shut up! We all know you voted against it because you would rather continue getting fat off of the starvation, suffering and poverty of the nations indebted to you who are as such because of your brutal and horrific colonization. If I had been in the room, I am positive I would have seen each of the EU delegate’s noses growing from the lies until I would have been forced to leave for lack of space.

And finally, the resolution on the promotion of cultural rights of everyone including respect for cultural identities was adopted by a vote of 39 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions. This voting went like this:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania and United Kingdom.

Before the vote, the USA had proposed to delete several paragraphs from the text, paragraphs which I am positive were key to outlining this right and allowing the USA to support the text with their very limited and racist view of what cultural rights and identities would mean to the pea-brain of a Republican dictator. But this is just my supposition, and only based on speculation and inference due to past behaviours and limited reasoning capacities of the American delegation. Their amendments were rejected as they cut out the substance of the article, and the resolution subsequently adopted. Australia finally spoke to say that UNESCO is the proper forum for issues of culture and identity, hence their abstention.

As an anthropologist, and studying sociology at the moment, I find this voting process to be qualitatively and quantitatively very interesting and culturally telling. When does a nation choose to vote against or abstain? Some notable problematics with this, as in some areas the USA did not vote against but abstained. What is to gain from an abstention or an against vote? Very obviously, cultural and political biases are evident in the voting procedures, where it is appropriate for a resolution that names Myanmar, but not one that names DPRK, Cuba, etc. And why is there never a resolution against the USA which most people have criticized in the Commission and outside for its horrific human rights record over the years? Many people know that the USA tends to base many of their foreign aid packages on this voting process, and I would be curious to investigate further this idea. It gives me lots of food for thought, be it rotting and sickening, food nonetheless when so many are starving in the world.

Hopefully this will suffice you for the moment. Over the weekend I will do my best to do an update again based on the UN Briefings of the Commission proceedings and the ongoing voting procedures. Rest assured that I will be present in Room 17 on the coming Tuesday when voting for Item 15, Indigenous Issues will take place and will send out a briefing on this by Wednesday afternoon.

In honour of Tony Black Feather,

Sezin

Thoughts?

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