- Politics And Human Rights: An Essential Symbiosis
- The Politics of Human Rights by Sabine C. Carey
- Commentary Magazine
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Politics And Human Rights: An Essential Symbiosis
The UN has been slipping for many many years. Conversely, Mr Kompass is the anomaly, a human rights officer who rose through the ranks and arrived at headquarters after twenty years of working in human rights field missions. But more importantly, they are the representatives of two very different models of how human rights are located in political discourse: Zeid represents the school which has allowed, or indeed promoted, the politicisation of human rights, Kompass - the priority of human rights within politics.
Mr Lynch may be right in thinking of Kompass as somewhat unknown, but where it matters he is anything but. Not all OHCHR heads of field offices do so, partly through fear of stepping outside of the mandate or upsetting the host government, or indeed, the UN. Kompass was able to effect mediation and improve the human rights situation simply because there was no unseen political agenda to his actions, he was transparent and honest. He was coherent, consistent and predictable. If a government operated in line with human rights norms and standards - fine.
If not, then something needed to change. Victims knew that if their rights were being violated, then he would act to protect them.
He was a friend to all involved parties, because he was prepared to tell the truth to each one. This is what human rights can and should do when it is at the core of politics. Sadly, this is not the preferred modality in the current UN malaise.
The Politics of Human Rights by Sabine C. Carey
The Department of Peace Keeping Operations now has a core budget of some 9 billion dollars. More than the rest of the UN put together. What does this tell us about prevention and sustainable development? Peace-keeping operations have been in some countries for decades, they are increasingly being criticised as ineffective as well as extremely expensive.
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What peace are they keeping? Some may indeed have a human rights component, but such departments are subject to the political decisions made by the Special Representatives of the Secretary General - so human rights become yet again politicised. Which leads back to the issue which brought this tension to the fore front: In real life, the opposite is true, and all because of a zero tolerance policy, which is not underpinned by effective legal accountability and the primacy of protecting human rights.
Which raises the need to apply human rights within the system itself. Whilst there is a culture of impunity and lack of accountability, when it comes to those who seemingly defy that culture, human rights protections are singularly lacking. It is a basic tenet of law that anyone accused of an offence has the right to representation during proceedings.
This has been denied to Mr Kompass. Are there similar investigations into those who have committed the crimes he denounced? This is the reason: By so doing, he became a problem for the rest of the United Nations and to Mr Zeid — politician par excellence. For those in the UN system who are prepared to compromise on human rights, and hence on legal obligation, the challenge of Kompass is his success in pursuing the alternative model — a model that is actually at the core of the United Nations Charter and subsequent instruments. Instead of attacking him, they should embrace his approach and actually apply it - imagine the difference it would make!
She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire OBE for services to human rights, particularly women's rights, and international peace and security. We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
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