The New York Times published today an opinion piece by the great democrat, Czech statesman and global human rights activist, Vaclav Havel. Havel calls on countries committed to human rights to reclaim the UN Human Rights Council “by simply refusing to vote for human rights abusers” in tomorrow’s election for new members. What a perfect solution to the so far failed expression of the Council’s mission (to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe)!
Not surprisingly given its ambitions at the UN, China (elected as an inaugural member in 2006) has decided to present its candidature for a second time. According to the official 4-pages-plus must-read memorandum supporting its bid, China is on a human rights roll!
Scrolling down to page 3, we find that China makes a “solemn commitment” to protecting the rights and interests of “minority ethnic groups.” Betting that the protests and security crackdown across Tibet will not damn its candidature, China presumably believes that its pledge “to provide necessary funds to renovate the temples and religious facilities that are of great historical and cultural value in areas inhabited by minority ethnic groups” is the real vote getter. All the monks and nuns may be in prison but, hey, their monasteries are BEAUTIFUL!
Havel believes the fix is already in. “Governments have resumed trading votes for membership in various other United Nations bodies, putting political considerations ahead of human rights,” Havel contends. At least with the United States also standing for membership, we can hope for some real superpowered mano-a-mano on Tibet in the Council. Can’t we?
Secretary Clinton has announced that the United States will seek election to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Welcome back to the fight! You’ll remember that Clinton made a lot of folks mad (outside of China) when she said (en route to China) that U.S. pressing on human rights issues would have to take a back seat to “the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” Note the word “crisis” appended to those issues.
Secretary Clinton (returned from China) has been finding ways to adjust that unfortunate formulation and is said to be looking to advance human rights (including in China) through concrete initiatives, moving beyond rhetoric. “Human rights are an essential part of American foreign policy,” she now says. And, it looks like a seat on the Human Rights Council is going to be an arrow in the Obama Administration’s human rights quiver. Let’s hope that there is a strong U.S. arm behind a straight aim at China because, Hillary, in Tibet there is a human rights CRISIS.