United Nations Successes And Failures In Human Rights

The issue regarding human rights’ violations became prominent for the first time after the Second World War. After the war the foundation of the United Nations acted as an impetus towards the initial development of the framework regarding the Human Rights. Further progress was made in 1946 when the ECOSOC set up a Commission on Human Rights and later a Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was formed. (Rittberger & Zangl, 2006) This was the beginning of the UN Human Rights regime. The Commission on Human Rights was established and entrusted with promoting respect for human rights on a global scale.

It was also entrusted with fostering worldwide cooperation in human rights, responding to human rights violations in specific countries, and helping respective countries in building their capacity in regards to human rights. In principle, its mandate of building capacity and fostering cooperation was uncontroversial. This though was not the case in practice. Its mandate was controversial because it was required to monitor and hold its members accountable. By the end of its regime, the commission was dogged with controversies that resulted in a rancorous debate among member states.

There was a whole host of accusations ranging from double standards, politicisation, to unprofessionalism. (Chauhan 2004) A Historical Dimension The UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This was the basis and foundation of the framework later developed for the protection of human rights in later years. Originally composed of only eighteen members, the Human Rights Commission expanded to fifty three members. The discontent with the performance of the Human Rights commission grew in 1990s an early 2000s and it came under constant criticism for its inability to function effectively.

(Alston 2006) Most of the recorded ‘achievements’ of the commission are in paper rather than in practice. This could be attributed to the fact that the Universal Declaration was a non-binding declaration, which means that none of the members of the United Nations were legally bounded, neither anybody of the United Nations has been given the legal right to bound, judge or sanction any legal action against the members of the United Nations. (Lasso) The Human Rights Commission prided itself in passing declarations and adopting international conventions that in the end were mere signatures from the member states.

Such declarations and conventions include the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted in 1992, and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which came into force in 1991. The generalization and vagueness of the articles regarding human rights in the UN charter and the contradictory interpretation of these articles by many states has practically barred the UN to take any effective action in this regard.

There have been many cases where the human rights violations were deliberately ignored by the political powers like in Sudan, where the Arab militia virtually annihilated the ethnic African population, or in Chechnya, where the Western countries did not dared to intervene fearing that it will infuriate Russia, or in Tibet, where China is responsible for alleged human rights violations like genocide, racial discrimination etc.

Since all the subject states in these situations either have direct influence in the Security Council in the form of Veto power or they are close allies with those who have it is near impossible in the current circumstances that they will be held responsible for the human rights violations they have committed in the above mentioned regions. (Landman 2006)