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July 2010: The United Nations and Human Rights

Introduction to the Month's Focal Piece Editor's introduction: The United Nations and Human Rights

Articles under review:

David AkersonPerpetrators in Their Midst
by David Akerson

"But perhaps the tension surrounding the membership of human rights institutions is constructive. Egregious violators like Iran are excluded through appropriate political pressure. Other violations run a gauntlet of criticism that may have long term effects, much like that directed against the apartheid regime in South Africa. The fact that violators seek admission to human rights bodies in order to thwart investigations directed at them is itself significant."

Sonia CardenasOvercoming History and Human Rights at the UN
by Sonia Cardenas

"An exclusionary Human Rights Council would almost certainly be counter-productive in the long term. It would propagate a Western-centric view of human rights governance as arrogant and politically biased, as an extension of empire. It would also perpetuate a misguidedly essentialist view of political regimes and their human rights practices."

Todd LandmanAll Politics are Suboptimal
by Todd Landman

"The inherently political nature of the UN means that many of the observed outcomes of its internal procedures will be suboptimal. But to dismiss the entire institution as meaningless or irrelevant misses an important opportunity for rights-protective regimes to use their collective power to reform from within."


James PattisonHuman Rights Abusers, the Human Rights Council, and the UN
by James Pattison

(…) the Council was probably never likely to overcome fully the problems that beset the Commission. This is because the worries over double standards, membership by states with poor human rights records, and the influence of the major powers run much deeper. They are at the center of the whole project of the UN, which is founded on inclusiveness: the UN brings together virtually all the states in the world, allowing and encouraging debate, diplomacy, and exchange between widely differing regimes. (…) This inclusiveness comes at a cost: frequent selectivity in decision-making and dominance by power politics."

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