Category Archives: NGO Campaigns

New HR Commissioner speaks; farewell from me!

Thanks to the UN News Center

And a quick word to say thank you for all your interest, and I wish Ms Pillay a successful and productive tenure.

I feel we did, at the least, help open this process to increased public scrutiny, which is a fine objective. An informed populace is the guardian of democracy.



New UN human rights chief speaks of personal understanding of discrimination

Navanethem Pillay

29 July 2008 – The newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says she comes to her work with a personal understanding of human rights violations, based on her experience of living in South Africa during the apartheid regime when non-whites such as herself suffered from institutionalized discrimination.“I think I come with a real understanding of what it’s like to have your human rights violated and to have it violated for a very long time without any justice in sight, and the apartheid struggle taught that,” Navanethem Pillay said today in an interview with UN Radio.

Ms. Pillay, who is due to take up her post in Geneva on 1 September, said that leadership in her home country had been critical in bringing about dramatic change for the better. She went on to cite the establishment of the Human Rights Council, where she said Member States now subscribe to the notion of accountability, monitoring and peer reviews, as an example of dramatic change that had taken place globally in the human rights field. Noting that her predecessor Louise Arbour had established human rights offices in 50 countries, Ms. Pillay said she wanted to take that work forward.

“I see these as progressive trends which would advance the work of the High Commissioner in protecting human rights everywhere.”

She said that nations now took human rights with the seriousness that they deserved, drawing on her experience of serving as a Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2003, and before that as both Judge and President on the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which she joined in 1995.

“My experience as an international judge is where political leadership has been brought to account for complicity in some very grave international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I was on the panel of judges that sentenced the Prime Minister of Rwanda to life imprisonment for the offense of genocide,” she noted.

“I subscribe to this new system of international criminal justice system which we have only very recently, for the past fifteen years, as a strong signal that impunity will be ended and that anyone, whether a head of state or a militia leader, will be held accountable and punished.”

The High Commissioner acknowledged that she would have to operate in a different manner in her new post from her previous work for criminal tribunals, even though she said there were close links between the two activities.

“The criminal trials have the power to punish, the High Commissioner has to find various approaches of persuasion, of strong talk, or to develop civil society organizations to meet this source of the violations,” she said.


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UN Watch: Micheline Calmy Rey

Not a name widely discussed, but this campaign from UN Watch raises the possible candidacy of the Swiss Foreign Minister. I have heard no independent confirmation of it yet… seems questionable whether the post would go to a European.


Tell the UN: Ask Tough Questions of Top Human Rights Contenders

Who will replace outgoing UN human rights chief Louise Arbour? According to the New York Times, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico is a top contender. But as inaugural chair of the UN Human Rights Council, he oversaw its descent from reform to regression. His reform package, pushed through in middle of the night, eliminated scrutiny of violations by Cuba and Belarus, while instituting the permanent indictment of Israel. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is also vigorously campaigning…

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Ricken on CBC

Rickel Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz, explains the thinking behind the campaign during this interview on Canada’s CBC.

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Subvertisement of the week!

Thanks to the smart foreign policy blog Global Dashboard for this plaudit.

Subvertisement of the week

June 12, 2008 | Alex Evans | More on Communication, Influence, Public diplomacy |

If you pick up this week’s Economist and leaf through the classified ads, you’ll find this one: a job advert for the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But just a second… surely the UN’s jobs website is here – rather than here, as linked to in the advert?

Ah, those cheeky scoundrels at Avaaz.

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High Commissioner must have the respect of NGOs – Halperin, OSI

Morton Halperin – Director of US Advocacy at the Open Society Institute – shared these words:

“The Secretary General’s office has responded with righteous indignation to complaints that he has not delivered on his promised transparency in selecting a new High Commissioner for Human Rights.

His office notes, correctly, that previous holders of the office were selected in a non-transparent manner. He seems to be saying that the SG is committed to being no more open than his predecessors, ignoring the growing international pressure for international organizations including the UN to function with greater transparency.

The High Commissioner will need to work with NGOs from around the globe, and someone should be chosen who has the respect of such groups – especially NGOs from the global south. With human rights at risk in many places that is surely not too much to ask.”

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Interview panel revealed

I have been told that the panelists conducting the interview are:

Asha Rose Migiro, deputy secretary general

Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff

Nicolas Michel, UN legal counsel

and Kim Won-soo, deputy chief of staff and Mr Ban’s right hand man.

Some commentators have questioned whether Mr Kim is officially senior enough to be conducting this interview, according to normal practice.


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Economist ad discussed in UN journalist briefing

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas responds to a question by the New York Sun’s intrepid reporter Benny Avni.

The exchange can be found here (or here, at minute 11, for around two minutes).

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