United Methodist Mission Agency Supports
Restructure of the Human Rights Commission
by Mary Beth Coudal
New York, NY, March 17, 2006 – On March 16, an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world voted to restructure the frequently-criticized United Nations Human Rights Commission into a more equitable and powerful Human Rights Council. One hundred and seventy countries approved the measure; four including the US, voted “no,” and three abstained.
United Methodist mission leaders welcomed the change. Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board ofGlobal Ministries, said, “Promoting justice, peace and freedom is and has long been one of our goals. Human rights must be at the very top of the world's agenda. The 21st century already faces a plague of human rights violations. Now is the time for faith communities worldwide to raise their voices and to support this renewed effort of the United Nations. Abused, tortured, and neglected children, youth, and adults are in urgent need of our actions."
In addition to the advocacy of the mission board, The United Methodist Church as a denomination has consistently reaffirmed its support for the United Nations and called upon all governments to fully support the United Nations. (The United Methodist Book of Resolution 2004, #326)
In the course of the year since UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s initial request for an overhaul of the Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Jan Eliasson of Sweden, current president of the UN General Assembly, oversaw the sometimes contentious discussions. At the passage of the final vote yesterday, representatives of the member countries applauded heartily.
In a statement from Africa, Mr. Annan said, “I am confident that the Council will breathe new life into all our work for human rights, and thereby help to improve the lives of millions of people throughout the world.”
Mia Adjali, nongovernmental organization (NGO) representative for the Global Ministries at the UN, noted that she hoped that the new Council would address “all human rights in all countries at all times, no matter the power politics.” She said that in the past “double standards had prevented the violations of many countries from being reviewed by the Commission.” Ms. Adjali also expressed the hope that access to the Council's meetings will be broadly open to nongovernmental organizations.
The new Human Rights Council will have a better standing within the UN, meet more frequently than the old commission, include wider geographic representation, and more opportunity to intervene quickly when rights abuses occur.
Despite lobbying by rights organizations to assent, John R. Bolton, United States Representative to the United Nations, opposed the new Council as created. He later based his action on what he saw as a need for stricter requirements for membership within the Council. In a post-vote statement, Mr. Bolton acknowledged that the new agency was an improvement over the existing commission and would better serve the goals of the US. “We remain committed to support the UN’s historic mission to promote and protect the basic human rights of all the world’s citizens,” said Bolton.
Mary Beth Coudal is staff writer for the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
Date posted: Mar 17, 2006