Human rights and humanitarian issues
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Human rights and Humanitarian Issues. Kelly-Kate S. Pease, International Organizations. Perspectives on Governance in the Twenty-First Centur y, fourth edition (Boston, New York: Pearson, Longman, 2010) , Chp.9. Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues.

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Human rights and humanitarian issues

Human rights and Humanitarian Issues

Kelly-Kate S. Pease, International Organizations. Perspectives on Governance in the Twenty-First Century, fourth edition (Boston, New York: Pearson, Longman, 2010), Chp.9


Human rights and humanitarian issues1

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • This chapter will examine two issues-refugee protection and human rights.

  • Refugees: One of the more destabilizing events threatening international peace and security is the mass movement of people across international boundaries.

  • The UN responded to many of the post- WW II refugee movements by creating the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1950 by a General Assembly Resolution.


Human rights and humanitarian issues2

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • The UNHCR is charged with coordinating multilateral aid and seeking “durable solutions” to the plight of refugees. It attempts to establish a permanent settlement for each refugee situation and responds with emergency relief and care.


Human rights and humanitarian issues3

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • The legal obligation of states set out in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. Refugees are defined as people who have a well-founded fear of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership to a particular group or political opinion.

  • States that are party to the Convention have a legal obligation not to return refugees or those seeking such status back to a situation of persecution.


Human rights and humanitarian issues4

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • The process of obtaining legal refugee status involves a series of administrative steps. First the individual enters the territory of the state and applies for asylum. The right to grant asylum is a sovereign right of states. If asylum is granted, the individual is registered with the UNHCR and is considered a legal or de jure refugee. Then a solution will be found by making use of one of those three mechanisms:

  • voluntary repatriation

  • resettlement (in third countries)

  • assimilation


Human rights and humanitarian issues5

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • Refugee refers to individual persecution. Excluded are those who flee because of foreign occupation, generalized violence, civil war, civil disorder and civil unrest. Also excluded are victims of extreme poverty or natural disaster.

  • The UNCHR’S mandate was expanded to include more than just assisting and protecting de jure refugees. Unrest in Asia and the colonization process in Africa resulted in large-scale disorder and violence, producing large numbers of people resembling refugees, yet not qualifying under the narrow definition of the 1951 Convention. The UNHCR’s mandate was expanded further as a result of its involvement during and after the Algerian revolt against France.


Human rights and humanitarian issues6

Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues

  • The UNHCR budget is voluntary, and contributions come largely from the United States, Japan, Germany and other industrialized countries.

  • Increasingly, international peace and security are linked to respect for human rights and human security. Why? Because humanitarian assistance in war-torn societies is not sufficient. There is also need for state-building after the crisis.

  • Like the environment, human rights have taken center stage in international politics in recent years. Human rights are now legitimate values to be pursued through international politics. Beginning with the UN Charter, a proliferation of international human rights agreements has detailed civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Yet human rights are contentious because they challenge the principle of sovereignity and may even invite international intervention.


Major human rights agreements

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • In addition to the UN Charter, several international agreements pertaining to human rights have been reached. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed by the UN General Assembly without a dissenting vote, although South Africa, the USSR and several Eastern Bloc states abstained from the resolution.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists thirty basic principles that are considered fundamental to human dignity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not legally binding on states; but it serves as as an authoritative guide to interpretation of the UN Charter and represents the sense of international community.


Major human rights agreements1

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • It spells out political and civil rights, including the rights to life, liberty, personal security, and political participation. It also adresses economic and social rights, such as the right to work, to form unions and to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.

  • In addition to these individual human rights, the Universal Declaration contains collective rights, such as the right to self-determination and development. The drafters of the resolution intended to follow up the Universal Declaration with a binding treaty or covenant that would have imposed specific duties and obligations on states.


Major human rights agreements2

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly links respect for human rights with international peace. Human rights are essential for promoting friendly relations between states and respect between individuals. In many respects, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is revolutionary because it challenges state sovereignity and represents a higher moral authority.


Major human rights agreements3

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • Transforming rhetoric into reality has proven difficult. The binding international law that was supposed to follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was impeded by Cold War tensions and the attendant quarrels over social and economic rights versus political and civil rights.

  • The West, led by the U.S has emphasized civil and political rights over economic and social rights. The West used civil and political human rights to criticize the Soviet Union and to justify Cold War policies. The Soviet Union criticized racial discrimination in the United States and accentuated economic and social rights-rights to which the US has paid little attention.


Major human rights agreements4

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • The North-South conflict, which focuses on the disparities between rich and poor in the international community, highlighted the inconsistencies in US and European foreign policies. On the one hand, the West criticized the East for systematically denying civil and political rights, yet supported brutal colonial regimes, then authoritarian governments as bulwarks against communism.


Major human rights agreements5

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • In the debate over universality versus cultural relativism, the question is fundamental: Are human rights universal-applicable to all-or must they be understood in the light of culture? Proponents of the cultural relativist approach argue that human rights as conceptualized by the UN are eurocentric. That is, the notions of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights found in Western European political and economic thought ignore non-Western approaches to human rights.


Major human rights agreements6

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • The lag between the Universal Declaration and a more binding international law was the result of the political divisions within the UN (East/West, North/ South).

  • Two treaties were negotiated to set international standards and to implement human rights- the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (opened for signatures in 1966).


Major human rights agreements7

Major Human Rights Agreements

  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes and details the several important economic rights: the right to work, the right to safe working conditions, the right to form and join unions and the right to strike. This covenant also includes social rights such as the right to food, housing and education. Cultural rights include the right to participate in the cultural life of a society and the right to benefit from scientific progress.

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right to life, liberty, freedom of movement, equality under the law and the presumption of innocence. It details the rights of association as well as the freedom of religion and conscience. It lists the right to free elections, universal suffrage, and the right to have access to public service.


Un agencies and human rights

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • Several UN bodies and agencies are integrally involved in promoting and protecting human rights.

  • The Human Rights Council: now the central UN body replacing the defunct UN Commission on Human Rights.

  • The Commission on Human Rights, which reports to Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), was created shortly after the inception of the UN itself. It was this Commission that drafted the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and actively worked to institutionalize the International Covenants.

  • The Commission on Human Rights which consisted of 53 states elected by the members of ECOSOC to regional seats functioned to promote human rights, in a nonconfrontational manner.


Un agencies and human rights1

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • The Commission approached human rights protection by highlighting themes such as arbitrary detentions, torture and the rights of children. The Commission also adressed the specific human rights situation in states such as Cuba, Sudan, Afganistan and Congo.

  • East-West divisions meant that the Commision was always a highly politicized body, yet in the early 21st cc, the Commission became further politicized because states with poor human rights records such as Libya, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia were elected, aiming to shield themselves from international criticism.


Un agencies and human rights2

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • At the 2005, World Summit, member states agreed to abolish the Commission and to create the Human Rights Council which the General Assembly made a reality in 2006. The Human Rights Council is a 47 member body elected by the General Assembly rather than the 54 members of the ECOSOC.

  • Each region is allocated a certain number of seats: the developed nations are alloted seven seats, Eastern European has six, Latin America and the Caribbean have eight, Asia has thirteen and Africa thirteen seats.


Un agencies and human rights3

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme for Human Rights called for the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

  • The General Assembly obliged by creating the office, which became fully functional in 1994. This office was given responsibility to diplomatically promote and protect human rights, to provide advisory and technical assistance to states and to coordinate UN education and public information programs.


Un agencies and human rights4

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • The UNHCR can engage states in a dialog in order to secure respect for human rights, however, the High Commissioner can do little to force states to observe internationally recognized human rights.

  • The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) followed the Vienna Conference by issuing the Cairo Declaration. The Islamic world used the Cairo Declaration to serve as the basis of the Islamic world’s interpretations of human rights. The Islamic world views human rights as being defined by Allah and Sharia, or Islamic law. It posits different rights for women and men and highlights colonialism and racism as grave violations of human rights.


Un agencies and human rights5

UN Agencies and Human Rights

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) was established in 1919 as the autonomous agency of the League of Nations. This independent yet cooperative relationship was maintained with the creation of the UN in 1945. The ILO’s central purpose is to set international labor standards and to improve the rights of workers globally.


Ngos and human rights

NGOs and Human Rights

  • International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC): The ICRC mission is to aid the victims of war, mainly civilians and prisoners of war. The ICRC is not directly linked to a human rights treaty, although its mandate does extend to human rights during war.

  • The ICRC is not directly linked to a human rights treaty, although its mandate does extend to human rights during war. The ICRC has observer status at the UN, the only NGO to be an official member. The ICRC heads a world federation of national Red Cross and Red Crescent units that are active in delivering humanitarian assistance in national emergencies.


Ngos and human rights1

NGOs and Human Rights

  • The ICRC generally takes a “quiet diplomacy” approach to promoting and protecting human rights during war. This especially holds true in its interaction with the “war on terror” and its facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The ICRC has visited the known overseas detention centres and is quietly pressuring the US to allow it to visit sites in Eastern Europe.


Ngos and human rights2

NGOs and Human Rights

  • Other NGOs rely on publicity and domestic and international political pressure to remind governments of their international obligations, the so-called “name and shame” approach. Amnesty International (which started in 1961) is such an organization.

  • Its mission consists of 4 local points:

  • To free all prisoners of conscience

  • To ensure fair and prompt trials of political prisoners

  • To abolish the death penalty, torture and other cruel forms of punishment

  • To end extrajudicial executions and disappearances.


Ngos and human rights3

NGOs and Human Rights

  • Human Rights Watch is another NGO that investigates and publicizes human rights violations. It monitors the status of human rights and also attempt to hold nonstate actors responsible for their abuse. These nonstate actors include national and multinational corporations, guerilla groups and crime organizations such as drug cartels.

  • Human Rights Watch compiles annual reports on the human rights records of states, its reputation is such that its reports are used in congressional or parliamentary hearings and by executive and ministerial agencies.


Ngos and human rights4

NGOs and Human Rights

  • Doctors without Borders is an NGO whose two-thousand plus volunteers come from more than 45 nations. It is committed to providing medical relief to populations in crisis regardless of ideology or national origin. Like the ICRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders is independent of governments and IGOs and is committed to impartiality.


Humanitarian intervention

Humanitarian Intervention

  • Traditionally, recognition, promotion and protection of human rights have involved the use of diplomacy and political pressure to persuade and challenge states to improve their human rights records. Yet since the end of the Cold War, international enforcement of human rights has emerged as a controversial feature in international politics.

  • Broadly speaking, humanitarian intervention refers to “dictatorial interference” in the internal affairs of a sovereign state to secure and enforce human rights. Dictatorial interference can include both nonforcible and forcible measures. The former includes such measures as economic sanctions, witholding of aid, and the funding of opposition parties. The latter refers to the use of military units within the territorial jurisdiction of a target state without the government’s consent.


Humanitarian intervention1

Humanitarian Intervention

  • When is it permissible for international organizations to override state sovereignity to provide or protect internationally recognized human rights? The broad definition of intervention as “dictatorial interference” makes it difficult to draw a distinction between impermissible intervention and permissible political activities because it includes both forcible and nonforcible measures.

  • The Article 2(7) of the UN Charter contains the companion principle of sovereignity, the principle of nonintervention.


Humanitarian intervention2

Humanitarian Intervention

  • Most developing states are sympatethic to the position that holds that “the issue of human rights falls within the sovereignity of each country”. It is after all, their sovereignity that is at stake. The UN has neither the will nor the capability to override the sovereignity of powerful states. UN intervention is possible only against the weaker members- members that lack the political protection of permanent member of the Security Council. Powerful states may ignore their allies’ human rights violations while seeking to punish political foes for committing the same violations.

  • Developing countries also stress that there is another double standard: while violations of civil and political rights tend to prompt UN intervention, violations of economic and social rights do not. The World Bank and IMF freely demand structural adjustments in return for their loans-adjustments that interfere with the economic and social rights of their citizens.


Humanitarian intervention3

Humanitarian Intervention

  • Countering this view of human rights and intervention is the argument that human rights are proper international subject matters, despite the many disagreements over definition and implementation.

  • Many states have become formal legal parties to human right treaties, thereby internationalizing human rights. Human rights are just as much an international concern as slavery and colonialism are. States and the UN have every right and the responsibility to oppose states engaging in slavery or colonialism. This logically extends to genocide and crimes against humanity.


Humanitarian intervention4

Humanitarian Intervention

  • As a result of the North-South divide on the issue of humanitarian intervention, the international community is forced to address human rights situations on a case-by-case basis. In 1992, the UN Security Council deemed the situation in Somalia (breakdown of civil order) as a threat to international peace and security and authorized “all means necessary” to deliver humanitarian assistance.

  • Grave human rights situations in Burundi, Mozambique, North Korea, Afganistan and Sudan did not prompt multilateral intervention, even though these were as dire as the Somali crisis.


Case study rwanda

Case Study: Rwanda

  • Rwanda genocide in April 1994: more than 800,000 people killed in a mere 100 days. The victims were members of the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus- the perpetrators roaming gangs of the ethnic majority Hutus.

  • The conflict has a history (ethnic conflict between these two ethnic groups). In 1993 the UN Security Council created and deployed a small (2500), lightly armed peacekeeping force called the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). UNAMIR’s mandate was to help implement the cease-fire between the Hutu government and Tutsi rebels.


Case study rwanda1

Case Study: Rwanda

  • 6 April 1994: the airplane carrying Rwanda Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down by a missile. Within hours, President Habyarimana’s presidential guard started hunting down the Tutsi and Hutu opponents of the president and killing them. On April 7, Rwanda’s first female Prime Minister Agathe Unwillingiyimana (a critic of the Hutu president) was raped and killed.

  • Hutu government insiders informed the UNAMIR commanders that Hutu extremists will kill all the Tutsis. UNAMIR commanders wanted to move quickly to seize weapons that had been stockpiled, but were told by the then head of UN Peacekeeping Kofi Annan that UNAMIR was not to take any action without further authorization. As UN peacekeepers stepped aside, thousands of people were killed.


Case study rwanda2

Case Study: Rwanda

  • On April 22, the UN Secretary-General recommended that the UN Security Council either heavily arm UNAMIR or withdraw the peacekeepers from harm’s way. The Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to a token presence of 270 people. As the UN withdrew from Rwanda, Hutu extremists killed more people.

  • In November, the UN Security Council announced the creation of an international criminal tribunal to try the Rwanda “war” criminals. In November 1996, the UNAMIR mission was officially concluded.


A realist cut

A Realist Cut

  • The end of the Cold War effectively signalled the demise of the great powers interest in Africa in general. During the Cold War, the outcomes of political and ethnic conflicts in the region were of strategic importance to the superpowers to their ideological and territorial battle. The United States, European States, and the former Soviet Union meddled in African wars of independence, each trying to influence events in their favor.


A realist cut1

A Realist Cut

  • The end of the Cold War greatly diminished the strategic importance of Africa, and African states were left to themselves to solve their political and ethnic conflicts that had been inflamed and exacerbated by years of Cold War tensions. In short, by 1994 the great powers had no compelling national interest in Rwanda.


A liberal cut

A Liberal Cut

  • The Rwanda genocide is a story of good intentions, missed opportunities, and institutional weaknesses that resulted in UN paralysis. The UN involvement in Rwanda was motivated by a desire for lasting peace and humanitarian concern for those living in this area. UN agencies and UNAMIR were there to help promote social and political stability and to build confidence between the ethnic groups. The UNHCR, the WHO and UNICEF operate extensive programs designed to help Rwanda, not to hurt it.

  • International organizations play positive and constructive roles in mitigating ethnic conflict, however they are caught between traditional norms of sovereignity and demands for humanitarian intervention which inevitably involves taking sides. Peacekeeping missions and international agencies have limited mandates and resources and must proceed with the consent of the parties involved.


A marxist cut

A Marxist Cut

  • The ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis defies national boundaries. This ethnic conflict has manifested itself in wide-scale violence in Uganda, Congo (Zaire), Burundi and Tanzania as well as Rwanda. Ethnic hatreds might date back centuries, but they are often used by colonizing powers to maintain political control over a country’s resources and labor.

  • Rwanda was a Belgian colony from 1998 to 1962. The Belgian government favoured the Tutsi minority and created a Tutsi aristocracy to help them rule over the Hutu majority. The aristocracy was based on the racial superiority of taller, leaner Tutsis and the notion of superiority was nurtered and fostered by Belgium. The Tutsis received preferential treatment in education and employment, and many were welcome in white colonial circles.


A feminist cut

A Feminist Cut

  • According to liberal feminism, women are just as capable of brutality and violence as men are. And the Rwanda genocide supports this assertion. The role of Hutu women in the genocide is not widely publicized. Women who held positions in the civil service, who were teachers, nurses and nuns were directly and indirectly involved with the mass murder of Tutsis. Many women who took part in the genocide were also staffers for international aid agencies.


A constructivist cut

A Constructivist Cut

  • Ethnicity is socially constructed. In Rwanda, ethnicity was constructed by Belgian colonizers. What was once a minor distinction between different social statuses was transformed by the Belgians into the idea of a master race (Tutsi) and slave race (Hutu) whereby the Tutsi were the “chosen” people of god destined to rule absolutely over the Hutus. If international organizations want to help Rwanda move beyond the genocide, they need to work to develop strategies to de-ethnicize the population and build a national rather than an ethnic identity among the people. Ethnicity is created by humans and it can be changed by humans.


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