United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal to establish a Human Rights Council to replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights will restore credibility to the U.N. in pursuit of one of its core missions, the promotion and protection of human rights.
The current arrangement enables governments with shameful human rights records, like Sudan and Libya, to gain membership in the Commission and thereby block attempts to condemn their own records. This perverse situation has left gross violations unchallenged, severely undermined the credibility of the U.N. on human rights, and infected the entire U.N. system.
As members of "Building Global Alliances for the 21st Century" – which brings together progressive international leaders seeking cooperative solutions to global challenges – we applaud the Secretary General for his courage and commitment to safeguarding human rights. With this proposal, Mr. Annan has taken a strong step forward in ensuring that fundamental political and civil liberties know no boundaries. We recommend that:
Heads of state immediately endorse the Secretary-General’s proposal and pave the way for its adoption by the U.N. General Assembly in September. Nations should publicly commit to electing to the Human Rights Council only governments that abide by the highest human rights standards.
Democratic nations join together to advance this proposal. Members of the Community of Democracies – a partnership among states committed to a core set of democratic principles and to promoting democracy worldwide – should issue a resolution at their April meeting committing themselves publicly to electing only other democracies to the Human Rights Council.
Progressive leaders launch a global campaign supporting the creation of the new Human Rights Council. Progressive leaders around the world should immediately launch a sustained, two-front campaign to privately press governments to support the Secretary-General’s proposal, and to bring together NGOs from around the world in a highly visible effort.
Madeleine K. Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State
Robin Cook, Former British Foreign Secretary and Member of the British Parliament
Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, Former Prime Minister of Portugal
Morton H. Halperin, Senior Vice President, Center for American Progress
Lee H. Hamilton, Former U.S. Congressman and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission
John D. Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Former Prime Minister of Denmark