[DEBATE] : (Fwd) SA in the UN: anti-Human Rights under guise of anti-West
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Nov 18 14:47:31 GMT 2007
SA now skunk of the world
ROWAN PHILP: London Published:Nov 18, 2007
South Africa’s human rights reputation is in tatters after a series of
“sell-out” votes at the UN on issues ranging from rape and gay rights to
This week the watchdog UNWatch ranked South Africa last, alongside
China, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, on a human rights list.
Human rights organisations have branded Pretoria “the chief human rights
SA is accused of
# shielding Sudan, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of
Congo and Myanmar.
# opposing a resolution on human rights abuses in Darfur in November
2006 — choosing instead to praise Sudan’s “co-operation”;
# opposing a motion for the Security Council to hear a briefing on the
crisis in Zimbabwe in March this year;
# helping to bar two major gay rights organisations from being
accredited at the UN in July;
# helping to remove all United Nations scrutiny of human rights abuses
in Belarus and Cuba — the “worst rights abusers in Europe and the
Americas” in June; and
# opposing a Security Council briefing on human rights abuses in the DRC
Last week, the country led the blocking of a resolution condemning the
use of rape as a weapon of war, saying it wanted more than just this
form of rape condemned.
Human Rights Watch’s Steve Crawshaw said this was the “last straw”.
But Foreign Affai rs Director- General Ayanda Ntsaluba said some
resolutions were designed to promote Western agendas. “A mockery is made
of human rights, with the impression created that certain human rights
violations are tolerable because they are committed in some countries.”
South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, Dumisani Kumalo, accused the US of
“whipping up the media, trying to make South Africa look bad”.
But UNWatch executive director Hillel Neuer said South Africa and India
were “the biggest disappointments among free democracies”.
“Its [SA’s] reputation has gone from pro-human rights to purely
anti-Western,” he said.
Thomas Wheeler, of the SA Institute of International Affairs, said South
Africa had “lost the moral high ground ”.
But political analyst Adam Habib said South Africa had been right to
oppose the “hidden political agendas of the Western powers”, although by
failing to “go on to take the lead on those issues ... our reputation
has taken a hit.”
Response to Sunday Times
The promotion and protection of human rights remains one of the pillars
of South Africa´s foreign policy.
This is an approach derived from our constitution and the bill of rights.
We express this practically in both our bilateral and multilateral
Bilaterally we engage directly with countries and express our concerns
where we feel that human rights are being violated.
In the multilateral arena South Africa has always been among the leading
countries behind the reform and strengthening of the UN´s human rights
As a manifestation of this South Africa chaired the negotiations that
led to the creation of the new UN Human Rights Council.
We supported the creation of the Human Rights Council because we saw it
as a body with the potential to re-energize the UN´s human rights
machinery and improve its credibility.
The UN´s human rights machinery over the years lost its credibility due
to the problems of double standards, selectivity and politicization.
By double standards we mean that it only addressed itself with human
rights problems in some and not in other countries. Historically the UN
resolutions on human rights have always targeted mainly the developing
countries. No resolutions are ever brought and passed to address human
rights situations in developed countries or global human rights problems
created by developed countries. This is a fact that organizations such
as UN Watch, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International know too well.
Because of this a mockery is made of human rights with the impression
created that certain human rights violations are tolerable because they
are committed in some countries.
By politicization we mean that a number of the resolutions are presented
at the United Nations to address bilateral political problems. Indeed
when these bilateral political problems are resolved such resolutions
are no longer presented. This is a fact which organizations such as UN
Watch, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International know too well.
The whole membership of the United Nations therefore recognized these
problems and supported the creation of the Human Rights Council and
South Africa is pleased to have played a role in its creation.
There are two broad categories of human rights recognized at the
international level: civil and political rights; and social and economic
While many western countries and western NGOs are only concerned about
civil and political rights, South Africa on the other hand and many
other countries are concerned about all human rights - civil and
political; and social and economic.
The ranking by UN Watch is therefore blatantly lopsided because it
creates the impression that the international community is only
concerned about civil and political rights, and therefore the country
We wish to put it on record that the country situations mentioned by UN
Watch are only one agenda item under ten agenda items addressed by the
Human Rights Council under the two broad categories mentioned above.
Had the UN Watch rankings been based on a holistic and comprehensive
assessment of country positions, based on all the agenda items of the
Human Rights Council, surely South Africa does way better than many
We also hope that the Sunday Times would look critically at some of
these organizations before giving them undue credence. It should be
recalled that UN Watch is one organization that is actively campaigning
to undermine a key South African initiative at the global level, the
World Conference Against Racism. While the world is grappling with and
trying to find solutions to the problems of racial hatred and
intolerance UN Watch posts articles on its website describing the
conference as a “global festival of hatred”. It is therefore important
that while quoting these organizations the Sunday Times should also
inform its readers about the extent of their agenda.
Sunday Times might therefore also wish to qualify its description of
these organizations as the “world´s biggest human rights organizations”.
South Africa shall never apologise for insisting on the careful division
of labour between the organs of the United Nations. As we entrench good
governance at home we insist on the same principles in the multilateral
The fact that Professor Gambari is able to register some progress in his
interventions on Myanmar is testimony to the need for the international
community to avoid political expediency and utilize the correct tools to
address global problems.
The UN should also not be just about condemning human rights violations
but should also seek to do something concrete about it. This was the
spirit in which the human rights council was borne – that instead of the
old system it would also focus on helping countries concretely to
address their problems. It is a fact, however, that for some countries
and non-governmental organizations, it is still business as usual.
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