“These two issues, management and human rights council, have currently collapsed,” said Rick Grenell, spokesman for the US mission to the UN, as a core group raced against the clock to finalise a draft document for the 14-16 September summit of world leaders.
“With the last-minute gutting of the human rights council just when we worked through development and other issues, the full document is in jeopardy,” he added.
The US spokesman said a certain number of countries were now objecting to two key criteria set for the creation of a revamped UN human rights council to replace the current, discredited Human Rights Commission.
“Certain countries have decided that the two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly criteria to get on the human rights council is not acceptable, that a simple majority should be the rule…That’s troubling to us,” Grenell said.
Grenell said these countries were also objecting to the proposed human rights council sitting as a permanent body of the UN.
Change in operations
“What we would like to see is a drastic change in the way the human rights council operates, and by gutting the criteria for membership, by trying to make it a non-standing, non-permanent committee … it’s frustrating,” Grenell said.
“What we would like to see is a drastic change in the way the human rights council operates”
A US official named the countries which raised the objections as Egypt, China, Russia and Pakistan.
The proposal on the table was for a standing meeting of the Human Rights Council throughout the year, instead of the annual six-week session that the current commission holds.
The reform proposals follow accusations that the current Human Rights Commission is dominated by countries with a record of abuse and riven by political bargaining that undermines effective action on human rights.
“On management [reform], we also have also fallen apart,” Grenell said.
Grenell said UN management reform had been called for by the independent panel that documented corruption and management lapses in the UN oil-for-food programme for Iraq as well as by UN chief Kofi Annan and Western countries.
“We cannot have the general assembly continue to operate with business as usual”
“What we would like to see is more powers given to the secretary-general, hold him accountable.
“Give him the ability to prioritise mandates, prioritise personnel and then hold him accountable,” Grenell said.
“We cannot have the general assembly continue to operate with business as usual.”
Other issues being negotiated by the core group are development, terrorism, responsibility to protect peoples threatened with genocide, and setting up a peace-building commission.