RLG309 READING #3- THE UNITED NATIONS
- The UN’s work in human rights and protection of the environment
- Tension between North and South on these issues
- The most important human rights body in the UN is the Human Rights Commission
(HRC). Promotes the “acceptance of human rights as a general part of the business of
o Given authority to investigate specific human rights violations by states. Hoped it
would be used to criticise racist and colonial governments.
o Created the Declaration of Human Rights. Not a legally binding document, a few
o More declarations made over the years which emphasized different human rights.
- UN now trying to create a “third generation” of human rights (includes right to
development, right to peace, right to clean environment, etc.).
- Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
o Not fully invoked until recently
- 1968 Conference at Tehran: disagreements between the North and South. Third world
countries wanted emphasis on racism, colonialism and self determination, while Western
governments wanted to focus on other issues. Discrimination against women received
lots of attention.
- The 1970’s saw many conferences on women’s rights
- World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna 1993): Division between West and 3rd
World. 3rd world thought human rights were an attempt to impose alien values on
“Asian” culture. US led resistance to these objections and pushed for a reaffirmation of
human rights. Universal fundamental freedoms are “beyond question”.
o Criticism: did not really lead to any breakthroughs, and failed to point out UN
- UN Peacekeeping: peacekeeping missions began to also monitor human rights.
- War Crimes: US/France for independent International Criminal Court
o Rwanda: tribunal has faced many difficulties in prosecuting those responsible for
Rwandan war crimes due to allegation of misconduct by officials, reluctance of
some African states to cooperate, lack of funding, etc.
o There is a clear strain between the UN’s role in easing interstate diplomacy and its
role in promoting international welfare and justice.
o Sometimes criticizing a country’s human rights conduct can complicate socio-
political ties with said country. Some turn a blind eye to serve their own national
- Human rights concerns often downplayed when they clash with national interest, limiting
the UN’s power against human rights abuses.
- In summary: The UN seems to give more priority to peace rather than justice.
- Environmentalism became an issue in the 1970’s
- Stockholm Environmental Conference (1972): United Nations Environmental
Programme (UNEP) established. Declaration on Human Environment established.
- Poorer nations believe environmentalism would restrict their economic growth. Wished
to place development over environmentalism.
- Sustainable development: poverty as a major source of environmental degradation,
economic growth to be stimulated.
- United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development: monitors implementation of
Rio agreements and aims to develop policies for sustainable development.
- Critics say that the UN fails to effectively take action in urgent human rights cases when
dealing with uncooperative governments.
- Lack of funding leads to understaffing which can make addressing issues difficult.
- The UN centre for human rights and UNEP are located in separate [arts of the globe, so
coordination can be difficult.
o Should be moved closer together
- Great powers shape the agenda for these issues.
- Trend towards high profile world summits
- Critics say these summits are only for publicity and offer no vision for serious global
issues. Lots of talk, but no action.
o However, these summits institutionalize international responsibility and establish
forums for non-governmental organizations.
o Supports the creation and sharing of knowledge, monitoring and early warning,
and standard setting.
- Summits are a process of the social mobilization that accompanies globalization
- NGO (Non Government Organization): Category 1) claim to represent major segments of
the population in a large number of countries. Category 2) international reputation and
special competence in areas covered by ECOSOC (economic and social council).
- Tension: at summits between secular states and those more subject to religious
influences. Many third world states remain suspicious of Western influence on their
The un"s work in human rights and protection of the environment. Tension between north and south on these issues. The most important human rights body in the un is the human rights commission (hrc). Promotes the acceptance of human rights as a general part of the business of international society : given authority to investigate specific human rights violations by states. Hoped it would be used to criticise racist and colonial governments: created the declaration of human rights. Not a legally binding document, a few countries abstained: more declarations made over the years which emphasized different human rights. Un now trying to create a third generation of human rights (includes right to development, right to peace, right to clean environment, etc. Prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide: not fully invoked until recently. 1968 conference at tehran: disagreements between the north and south.