Sunday, April 20, 2008

Universal Periodic Review

This week the human rights situation in the Netherlands was discussed in a body of the UN, namely in the Human Rights Council. The seat of this council is in Geneva, in one the the two headquarters of the UN (the other being in New York).
It was the first time the situation in the Netherlands was under review; the Human Rights Council is a new UN body that scrutenizes the HR situation in all countries in the world, not just that of those who have a questionable track record. The review is called Universal Periodic Review, the Un acronym being UPR and the acronym for the State under Review being SuR (guess why).
The review is done based on a report by the country itself, a report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (not surprisingly abbreviated to OHCHR) and the reports of several national Non-Governmental Organizations. One of those NGO's invited me to be part of their delegation to the proceedings, so my name was on the list- my profession being 'writer', according to the attendance list (I am very proud of that).

The UPR was odd. It is a highly politicized event, whereas the idea is that it is not. Holland was criticized by Iran, Algeria and Belarus because of allegations that it practices torture in its prisons, and Pakistan asked Holland questions about the Geert Wilders movie Fitna. In an informal meeting a few days later, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan (that is the Pakistani Ambassador to the UN) admitted that Pakistan did not want to ask this question, but felt some political pressure from the countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the OIC, of which Pakistan is the current president. So much for no politics...

For a while it looked like Holland was the bad boy in class, whereas Morocco and Tunisia, who got complements from their friends because of their report, seemed the world- champion in Human Rights. The UPR was an interesting piece of 'politicized non- politicization', and i have not figured out yet what I find of it. It is indeed fair that the situation all around the globe get attention. However, I am not sure whether this form of reviewing does not water down the interest for other, and sometimes more pertinent human rights situations...

But it was interesting for another reason: it was a reunion of my time in New York. The man who was the deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN in New York (and thereby one of my bosses) is now the Dutch Human Rights Ambassador at large and one of my fellow interns at that same mission was during the UPR the spokes person for the NGO delegation. Seeing those people in this UN setting, made me almost nostalgic, and for a morning it was again fall of 2002, winter 2003, in which I was in NYC and pretended to save the world. As an intern...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David, we were happy to have a writer in our delegation! Perhaps the Netherlands should join the OIC to solve the problem, what to you think? ;-) Friederycke

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

Hi David, my personal favourite for the naming of your profession in our delegation was: thinktank. One of the nostalgic things in Geneva for me was having, again, a coffee in the delegates' lounge and you asking questions from 'The other angle' on things we we all din't think of before. Any news from Groene Amsterdammer or others? Maria

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Khalid Sarfaraz said...

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a well-thought innovation of the human rights council. It ensures the steps taken by all states to promote human rights and encounter challenges. It can only achieve its goal of improvement of the human rights situation in every country if it treats all members equal and help them overcome challenges.

8:52 AM  

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