Posted14 October 2021, 06:01
The United Nations General Assembly is due to formalize the new members of the Human Rights Council on Thursday, with 18 candidates for 18 seats to be filled.
The United States is making its return to the UN Human Rights Council this year almost 4 years after their thunderous departure, an absence that Beijing took advantage of to find support and adopt a more offensive posture.
The planned arrival of Eritrea in the cenacle of 47 members again raises the question of the presence of authoritarian regimes violating human rights within the highest human rights body of the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly is due to elect the new members of the HRC on Thursday, but the game is over since there are 18 candidates for 18 seats to be filled.
“The Chinese and all those who fundamentally are not in favor of human rights as Europeans see them (…) oppose economic, social and cultural rights. It does not date from now, but the trend is undeniably strengthening, ”a European diplomat told AFP. According to another European diplomat, “China’s objective is simple: to destroy the concept of the universality of human rights and to assert a vision consistent with its political system”.
China and its partners, including Belarus and Venezuela, have in recent years stepped up joint declarations supporting Beijing’s action in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and denouncing “human rights violations” in Western countries. , including against native Canadians.
Faced with this growing polarization, some fear that the return of the Americans will reinforce this trend, although others stress that the United States did not need to be in the room to exert its influence.
“With the presence of the 5 members of the Security Council in the Human Rights Council, one can indeed think that the Chinese and the Americans will not give each other gifts (and) will use the Council as one of the arenas where they will exhibit their rivalries ”, underlined the first European diplomat.
“Many countries have had enough”
At the head of the Universal Rights Group think tank in Geneva, Marc Limon, regrets that the United States “has mainly focused on China” since their return as an observer to the CDH this year. “Many countries have had enough because they do not want to see the multilateral system held hostage,” he told AFP, calling on Washington to broaden the themes to recover the support of developing countries now. turned to Beijing.
The Chinese Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Chen Xu, hopes that the United States, once a member of the Council, can “conduct a constructive dialogue and try not to make human rights a political instrument”.
“We ourselves are ready to continue this approach of promoting dialogue, opposing politicization, trying to put more emphasis on the needs of developing countries,” he told reporters. accredited to the UN in Geneva (ACANU).
The members of the CDH, where the seats are divided between 5 regional groups, are elected for 3 years by absolute majority, by secret ballot. Each year, only one third of the Board is renewed. Among the candidates are India, Qatar and Kazakhstan.
The NGOs accused the regional groups of having presented the same number of candidates as vacant seats – an “electoral masquerade” for the NGO UN Watch – and of failing to curb the candidacies of authoritarian countries. This is the “responsibility” of the regions, told AFP the director in Geneva of the NGO Human Rights Watch, John Fisher, targeting the candidacies of Eritrea, Cameroon and the United Arab Emirates.
HRW and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), an NGO in Geneva, have also called not to vote in favor of countries which notoriously violate human rights. The presence of such countries in the Council is one of the reasons that prompted the Trump administration to leave the institution in June 2018, accusing it of hypocrisy and beating Israel.
And if the head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken underlined this year the importance of the Council in particular to quickly draw attention to crises, he did not encourage him less “to look at its way of functioning”.