Friday, May 04, 2007

Zimbabwe and Belarus poised to take key U.N. leadership positions unless blocked

Here is disturbing news from yesterday’s Financial Times regarding two countries with terrible human rights records:
Zimbabwe is poised to become chair of the United Nation’s Commission on Sustainable Development, while Belarus is set to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, in two decisions likely to attract fresh ­criticism of the world body.

A UN diplomat on Wednesday said that Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, looked almost certain to get the CSD position after being nominated as Africa’s candidate in April.

Zimbabwe government policies are seen as having triggered its most severe economic crisis since independence, with annual inflation at 2,200 per cent.

Qatar holds the chair of the session due to end next week. By tradition the position rotates regionally, with Africa next in line.

The Commission, created in 1993, is the UN’s main forum for discussing the relationship between development and the environment and is expected to issue recommendations on climate change next week.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 40 human rights groups called on the UN to reject Belarus’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council, which last year replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission but has itself faced mounting criticism.

“Belarus’s record on human rights makes [it] a supremely unfit candidate for the Council,” said Human Rights Watch, a New York based pressure group, in a statement issued on behalf of three dozen rights groups. The Belarusan government “severely restricts the activities of human rights groups, and has systematically moved to close them and opposition parties. Peaceful protesters are violently dispersed and arrested, and opposition leaders are jailed,” it said.

The 47-nation Human Rights Council was conceived as a way to refocus the UN’s primary rights body away from political point-scoring, where abusive governments banded together to avert criticism.

But it has failed to conduct peer reviews on its own members’ human rights records and in elections this month most candidates are running unopposed. Only Belarus and Slovenia are contesting two vacant seats for eastern Europe. Slovenia had indicated it would not stand if opposed.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Belarus’ shameless record on human rights outweighs its hollow rhetoric, and UN members should reject its candidacy.” HRW points out that the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed a human rights monitor for Belarus but he was blocked from entering the country by the government of President Alexander Lukashenka. HRW argues that this action alone should disqualify Belarus from Council membership.

Zimbabwe is suffering terribly under the repressive policies of the government of Robert Mugabe. Over one-third of the population suffers from malnutrition in a country that used to be called the “bread basket” of Africa. Life expectancy, that averaged 62 in 1990 is now 34 for women and 37 for men. Women dying in childbirth has skyrocketed from 1000 ten years ago to over 42,000 now. Political opponents who live in cities are forced into the countryside to fend for themselves. International aid is rejected. What Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe is little more than genocide.

The British are working to prevent Zimbabwe from assuming this position.

We can only hope common sense and common decency will prevail and both Zimbabwe and Belarus will be blocked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know which UN delegates, or what faction is driving this 'bus'. What is the motivation here? What is the hidden agenda? I think answers to these questions would be quite enlightening.