Friday, July 23, 2010

Would we have UN agencies without Human Rights abuses?

This is my academic argument

The United Nations was founded as replacement of the then League of Nations that came into being after World War I in 1919. The task of the League of Nations of nations was simple and clear- to ensure that there was no more world wars. The League's goals included “upholding the new found Rights of Man such as right of non whites, rights of women, rights of soldiers, disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global quality of life”.

The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the France, China, Soviet Union, the United Kingdom (Britain) and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. Although the idea of Human rights did not begin with the establishment of the League of Nations or in this case the United Nations; The essence of formation of UN can be traced to Human rights because it was widely considered that the League of Nations had been ineffective in its role as an international governing body, as it had been unable to prevent World War II and abuse of various rights during the war. UN adopted most of the agencies under the League and its mandate largely remained focused on Human Rights.

As stated above, the UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. The UN began operating and as an international organization composed of various sovereign world states whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achieving world peace. It should be noted that human rights remains the central focus of these UN agencies.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. This adoption of the Universal Declaration was a landmark in facilitating the achievement of development of human rights in the world history.

This declaration has a preamble that sets out not only the mandate of other UN agencies but also principles that promote human rights and human dignity thus:

“…..Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge…,

The above adoption in the history of human kind was the first time that the international community laid down formal standards of Human Rights and freedoms that should be enjoyed by every one , every where. The universal Declaration proclaims that respect for human rights “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. United Nations and all its agencies are charged with overseeing human rights on the globe and by doing so affect world wide policies and all legislative frameworks is founded on some of these principles.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission together with other UN agencies is charged with overseeing human rights in the world. The UHHRC is mandated to drafts international human rights treaties, investigates rights violations, and advises states on implementation of rights agreements. The Office of the UN High commissioner for Human Rights is charged with the responsibility of human rights and is accountable to the Secretary General. Together with its sister agencies it would not have been formed without Human Rights violations throughout the world.
Without violation of human rights, there wouldn’t have been the UDHR. Therefore, the first articles 3–11 that constitutes rights of the individual, such as the right to life and the prohibition of slavery would not have had UN agencies to implement them. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) is one of the specialized agencies of the UN. Apart from overseeing the people’s right to adequate food, it also works to raises levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity and food security, and to better the conditions of rural populations. It leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It addresses the right to enough and adequate food.

Under the right to health; The World Health Organization (WHO) is a UN agency responsible for overseeing equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats. Apart from this role it also coordinates programs aimed at solving health problems and the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health; it works in areas such as immunization, health education, and the provision of essential drugs.

The second column articles 12–17 constitutes the rights of the individual in civil and political rights would also be redundant since several UN agencies are concerned with there implementation; on the protection of labour as a right The International Labor Organization (ILO) is the global body responsible overseeing international labour standards. The ILO seeks to ensure that labour standards are respected in practice as well as principle.

The third category of rights under articles 18–21 is concerned with spiritual, public and political freedoms such as freedom of religion and freedom of association. In this respect, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which was founded on 16 November 1945 is another specialized United Nations agency. It promotes education for all, cultural development, protection of the world's natural and cultural heritage, press freedom, and communication. UNESCO functions as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues.

The fourth column (articles 22–27) sets out social, economic and cultural rights. For instance, the Word Bank and The International Monetary Fund (IMF) are other UN agency that is charged with facilitating international monetary cooperation and financial stability, and provides a permanent forum for consultation, advice, and assistance on financial issues.

Other cross cutting agencies like United Nations Development Program that is implementing the Millennium Development Goals exist because of need to improve humanity and ensure protect, promote and provide rights for a better world. The essence of formation of UN can be traced to Human rights, its operations are based on promotion of human rights and therefore as stated above, the UN as an international organization composed of various sovereign world states aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achieving world peace. It should be noted that human rights remains the central focus of these UN agencies and therefore their reason of existence. Without violation therefore of human rights UN would not be UN as we know it, or even in existence.
1. Jack Donnely, Human Rights, Democracy and Development; Human Rights Quarterly; 1999
2.; 4th June 2009
3. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995
4. Susan Steiner, "Evaluating the Impact of Decentralization on Poverty”
5. and June 2009

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