What’s Missing From the Human Rights Council
Morton Halperin, Director of US Advocacy for the Open Society Institute and Director of the Open Society Policy Center, defends the Human Rights Council and reforms at the United Nations.

October 18, 2006

This piece appeared in the Washington Post as a Letter to the Editor on October 18th, 2006.

The Oct. 12 editorial “Reform Run Amok,” which attacked the newly created U.N. Human Rights Council, was premature and unbalanced.

The reforms that began last year will continue at least through June 2007. That includes a new mechanism to assess all U.N. member states and competitive elections in the spring, which could further improve the council’s makeup.

However, the outcome will depend on leadership from the United States and its democratic allies that has been missing. So far, Washington has sat on the sidelines, ceding ground to spoiler nations such as Cuba, China and Russia. The United States failed to engage effectively in negotiations to create the council, failed to seek membership and failed to appoint a special envoy during this inaugural year.

The council should be a top priority for constructive U.S. diplomacy. If the United States ignores its historic leadership role in promoting fundamental freedoms, then human rights victims and defenders will pay the price for decades.

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