Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wanted: Quality Control for the UN Concept of Human Rights

The UNHRC's bias against Israel necessitates the establishment Quality Control methods in the UN

By: Susan Maishlish

Since the end of the Second World War and the recognition of the shocking atrocities of the Holocaust, the United Nations has avowed to provide a valuable and necessary mechanism to reflect upon, and through reason, conscience and equity, correctly identify and remedy human rights abuses. Article 1 of the Purposes of the United Nations stresses the maintenance of international peace and security, the effective prevention and removal of threats to peace, the suppression of acts of aggression and breaches of peace, and by adherence to standards of justice and international law, assistance in the adjustment or settlement of international disputes that could lead to a breach of the peace.

With such a clear declaration of purpose, it is reasonable to require that organizations benefiting from the collective goodwill towards the concept of human rights adhere to promoting the above, and be held accountable when found to abuse their power. It is necessary to learn from past errors to avoid future deterioration. Just as we have learned valuable lessons from the banking crisis, so too must quality control and auditing tools be formulated to regulate the actions of those we entrust with our collective security.

Durban, UNESCO and the “Goldstone Report” abused the concept of human rights
The case of Israel provides many recent examples of abuse of the current system to promote a zero-sum political agenda. In a previous article, I discussed the United Nations World Conferences against Racism (Durban I, II and III), whereby Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is consistently provided a forum through which to delegitimize Israel by arguing that the holocaust is both “ambiguous and dubious” – a fabrication designed to evoke international pity. In spite of the refusal of such nations as Canada, the US, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Australia, Bulgaria, and the UK to participate, Durban is still provided a forum for the legitimate provocation of both hate and lies.

In the present-day landscape, objections to such activities as Durban take the form of refusal to participate and withdrawal of funding, rather than an effort to diagnose and act upon, areas for improvement. Take for instance the US’ rationale for blocking the unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood. In light of the active role the US have taken to encourage negotiations in recent years, it cannot be argued that the Americans are opposed to Palestinian statehood- begging consideration of their blocking unilateral means. The US opposition is rooted in the understanding of the necessity for civilized dialogue and agreement for cooperation amongst parties that have an undeniable history of violence. In reference to Article 1 mentioned above, peaceful means are completely in line with the UN’s founding vision. Failing to address the fundamental issues of the future of Jerusalem, economy, freedom and movement, and the refugees, force will once again become the default means through which to attain objectives.

In spite of this, UNESCO has now provided legitimacy for such force. Whereas negotiations would have surely created a system for sharing the holy sites so beloved to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, UNESCO has made the pursuit of a zero-sum game acceptable – whereby for instance, the Tomb of Rachel, considered to the be third holiest site in Judaism, will be a “Palestinian Heritage Site”. A gross double-standard exists where it is deemed unthinkable (and in the spirit of respect and cooperate it is both wrong and unthinkable) to deny access to Al-Aqsa – however, it is absolutely fine to deny access to Rachel’s Tomb to Jewish Israelis.

Negotiations might have created such mutual interests and made a viable respect a possibility, allowing for the recognition of common ground and highlighting the benefits of cooperation. UNESCO has also provided an avenue through which baseless accusations of supposed desecration of holy sites may be publically waged against Israel. Even when the bulk of these claims are found to be untrue, the damage will be permanent and irreversible. For those seeking to delegitimize Israel, UNESCO has provided another attractive avenue for demonization.

One need only look to the controversial Goldstone Report for a depiction of this ongoing trend. In spite of the recent retractions by Judge Goldstone, who admitted to having based findings upon incomplete information, the report provided the delegitimization movement with momentum that will not be slowed down by any verifiable truth. Note that the “United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” aka “the Goldstone Report” was both mandated and executed as an independent international fact finding mission initiated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the Gaza War to investigate violations of both international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Palestinian territories.

By the admission of Goldstone himself, he was provided a mandate that was skewed against Israel. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs initial response to the Report on the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza provides rational for Israel’s refusal to cooperate: “Even within the context of the Council's disproportionate obsession with criticizing Israel (five out of its eleven special sessions since its founding in 2006 have been devoted to this trend), this resolution crossed a new threshold, condemning Israel in inflammatory and prejudicial language. This same resolution initiated no less than four separate reporting mechanisms into allegations against Israel, with not a single mechanism to examine Hamas' activities.”

Quality Management and Audits for Responsible Organizations
An effective system of checks and balances must be developed to promote adherence to a duty of care on the part of UN bodies – duty of care implying the obligation to adhere to a standard of reasonable care when engaging in acts that have the potential to foreseeably harm others.

Many private and public organizations prescribe to a quality management system, including periodic quality audits to effectively identify and prevent abuses. Such systems are developed with the input of all interested parties, with clearly defined internal quality management systems to monitor ongoing procedures and link them to effective action. In reference to the UN and UN-funded bodies, the criteria for assessment must be rooted within both the founding principles and spirit of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other documents deemed relevant by consensus of concerned citizens. In doing so, such concepts as “quality”, effective “internal procedures”, and desirable “outcomes” may be conceived in a logical manner.

Following the establishment of a quality management system, scheduled quality and impartial audits should be undertaken to verify adherence to standards and evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives in achieving targets. Should consistent abuse be identified, an investigation should be launched with all results and plans for addressing concerns made publicly available. Although admittedly ambitious, highly optimistic and for many realists – HIGHLY unlikely- the adoption of such a program would help the current system to survive. Recent protests and withdrawal of UNSECO funding indicate the need for such a reasonable measure before there is nothing left to fix, and the notable gains realized through the UN platform for international cooperation will be compromised beyond repair. This would be a true shame, and indeed, a truly chilling future reality.

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