Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Old Post that Never Made the Blog (but has a lot of good information to offer on human rights)

On September 24, the former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Louise Arbour, came to the Institute for Peace and Justice. She gave a lecture in the evening, and during the day the School of Peace Studies students got a chance to meet with her. The following are some highlights of things she said.

Spoken from the mouth of one who knows a lot about these things:
• Human rights protection is “best achieved closest to home.”
• In December, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be 60 years old.
It is broken into two covenants:
1) The Covenant for Political and Civil Rights
2) The Covenant for Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights
(The United States has signed the first one but not the second.)
• The problem is that Western democracies favor political rights but not economic rights. This serves as a “pretext for developing countries to denounce human rights as a Western idea.”
• For example, when she traveled to Sri Lanka, she saw a sign that said, “Arbour, keep your neo-colonial hands off Sri Lanka.”
• The most significant deficiency in the area of human rights has been the United States violation of them in its actions like with the use of torture.
• Guantanamo Bay is an example of the U.S. creating double standards in the area of human rights, which other countries view as a lack of moral standards in the U.S.
• The current economic crisis in the United States may change America’s hostility toward recognizing economic rights as human rights. This would be good because this hostility is costly politically.
• The United States has a bad record when it comes to signing human rights treaties. For example, they have not signed the Convention on the Rights of a Child.
• No Western countries have signed the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, which other countries view as a lack of emphasis on economic rights.
• How can the U.S. expect developing countries to sign and obey human rights treaties if they are unwilling to do so themselves?
• The United States needs to rejoin the international community.
• If one of the United States’ goals is security, they need to embrace rights as a way to achieve and maintain this security. This is the way to a more secure world, because without doing this, other countries develop negative views of the United States, and that leads to insecurity.

This lecture was a part of the Women PeaceMakers Conference, which was one of my favorite events I got to be a part of this semester. Here is a picture of me with women from all over the world working for peace (I am second from the right in a white shirt).


  1. Brooke great post! and just cause I know you like them, this is another tired dusty post! haha I agree with you or her, or whatever, the U.S. are giant assholes in the whole world department. It seems to me though that it is almost unavoidable, not that its not worth working towards or that its right, but do you really expect the most powerful country in the world to not put it interests first? I mean sure if it were run by you or me, why not? but these fat cats in washington could give a rats ass about some muslim people in some random country you know what I mean? Dont you think that a politician who started putting other countries first, would be voted out of office pretty quick, I mean the American people talk equality and rights, but they vote for economic stability for themselves. until that changes nothing else will. just an observation from a tired dude. look forward to seeing you on Christmas!

  2. brenda abel
    3020 yorba linda blvd Q#11
    fullerton, ca 92831