Voice

Report: ASEAN forges ahead with human rights declaration

The Associated Press is reporting that ASEAN will move ahead with a planned human rights declaration even in the face of objections from key UN officials and human rights organizations:

Southeast Asian leaders plan to adopt a human rights declaration aimed at fighting torture and illegal arrests in a region notorious for violations, despite calls for a postponement by rights groups which say the pact falls short of international standards.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are scheduled to formally adopt the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration on Sunday during the group's annual summit in Cambodia, according to diplomats and documents obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday....

However, more than 60 international rights group urged ASEAN leaders on Thursday to postpone the adoption of the declaration and have it redrafted to correct flaws, including the removal of provisions that could limit rights in the name of "national security" or "public morality."

Phil Robertson of New York-based Human Rights Watch said the declaration "as written, does not meet international human rights standards and may, we fear, be used by ASEAN governments to justify violating rights."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay earlier expressed concerns that the nonbinding declaration was drafted without adequate public consultations.

Pillay elaborated her dissatisfaction with the ASEAN draft at the recent Bali Democracy Forum, where she said that the document "will only serve to undermine the respect and ownership that such an important declaration deserves."

The Multilateralist

Training new Security Council members

For countries elected to the United Nations Security Council--particularly smaller states with no recent Council experience--the challenge can be daunting. The Council has an enormous agenda and a sometimes opaque set of rules and customs that structure its activities. Particularly in the last two decades, the Council has developed a sometimes bewildering array of subsidiary bodies and expert advisers whose work Council members are supposed to supervise. 

In this environment, the New York diplomatic missions of new Council members have often struggled to get up to speed. Most boost the number of diplomats serving in New York during their stints on the Council. But new personnel only goes so far; what's really needed is expertise on the workings of the Council. In the past, new members were pretty much on their own in developing that know-how, and many felt that they'd just begun to master Council diplomacy when their two-year term expired.

That dynamic has been changing. Security Council Report describes here one ongoing workshop—led by Finland—to bring newly elected Security Council members up to speed:

[T]he 15 current members of the Security Council and the five members elected for the 2013-2014 term will participate in a two-day workshop organised by the Government of Finland and the Security Council Affairs Division of the Secretariat. (The incoming Council members are Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, and Rwanda.) This will be the tenth such annual workshop and is intended to afford the incoming members an opportunity to interact informally with their Council counterparts.

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research has also convened training sessions on multilateral crisis management in recent years for, among others, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis appear particularly keen on familiarizing their diplomats with Security Council diplomacy. According to William Eimicke, Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs has developed a year-long executive education program for 24 Saudi diplomats, with modules on UN sanctions, the politics of the Security Council, and managing the media. Eimicke describes the Saudi contingent as "hardworking and smart" but acknowledges that they have "a lot more to learn."

The learning curve will have to be steep; Saudi Arabia expects to become a Council member for the first time ever next fall.