The United Nations: Failing to Protect Human Rights?
The United Nations was created to secure international peace and security and to ensure fundamental rights and freedoms for all human beings. This occurred in large part as a response to the horrors witnessed under Nazi Germany. Human rights forms one of the
UN’s three pillars and its Charter emphasises the crucial place that human rights has within the Organisation’s framework. But almost seventy years on from its creation, the UN has failed to protect human rights and continues to do so, despite the billions of dollars spent every year on efforts to achieve those aims. Ever-increasing amounts of time and expertise – in UN bodies and in field missions – is devoted to addressing human rights, yet very many violations continue to be perpetrated with impunity. And those gross and systemic abuses occur across the world.
Reports last month of a ‘colossal humanitarian catastrophe’ in Europe have once again shone the spotlight on the grave abuses of migrants’ human rights. This is not a new problem. Less than a year ago, these issues were scrutinised by the media after events on
3rd October 2013 when a boat caught fire and capsized near Italy. On board were more than 500 Eritrean men, women and children, of whom only 155 survived. While this disaster made headlines across the world it was far from an isolated tragedy as migrants struggle to reach European shores. Lampedusa has become a gateway for migrants in their thousands. The island’s inhabitants stand out as compassionate and caring towards the boatloads of new arrivals; they seem to understand that these people arrive on European shores seeking a better life than the one they left behind. But their empathy stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric across much of the Global North.
Irregular migration dominates Global North media and politics. No one knows whether migration is increasing or decreasing. Unsurprisingly, we have no reliable statistics on the actual numbers of people who cross borders in irregular ways. Yet the prominence of the topic in daily life might make one think that a tidal wave of irregular migrants has arrived in
Europe. Such rhetoric increasingly dehumanises irregular migrants. This increasingly negative attention might be owing to financial pressures – history shows us that with economic recession comes an increase in nationalism and xenophobia – or may be based on
security concerns and the global threat of terrorism. Regardless of its causes, the result is a general failure to acknowledge, let alone uphold, the human rights of migrants.
Human rights are quite simply exactly that: the rights held by all individuals by virtue of them being human. A person does not lose his or her status as a human simply because he or she is an irregular migrant. Crossing a border in contravention of a law does not
dehumanise an individual. Yet the total disregard Global North countries have for the rights of irregular migrants undermines this central notion.
Efforts are being made at the international level to protect and promote the human rights of migrants. In 1990, the General Assembly of the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families,
the central feature of which is to apply the same level of protection to migrants irrespective of their legal status. Some forty-six countries have ratified the Convention, way below the 120 states ‘for which migration is an important feature, either as origin, transit or destination countries’. None of the states from the Global North or from the rising global power of the
BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China — have signed or ratified the Convention. Without those heavyweights, politically and economically, the treaty has failed to get off the ground. The countries that most need to be bound to protect the rights of migrants are the ones that are studiously avoiding signing up to its provisions.
And there are countless other examples. Not a day goes by without news reports of grave human rights abuses in countries across all regions of the world. We are confronted with deaths and displacements in Syria; looting and killing in Sudan; rapes and amputations in the Congo; repression of dissent and ill-treatment of workers in China; disappearances and beheadings in Mexico; torture and arbitrary detention in Guantánamo Bay; racism and xenophobia in Europe; subjugation of women across the Arab world; oppression of
homosexuals across Africa; and the list goes on. The question that must be asked is: why is more not being done to protect individuals from these atrocities?
To read the rest of the article view the full article here . The article was made available by the Cicero Foundation on www.cicerofoundation.org . The article was written by Dr. Rosa Freedman .