Not Seeing the Trees for the Forest

*Photo:AP

This morning, Blake makes a key point halfway through his post on the UN Human Rights Council and Burma. He writes:

It’s important to remember that it’s the 47 member states that make up the Council, not the U.N. itself, that is the source of the problem.

Many dance around this distinction, which extends to all parts of the UN, or fail to make it altogether, one minute blaming a veto-wielding member state on the Security Council for blocking action and the next minute blasting the UN itself. Sadly, some get the difference but exploit it anyway, bashing the UN purely as political cover.

The UN provides the world’s platform for international cooperation — a one-of-a-kind and invaluable service. What member states do with that platform is up to them and, therefore, their responsibility. The Secretariat would have true legitimacy issues were it to overtly attempt to force certain member states to act. It is clearly up to those member states with the most authority and power (most often the United States) to exert pressure on those impeding progress.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Human Rights Council, the United States has chosen not to run for a seat in the first two elections. Its ability to persuade Council members is thus significantly reduced.

The President highlighted Burma in his remarks during the opening session of the General Assembly, urging “all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.” That includes strenuous U.S. pressure on members of the Human Rights Council voting today.

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