A real commission

Over the years, perhaps no organisation has embodied the UN at its worst as the Commission on Human Rights, an ineffective tool of cynical politics. Its rotating membership of 53 nations meets for six weeks every spring in Geneva. The Commission that finished its session this week. This is no coincidence: Abusive governments seek a place on the Commission so they can block criticism of their policies.

Now, as the UN considers reforms suggested by Secretary General Kofi Annan, there is a chance to replace the Commission with one that actually helps protect human rights. A real, functioning human rights commission would need a different sort of membership. Today, regional blocs sponsor any volunteer, even those committing genocide. Annan is proposing a smaller Human Rights Council that would solve these problems.

A robust human rights body would be able to call the world’s attention to situations where massacres were imminent, and could formally ask the Security Council to consider sending peacekeepers or refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. When the world’s heads of state meet at the UN in September, they should vote to establish a real human rights panel and abandon this showpiece of dysfunction. — International Herald Tribune