Human rights council suffering severe funding shortage

February 6th, 2009 - 3:56 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Feb 6 (DPA) The United Nations’ new Human Rights Council was suffering from a deep funding crisis, the president said Thursday, warning that the future work of the body was in danger.Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, the Nigerian ambassador to the UN and the current president of the council, told DPA in an interview that the financial constraints, if not solved, could hamper projects like the universal country reviews and damage the new body’s credibility.

“I have been told clearly that for for fifth and sixth sessions there is no funding and no where to pinch from,” said Uhomoibhi, who is just over half-way through his one-term as president.

He was referring to the upcoming sessions of the Universal Period Review, a system introduced following the creation of the new council in 2006, which will see every UN member state have its rights records publicly reviewed by its peers once every four years.

The UPR was currently in its fourth session.

“This is a completely novel exercise,” the president said, adding that so far, in just over a year, 55 countries had been reviewed.

“This is a first in the history of global relations. A revolutionary process. The sovereignty of nations is prized and jealously guarded, but now people are saying you have responsibility for your people and they must be respected and we will hold you accountable,” he said excitedly.

A Geneva-based NGO called UN Watch released a report Thursday which accused many nations of undermining the review process by blocking scrutiny of violations or praising policies which violate rights.

The report praised certain Western countries for their role at the UPR.

UN officials said this issue was an inherent aspect of the nature of any debate in a forum were all members of the international body could take part, with some choosing to politicize sessions on human rights.

“Politics will always intrude, because we are basically political animals and representatives of sovereign nations,” said Uhomoibhi, but said delegates should keep the “common cause of protecting human rights” in mind.

In part, he said, states had to show they were committed to human rights by ensuring funding for the UN’s main rights body, otherwise they were guilty of “double speak”.

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