The Future of Human Rights: A View from the United Nations

| June 12, 2014
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Ever since the Charter of the United Nations was signed in 1945, human rights have constituted one of its three pillars, along with peace and development. As noted in a dictum coined during the World Summit of 2005: “There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and neither without respect for human rights.” But while progress has been made in all three domains, it is with respect to human rights that the organization’s performance has experienced some of its greatest shortcomings. Not coincidentally, the human rights pillar receives only a fraction of the resources enjoyed by the other two—a mere 3 percent of the general budget.

The spring of 2014 saw the twentieth anniversary of one of the two emblematic failures of the United Nations: the genocide in Rwanda in April 1994. Two weeks after the killings began, the Security Council reduced the number of peacekeepers in the country to just a tenth of the mission’s original 2,500. Had UN peacekeepers been kept in place and authorized to take action, it might have been possible to save many of the 800,000 people killed over the following twelve weeks. Next year will mark the similarly tragic anniversary of the 1995 genocide at Srebrenica, where—massively outnumbered, bereft of air cover, and finally overrun by Bosnian Serb forces—UN peacekeepers were gulled into handing over thousands of men and boys to soldiers who promptly carried out the bloodiest mass execution in Europe since World War II.

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Category: Issue 28.2, Roundtable: The Future of Human Rights

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