Monday, October 30, 2006

Reflections on Ambassador Steiner's presentation

Several colleagues have remarked favourably on the frankness of Ambassador Michael Steiner's input during the human rights session this morning. Such relatively undiplomatic openness has been something of a feature of Ambassador Steiner's career, as a BBC report from 2002 indicates.

In his presentation this morning, Ambassador Steiner focussed on the current challenges being faced in the process of building the institutions and formulating the working methods of the new UN Human Rights Council. Though the Human Rights Council was established to replace - and to improve upon - the Commission on Human Rights (which had been widely condemned as 'discredited' due to the 'politicization' and 'selectivity' of its proceedings), concerns are currently rising that the new body may turn out to be worse than its predecessor. (See for example the assessment by Human Rights Watch of the most recent session of the Human Rights Council that concluded on 6 October 2006, and the slightly more circumspect position of Amnesty International.)

Ambassador Steiner remarked upon the fact that the decision to replace the Commission was taken before a framework was established to ensure that its replacement would in fact be an improvement. Not a very auspicious beginning, perhaps. He highlighted the fundamental shift of voting power represented by the new regional allocation of seats in the 47-member Human Rights Council (13 each for the African and Asian groups, 8 for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean states, 7 for the 'Western European and Others Group', and 6 for the Eastern European group), and the challenge represented by increasing regional bloc solidarity on the part of the African Group in particular.

I think that, while Ambassador Steiner is pointing with his characteristic frankness to a real emerging crisis in international governance with regard to human rights, this crisis is a long-overdue reality check on just how universal 'universal human rights' actually are. The new realities in the Human Rights Council no longer permit this issue to swept under the carpet, and force us to confront it. As Ambassador Steiner observed, a genuine values-based exchange is what is required now, in order to identify where we stand with regard to the acceptance of universal human rights, and how to move forward from that position.

Comments are welcome.

New insights......about Ginger, read with a smile!

What has ginger got to do with the LWF Week of Meetings?

Nothing of course but we had a very healthy tea made of hibiscus and ginger, that started a casual conversation while we served ourselves. I was told that that in Africa ginger is considered as an aphrodisiac. I was astonished at this revelation because in Asia ginger is used in home remedies in various ways! If we cook any non-vegetarian food, we always smother it with ginger and garlic paste, which kills any germs in the meat, tenderizes it and enhances the overall taste and health of the consumer! Of course I have not verified the potency of ginger scientifically but since Asia uses a lot of ginger, may be it explains why Asia is so populous!

Whatever, people like me who should walk around with less weight to carry, consider organic food as a lucky escape from yielding to all the lovely temptations we get served during the week of meetings every year!
Congratulations again organizing team, for making us health conscious, though I do not know how the strictly non-vegetarian colleagues felt about this!!

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Human Rights Session

Thank you for organizing a most interesting session with Ambassador Michael Steiner of Germany whose frank and "undiplomatic" presentation was like a breath of fresh air. Thank you also to both Hermine and Mark for their presentations, although Mark's was maybe a rather too one-sided.

Web log philosophy

If you manage to get this message, that means I understood primarily the way how to create and play with a web log which sounds not too bad in view of our blog training session with all of you tomorrow. In any cases, this slot should be a bit more concrete than the Strategic plan at some points.

On another matter, I'd like to thank you very much the team caring with the WOM logistic.


Grand MERCI to Sonja and Stéfan

for the wonderful coffee break and aperitif

Making blogs

Looking forward to work with you all on how to create a blog.