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U.N. Human Rights Council

In a speech in Washington, U. S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Lagon said the creation of a U.N. Human Rights Council is an immediate priority because “the U.N.’s human rights mechanisms are broken and must be fixed.”

As proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new human rights council would replace the existing and discredited Commission on Human Rights. “Currently," said Mr. Lagon, "some of the world’s most egregious violators of human rights work through their regional blocs to gain nomination and election to the Commission on Human Rights in order to protect themselves from criticism. The new Human Rights Council should have fewer diversions, more credibility, and preferably fewer members. The membership of the Human Rights Council will be key to its effectiveness.” Mr. Lagon said. “The membership must be the firefighters of the world, not the arsonists.”

The U.S. is seeking to make the new Human Rights Council into a more responsive and responsible body. “When states abuse freedom acutely, the U.N.’s chief human rights organ should be able to speak out plainly,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lagon. “We seek a body that can. . . .quickly address urgent. . . .human rights violations, and can also offer technical assistance and capacity-building resources for countries seeking to strengthen their domestic human rights protections.”

Mr. Lagon called for doubling the budget of the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “This office does not face the dire problems of the Commission on Human Rights,” he said. “[A]nd it is now engaged in conflict prevention, crisis response, and. . . .technical assistance, in addition to its longstanding advocacy of [human rights].”

Mr. Lagon urged democratic countries in the U.N. to join together in a caucus “to overcome the influence of non-democratic governments.” “The democracies," he said, "have a responsibility to work together to help the United Nations achieve its original vision and potential, especially in advancing human dignity.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.