During the month of April, the United States has assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.
Speaking recently at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said one of the vital issues the United States intends to put on the Security Council’s agenda this month is the role human rights abuses play in the breakdown of international peace and security. For too long, she said, peace and security were considered the Security Council’s purview, while human rights were kept separate and left to others.
“The fact is,” she noted, “peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights. In case after case, human rights abuses are not the byproduct of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.”
Desperate people robbed of their humanity and subject to humiliation and abuse “inevitably want revenge,” Ambassador Haley said. And they “are also vulnerable to manipulation or coercion by extremist groups.”
In North Korea, she pointed out, human rights abuses literally provide some of the financing for aggression: political prisoners are forced to work themselves to death in coal mines to finance the regime’s nuclear program.
In other cases, such as Syria, human rights abuses are used as weapons of war. The Assad regime, Ambassador Haley said, “uses torture, including the deliberate systematic torture of children, to identify and silence opponents…Pro-government forces in Syria have systematically targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals.” Assad’s crimes have led to the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. “What was once a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters,” she added, “is now a six-sided conflict and a great-power proxy war.”
“The time has come for the Security Council to explicitly consider the connections between human rights and security,” Ambassador Haley said. “This debate is one that’s worth having. It would greatly strengthen the work of the Security Council, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Ambassador Haley observed, “It will be very telling if any country tries to block this debate. It’s past time that the Security Council acknowledge the importance of human rights abuses and demand that its member nations do the same.”