International Justice

69 - European policy on human rights at the UN

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2012
Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2010/11
Grade: C+
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 10/20

European countries and their allies successfully used the UNHRC and the UNGA to maintain pressure on Syria. EU states were dissatisfied with talks on a UN internet threat in December.

While European and American diplomats were frustrated by Chinese andRussian opposition to do anything decisive about Syria in the UNSC, they were able to get broad support for resolutions raising the human rights situation there in UN forums. In May 2012, the EEAS mission to the UN in Geneva co-sponsored an HRC resolution on the “deterioratingsituation” in Syria with Denmark, the US, and Arab states (the EEAS had previously sponsored a similar resolution in 2011, strengthening itsstatus as a voice of the EU at the HRC, although US diplomats complainthat internal European negotiations have been time-consuming). AUNGA resolution on human rights in Syria was passed by alarge margin in December. The EU’s stance has been reinforced bystrong statements of concern over Syria by the UN High Commissionerfor Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, who secured a second term in 2012.

European diplomats also made a point of raising Syrian human-rights abuses in the UNSC, despite Chinese and Russian complaints that it should focus narrowly on peace and security. Germany used its temporary seat on the UNSC to press accountability issues especially hard.

While the EU and the US worked closely with non-Western majorities over Syria – and there has been increased support for resolutions addressing the human-rights situations in Iran and North Korea – many fundamental debates over rights and freedoms remained unresolved. This was highlighted outside the normal UN human-rights framework during negotiations on a treaty addressing government control of the internet convened by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in December. The treaty was signed by 89 other countries, including not only China and Russia but also Turkey. But the US and EU member states refused to sign the treaty, arguing that it would open the way for curbs on internet freedom, which means that it is effectively dead for the time being.