The event organised by Germany and Jordan on “Human Rights, Peace and Security” met with great interest at the UN General Assembly in New York. The speakers were all high-level figures, and there were several foreign ministers in the audience. There was broad agreement that human rights violations are not only the result, but often the cause of crises and conflicts.
Human rights violations as the cause of crises
In his opening speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier reminded the audience of the unprecedented scale of the current refugee flows. In particular, Syria’s neighbours – Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq – deserved the international community’s support for taking in refugees, the Minister said. It was therefore a special honour for him to be hosting this event along with Jordan. Steinmeier said the refugee crisis clearly showed that human rights and security issues are closely linked, because human rights violations were not only the result, but often also the cause of crises and conflicts.
In his speech, the co‑host, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, detailed how poverty and despair sowed the seeds for violent extremism. If a state was not in a position to protect its citizens’ human rights, he said, responsibility fell on the international community. In this case, the necessary action had to be taken without delay: “The cost of procrastination is measured in human lives lost,” Nasser Judeh said.
The event’s third speaker was UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who emphasised that in today’s “times of crisis” the UN initiative “Human Rights Up Front” was becoming more important. This initiative aims to recognise crises involving mass human rights violations at an early stage and to respond effectively.
Appeals to the Security Council
In the ensuing panel discussion, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto powers to voluntarily dispense with their right of veto in the case of mass atrocities. A proposal to this end had already been submitted, he said. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, felt there had been substantial progress recently in the field of her mandate. Following decades in which sexual violence had been ignored, perpetrators were now being called to account more often, for instance in the Congo. Ian Martin, Director of the NGO Security Council Report nonetheless appealed to the Security Council to be more proactive in demanding reports on human rights issues more frequently, and to take them into account in its decisions.
Security Council Report is currently preparing a study on the topic of this event which is to be published with German support at the end of 2015.