lunes, 11 de mayo de 2009

an HR meritocracy may be more democratic

I had not felt like writing for about 2 months. then I read vaclav havel on the "democratic" process that takes place at the united nations human rights council (see here).

I started by posting this facebook note:

"the UNHR council should be headed by the countries that rank the highest in their HR records based on the rankings published by respected NGO's. there should be no voting process in their selection simply because human rights affairs are questions of principles, not interests, and because, as seen on this article, asymmetries of power and lack of civic+social participation undermine democracy in the UN to the advantage of bully states.

"if solely the countries that are the most observant of human rights are in charge of this council, then the us, mother russia and saudi arabia will do greater efforts to improve their HR agenda, just in order to EARN their seat in the UNHR council. plus, the governments of zimbabwe and sudan wouldn't be able to block action on their abuses.

"not the best solution, an HR meritocracy, but certainly better than the status quo, where china and cuba get to be the HR custodes of the world."

and then I felt like delving on this subject, but, oi! I don't really feel like rewriting that statement. all I can do is to make some "annotations to a facebook note":

1. when I talk about legit NGO´s, I think about the equivalents of amnesty international and human rights watch; institutions relatively more commited to human rights and more independent from the interests and guidelines of heads of states than the human rights department of china, the us or cuba. civic institutions that command more trust than state institutions because they can apply a human rights approach when state institutions must follow the guidelines of the mugabes and the berlusconis of the world--people that don´t focefully prioritize the cause of human rights over raisons d´état or their own irrationality.

I´d make sure I´m including in that list NGO´s focused on women rights, children rights, gay rights, minority rights and the rights of indigenous communities.

2. sure, I believe there are market failures and I also believe there are democracy failures. quirky preconditions, such as power asymmetries (having enough power to buy, block or bully a seat or a vote), non-prioritization (believing that human rights are not on top of the agenda) or categorization (believing that there are priorities that come before human rights) of the topic in question, tradability of seats and votes (the mere opportunity of exchanging votes on human rights as if they were votes on movies to see), lack of civic participation (the mere fact that states, and not peoples, are directly represented in the UNHR council derives in abominations such as putting raisons d'état before the well-being, the fundamental rights and the best interests of the peoples)--this type of preconditions, I was trying to say, can cause the whole democratic process to be flawed.

we cannot call the faulty process that takes place at the UNHR council a democratic process--in democracies the fundamental rights of minorities and the interest groups that are not on power are guaranteed, whereas the fact that the us, cuba and saudi arabia, gross systematic violators of human rights, are likely to be the global guarantors of these rights, assures us that they are not going to be guaranteed. this makes void the democratic value of the election process and outcome at the UNHR coucil.

3. I'd make sure the five continents are represented by implementing a system of quotas, most probably like the one that is in use at the council. in this way, the top 10 HR observing countries would not forcefully be the ones in charge of the council, but at least the most HR observant countries of each continent would be represented.

at this moment I don't know what countries are going to be "elected" to run the UNHR council, but I bet this line-up would be more convenient for the cause:

south africa

costa rica

hong kong

united arab emirates

czech republic

new zeland

4. sure enough, most respectable NGO's don't publish HR rankings, states would bully NGO's, ranking criteria would be politicized, and so on and so forth. this is not a silver bullet to solve all problems or an apple pie to be welcomed by everyone. but it certainly represents an improvement over the status quo--the process is more participative and the outcome, less crook friendly.

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