Sunday, October 30, 2011

No "Human Rights" Outfit for the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth confab has wrapped up without the 54 nations, former English colonies, figuring out how to come together on the issue of human rights. It had been hoped by some that the loose affiliation could set up its own human rights commission (yikes!), but that's rather a pipe dream at the moment given that the majority of Commonwealth nations aren't exactly human rights paragons:
A key proposal to set up a commissioner for human rights was opposed by several leaders, including South Africa, India and Sri Lanka.
"With these discussions and the significant reforms we have agreed, I believe we've made a major contribution towards ensuring the Commonwealth is an institution that is well-positioned for the future," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters on the final day of the summit.
But critics said those measures fell short, and focused on the leaders' inaction over Sri Lanka which will be host of the next summit in 2013. Canada has already threatened to boycott that meeting unless Sri Lanka improves its human rights record.
"It is an absolute disgrace that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to hold their next meeting in Sri Lanka in spite of its appalling human rights record," Amnesty International's national director Claire Mallinson said...
The Commonwealth failed to take action on two other issues on its agenda-- child brides and HIV-AIDS. Twelve of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child brides are in the Commonwealth. Sixty percent of the world's HIV-AIDS population live in the Commonwealth and health advocates say laws in 41 Commonwealth states making homosexuality illegal have hindered the fight against the disease.
Since, clearly, "human rights" aren't do-able, the Commonwealth moved on to something easier:
In its final communique, the Commonwealth committed to helping small island states, which make up more than half of its membership, cope with the effects of climate change and said there was a need to work towards legally binding measures like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Many small island nations fear being wiped off the map by global warming and were pressing for a strong statement ahead of the international summit on climate change in South Africa next month.
"Climate change issues are not something that is happening in the future. It is happening now and we must deal with it now," Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the small island nation of Maldives said. He applauded Australia's recent carbon tax as a model for other nations.
In sum: apparently, we can't make any headway on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but we can make oceans recede via an onerous carbon tax?

If you say so, Mo.

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