Evaluation of candidates for 2013-2015 membership on the UN Human Rights Council

For presentation at United Nations Headquarters, New York, Nov. 8, 2012 (UN Watch)

Executive Summary
This report evaluates the countries that have submitted candidacies for the Nov. 12, 2012 election of 18 new members to the UN Human Rights Council. To evaluate qualifications we applied the membership criteria established by UNGA Resolution 60/251, in particular by examining (a) each candidate’s record of domestic human rights protection; and (b) its UN voting record. The report finds as follows:

Not Qualified
Seven candidates have poor records and are not qualified:
Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, UAE, Venezuela

Two candidates have problematic records and thus questionable candidacies:
Kenya, Sierra Leone

Only 11 out of 20 candidate countries are qualified to be Council members:
Argentina, Brazil, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Sweden, United States

The absence of competition this year in four out of the five regional slates is scandalous, undermining the very premise and rationale for holding elections. Nevertheless, this report reminds UN member states that they have the right to refrain from voting for countries deemed Not Qualified, even if those happen to be running on closed slates. Instead, as detailed in the report, during the ballot they can actually defeat such candidacies, and instead free up the process for qualified alternatives to come forward. We note several alternative candidacies for the relevant regional groups, who have better human rights and U.N. voting records:

Qualified Alternative Candidates

Africa: Cape Verde, Ghana, Namibia and Zambia
Asia: Mongolia and East Timor
Latin America: Panama and Paraguay

In regard to candidate countries deemed Questionable, they should, at a minimum, be asked to commit to redress the shortcomings identified in this report.

Presented at United Nations Headquarters, New York, November 8, 2012

own charter. According to UNGA Resolution 60/251, which established the Council in 2006, General Assembly members are obliged to elect states to the Council by considering “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.”
The resolution also provides that consideration ought to be given to whether the candidate can meet membership obligations (a) “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and (b) to “fully cooperate with the Council.”

Guided by these criteria, this report evaluates each candidate’s suitability for election to the Human Rights Council by examining its record of human rights protection at home, and its record of human rights promotion at the UN.

Under the criteria established by UNGA Resolution 60/251, it is clear that the UN should not elect any country to the Council which has either a poor record of respecting the human rights of its own people, or which is likely to use its Council membership to frustrate the protection of human rights victims or the principles of individual human rights.

The country evaluations in this report are based on information, ratings and analysis from the following sources:

• The Economist Democracy Index (2011), which considers a country’s electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, government functioning, political participation, and political culture, and ranks it as: Full Democracy, Flawed Democracy, Hybrid Regime, or Authoritarian Regime.

• Reporters Sans Frontières Worldwide Press Freedom Index (2011-2012), which measures the degree of freedom that journalists and news organizations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by state authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom, ranking each country as Good Situation, Satisfactory Situation, Noticeable Problems, Difficult Situation, or Very Serious Problems.

• Freedom in the World (2012), the annual survey by Freedom House that measures political rights and civil liberties worldwide, ranking countries as: Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

• Freedom of the Press (2012), an annual survey by Freedom House that examines the legal, political and economic environments in which journalists work in order to assess the degree of print, broadcast, and internet freedom in every country in the world, ranking each as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

• United Nations General Assembly (2011 resolutions), examining countries by how they voted on key human rights proposals, and classifying their voting records accordingly as either Positive, Negative or Mixed.

EVALUATION OF CANDIDATES FOR 2013-2015 MEMBERSHIP ON THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL. Presented at United Nations Headquarters, New York, November 8, 2012 Click here for full report PDF (UN Watch)


UN Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter. UN Watch was established in 1993 under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Morris B. Abram, the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. UN Watch participates actively at the UN as an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). UN Watch is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

UN Watch believes in the United Nations’ mission on behalf of the international community to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and provide for a more just world. We believe that even with its shortcomings, the UN remains an indispensable tool in bringing together diverse nations and cultures. UN Watch is keenly aware that member states often ask the UN to fulfill mandates and tasks that are neither feasible nor within the means provided. While it would be unrealistic to ignore the UN’s weaknesses, we advocate finding ways to build on its strengths and use its limited resources effectively.

UN Watch is foremost concerned with the just application of UN Charter principles. Areas of interest include: UN management reform, the UN and civil society, equality within the UN, and the equal treatment of member states. UN Watch notes that the disproportionate attention and unfair treatment applied by the UN toward Israel over the years offers an object lesson (though not the only one) in how due process, equal treatment, and other fundamental principles of the UN Charter are often ignored or selectively upheld.

Headed by Ambassador Alfred H. Moses (Chair), former US Ambassador to Romania and Presidential Emissary for the Cyprus Conflict, UN Watch is governed by an international board whose members include: Per Ahlmark (European Co-Chair), former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden; Professor Irwin Cotler, international human rights advocate and former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada; David A. Harris (Co-Chair), AJC Executive Director; Ambassador Max Jakobson, former Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN in New York; and Ruth Wedgwood, professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University.

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