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Future Leaders in Human Rights Lecture: Growing Pains: Why and How the UN Human Rights Mechanisms Need to Evolve over the Next Ten Years

Sarah Brooks, programme manager, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and human rights advocate
Friday, November 4, 2016
12:15-1:30 PM
1644 International Institute School of Social Work Building Map
The UN Human Rights Council turns ten this year. In New York on 28 October, some of the most powerful countries in the world - both human rights allies and aggressors - will be elected to membership. In this context, how can we hope to advance accountability - in Syria or Cambodia or Guantanamo, for disappearances of human rights defenders and for violence against LGBT individuals and communities? Without political support for using both carrots and sticks, how can we hope for intergovernmental processes like the UPR, or the recommendations of UN experts, to be implemented on the ground?

From the perspective of an advocacy NGO, there is a real danger in ending the first decade of the Human Rights Council without reflection. Current trends of political inertia and challenges to universality threaten the interdependence of both international human rights in principle, and the Council and other UN human rights mechanisms in practice. And yet, at the same time, progressive governments, activists and NGOs see great value in the results of the system; building broad, public confidence in those tools is essential. We will discuss a few cases, both far from home and in Ann Arbor's own backyard; I challenge you to find at least one thing about the UN, whatever your interest, that makes fighting for a better system worth it.

Finally, as an international community, how do we get there? Thankfully, there are some straightforward solutions that don't require rewriting history or international law; just persistence and political will. We'll conclude with some recommendations for reform and sharing what we have done, or think we can do, to make the voices of human rights defenders, communities, and victims more present and more protected in the UN system.

Sarah Brooks is an advocate and programme manager at the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), based in Geneva. She leads ISHR's work in Asia, particularly in States with restrictive operating environments, and contributes to our strategic engagement with business. Sarah previously worked with the US State Department, where she focused on labor rights and supply chains in Asia. She has conducted field research in China and worked for the ILO in Bangkok. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Arts/Master of Public Policy from University of Michigan.
Building: School of Social Work Building
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Human Rights, International
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Donia Human Rights Center, International Institute, Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Program in International and Comparative Studies