UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Association Visits Washington DC and Finds International Human Rights in Crisis
by A. Edward Elmendorf
Delivering a Global Justice lecture at Georgetown University’s Alumni House on March 15, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association Miana Kiai found human rights in crisis around the world.
Introduced by UNA-NCA Leo B. Sohn Award Recipient and Georgetown University Professor Mark Lagon, Kiai called for people to show persistence in organizing. He observed that many NGOs in developing countries have an accountant and a lawyer, at donor request, and often a planner, but rarely an organizer. Yet he considered that the only profound changes in respect for human rights have come from persistent, organized effort from below, rather than above, in response to the demands of masses of people.
He was greatly worried by incursions on freedom of association under populist threats in many countries, mentioning Philippines, Zimbabwe, the United States and others. He spoke freely of China and Russia as being unresponsive to the requests of UN rapporteurs. Kiai lamented that only three percent of the UN budget is devoted to human rights, and asked rhetorically whether with such a small budget share human rights could be considered the third key pillar of UN activity.