In defense of human rights lobbying

Since over 100 people, including Nobel Peace laureates, sent a letter to Human Rights Watch (HRW), asking them to “close” their “revolving door” to the U.S. government, there’s been an increasingly flurry of criticism of the organization’s work and, to some extent, of the larger [American] human rights community and its tactics for affecting human rights change.

However, HRW’s close ties to the U.S. government call into question its independence. For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.

The signatories of the letter end with recommendations to HRW:

We therefore encourage you to institute immediate, concrete measures to strongly assert HRW’s independence. Closing what seems to be a revolving door would be a reasonable first step: Bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members. At a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government.

The letter, which was circulated on the internet, has made waves because of the signatories, but also because it does raise points about the nature of human rights organizations – and particularly American human rights NGOs – that cannot be ignored. Just as there are concerns when politicians and policy-makers have close links with private sector lobbyists and lawyers, there are concerns with human rights activists and staff of human rights organizations (which are, in my opinion, actually two very different types of “jobs”).

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Mali analysis round-up

There’s been some very interesting pieces written about Mali in the past few weeks which I wanted to share as I’ve found them very useful in understanding the current situation. I originally wanted to keep this to analytical pieces related to France’s involvement in Mali but I thought expanding it to wider issues and themes might be useful. I’ll update this as I find more stuff. Please feel free to send links my way (through the comments here or on the contact page)!

General

Chronology of events (in French) by Radio France International (not really an analytical piece but a very useful resource

“France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale” – blog post by Gregory Mann on Africa is a Country

“On Intervention, Popularity and Colonialism in Mali” – blog post by Alex Thurston on Sahel Blog

“Mali, dynamic of war” – blog post by Paul Rogers on Open Democracy

“French Military Intervention in Mali: It’s Legal but … Why? Part I” – blog post by Theodore Christakis and Karine Bannelier on the blog of the European Journal of International Law

On the ICC referral

ICC, Office of the Prosecutor, “Situation in Mali – Article 53(1) Report”

“Mali and the ICC: what lessons can be learned from previous investigations?” in The Guardian

“Random Comments on the Mali Self-Referral to the ICC” – blog post on Spreading the Jam

“Is the International Criminal Court Following the Flag in Mali” – blog post on Political Violence @ a Glance

On human rights

“Intervention in Mali: Human Rights First?” – blog post by Andrew Jillions on Justice in Conflict

Letter to French President Francois Hollande on situation in Mali – from Human Rights Watch

“Mali: Civilians Bear the Brunt of the Conflict” – report from Amnesty International (from last year but provides a good overview nonetheless)

On US-French cooperation in Mali

“Thinking Through the Malian Thicket” – blog post by Deborah Pearlstein on Opinio Juris on the legality (international and domestic) of potential US involvement in Mali.

On criticism of the French intervention in Mali

“France Faces Criticism over Malian Intervention as Humanitarian Questions Arise” – blog post/news story by Sasha Papazoff on La Jeune Politique

France’s UPR, National Policies & Foreign Relations

On 21 January 2013, France underwent its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the first having been in 2008. You can watch the video of the whole thing (about 3.5 hours) here. I’ll write a follow-post to this one once the outcome report (see below) is published as my internet connection here in Cambodia is a bit too dodgy for internet streaming, but here’s a few thoughts about the UPR process in general (as it relates to foreign relations) and about the recommendations to France from its 2008 UPR.

First things first, for those that don’t know or unclear on what is a Universal Periodic Review … Since April 2008, the United Nations – through the Human Rights Council – has been reviewing the human rights practices of all countries in the world. Each state is reviewed every four and a half years, with 42 states being reviewed each year during 3 “working group” sessions of 14 states each. Results of each UPR are published in an “outcome report” which lists recommendations – provided by other states – the country under review is expected to address before its next UPR. The website UPR Info has a detailed explanation of the entire process for those interested in learning more, as well as all national reports, outcome reports, etc.

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