When the Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the woeful Human Rights Commission, one novelty assigned to the new body was the Universal Periodic Review, which would, over a period of four years, methodically assess the rights records of all UN member nations for the first time. On Oct.13, the process was completed, with Haiti the final country to be surveyed in this initial round of reports.
The United States willingly took part in the review, a refreshing change of attitude as the Obama administration joined the Council and had begun to take an active part in its deliberations. With Americans in the lead, progress made on numerous fronts in the Council, which passed resolutions on freedom of speech and assembly and set in motion a plan to chart laws around the world that discriminate against women or are harmful to them.
The Council’s review schedule is comprehensive, allowing governments and their critics a voice. The debates that ensued as countries submitted their reports were often lively. For more information, check the Council Web site www.ohchr.org
Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.