A number of states are faced with the challenge of balancing state sovereignty with human rights since they are incompatible in practice meaning it is a global issue that many societies face, but the best way of addressing it is still unclear, as state and non-state actors are yet to come up with a comprehensive solution.
After the Second World War, Universal Declaration on Human Rights was ratified with the main purpose of fulfilling the interests of the minorities and checking the excesses of governments, as the world had witnessed the most horrifying situation whereby many people lost their lives and quite a number was physically and psychological tortured (Roth 2004, p. 65).
Currently, the actions of various state and non-state actors amount to gross violation of human rights. Events, such as racial hatred, media suppression, distortion, and bias are rampant in various parts of the world, yet they are instances of human rights violations.
The global society is concerned with how the situation could be improved. The United Nations Human Rights Council is an international organization charged with the role of ensuring individuals enjoy their rights and freedoms.
However, various studies indicate that the body is impotent given its inability to prevent governments and belligerent actors from taking people through inhuman conditions (Smith & Pagnucco 1998, p. 380).
Apart from the United Nations agency, several human rights organizations operating regionally exist, but they lack the capacity to handle the situation leading to continued suffering.
In this article, it is argued that the UN and other regional human rights organizations have failed to carry out their mandates.
The main reason for failure is the structure, which does not support the leadership style that characterizes human rights organizations. It is suggested that the situation could be improved through facilitating individual communication and reporting of complaints.
Some people sacrifice their lives to fight for democracy in many parts of the world. It is unfortunate that such individuals end up living miserable lives because of inadequate measures to support their activities.
In developed countries, minorities are faced with the major challenge of racism given the fact their culture is never appreciated and they are always urged to join the mainstream society.
In fact, racism is a tool of discrimination and domination that is employed effectively to subjugate a section of society (Meyer 1996, p. 372). Women are considered a special group. However, studies show that they have never enjoyed their freedoms and rights since time immemorial.
Based on this, it is noted that the major challenge to their survival is a rigid social structure, defective culture, and male chauvinism. A few years ago, world leaders from various states ratified a treaty that would see the protection of the rights of women.
Surprisingly, the situation is still the same since women face traditional problems, especially in the educational system and the labor market. For instance, studies prove that women work for longer hours as compared to men although they end up receiving minimal wages.
Indigenous communities are rarely protected from the emerging Multinational Corporations that influence national governments to institute unfavorable land reforms, which end up interfering with the lives of the locals. Mining companies are known to support evacuation programs to pave way for exploration.
The process is always done in an inhumane way leading to conflicts (Shelton & Wright-Carozza 2013, p. 54). A recent study sponsored by the human rights organizations has revealed that the aboriginals in various parts of the world, such as Canada and Australia, are the most disadvantaged people in the world.
Records show further that the discriminated aboriginals are close to three-hundred and seventy million spanning over seventy countries (Shestack 2014, p. 10).
Large conglomerates have enormous economic and political power. The UN, as well as other regional human rights organizations, is unwilling to engage them in talks to end inhuman conditions because of their enormous influence (Megret 2008, p. 510).
These companies always participate in activities that could not be sustained in development, which ends up in damaging the environment leading to global warming.
Additionally, in both developed and developing countries, multinational companies lobby the government to enter into unfavorable trade agreements that make life difficult for the locals, but the UN does not have mechanisms to challenge this behavior.
In countries depending on agriculture and production as the major economic pillars, child labor has always been an issue of concern. Unfortunately, the UN simply gives a report and expects other agencies to act meaning it does not have the power to deal with the problem.
After the 9/11 attack, the US and other powerful countries have been interfering with the lives of people with claims that they are trying to prevent terrorism (Lindgre 2000, p. 486).
For instance, the US established an entire department named homeland defense to monitor the situation and advise the government accordingly on issues related to terrorism.
In June 2013, wiki leaks revealed critical information and it was evident that the US government has been spying on individuals without their knowledge.
The whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, confirmed that the US is one of the threats to individual rights and freedoms, as it engages in unethical and unprofessional behavior, such as intercepting emails, phone calls, and other forms of the internet communication.
This shows that the UN and other regional human rights bodies are impotent since they know the problems that people face, but they lack strategies on how to deal with insincere actors, such as the US.
The human rights organizations are impotent given the fact they lack the power to act unilaterally or multilaterally meaning creation of a new system based on individual communication and complaints would be helpful in resolving the soaring cases of human rights violations (Weissbrodt 2006, p. 150).
Without adequate communication and reporting of these injustices, the global society would not achieve the much-needed objectives related to gender equality, environmental conservation, democracy, and lasting peace.
Status of the United Nations Human Rights Council and other Regional Organizations
Failures of the UNHC
Just as the United Nations Humans Rights Council, the regional human rights bodies face similar challenges that are mainly the result of the defective structure.
The UN human rights body was established during the Bush administration and the US kept off from the leadership of the body because the majority members in the UN General Assembly would control it.
The new body is not any different from the defunct commission on human rights that had failed to control the rogue states from committing the worst crimes in the human history (Tobin 2010, p. 47).
The current structure of the organization allows the notorious human rights abusers to manipulate the system since Burma, Syria, Libya, China, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Saudi Arabia are strong members, something that the US is opposed to.
Unfortunately, North Korea, which is one of the rogue states in the current international system, endorsed the organization upon its inception meaning it never poses any threat to its national interests. The new council is in fact expected to perform dismally just as the previous one.
The US tried vehemently to reform the non-operational human rights commission without much success something that allowed the opponents of human rights to carry the day in the general assembly.
First, the council lacks criteria for membership inclusion since those seeking ascension would be admitted through a simple majority vote (Weissbrodt 2010, p. 16).
Additionally, each state is allowed to request for membership without necessarily showing any progress as far as human rights violation is concerned.
Even though the proponents of human rights, such as the US, the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Spain would be interested in blocking the membership of rogue states, they would not have sufficient votes to influence the results.
One of the resolutions of the council calls on members to review the conduct of one of the partners suspected to be going against the rules. Unfortunately, this evaluation does not have any effect on the membership status of any state meaning it is irrelevant.
A state found to have violated the human rights would not be censured, as any suspension or expulsion is only supported by a two-third majority vote in the general assembly (Arsalan 2006, p. 260).
In 2005, at least fifty percent of members voted to stop the membership of Sudan. However, this was not sufficient to confirm that the state was guilty of human rights violations.
The commission on human rights had fifty-three members and the current one has forty-seven meaning the reduced number was insignificant to facilitate efficiency, something that continues to affect the quality of decisions made.
Instead of aiming at strengthening the body by encouraging participative membership, the council was formed with the major objective of shifting the balance of power from the West to the Asia, Africa, and South America. Consequently, the Asian and African states dominate the council with a total vote of fifty-five percent.
With time, the number of western countries in the council has been in the decline while African and Asian countries are being represented in large numbers, which is an issue of concern given the fact that the states are known for violating individual rights and freedoms (Ruggie 2007, p. 47).
The western countries are believed to uphold individual rights since they are democratic states and the quality of decisions they are expected to make would favor representation and survival.
The council has the power to call for special sessions, but only a one-third vote would grant this meaning the western countries would be less represented and what will be discussed in the meeting will be irrelevant, as far as respect for human rights is concerned.
The idea of following up goals and commitments as suggested by the UN conferences and summits is uncalled since it lacks the support of the majority of powerful states, as well as legal standings.
Lastly, the council resolution tends to erode a well-established standard of freedom of speech since a clause was sneaked in at the last minute following the cartoon affair in Denmark (Voeten 2008, p. 423).
Weaknesses of Regional Human Rights Organizations
Regional human rights organizations in various continents differ significantly pertaining to their history, structure, and objectives. The only similarity is that they lack the capacity to promote human rights, as they do not have sufficient instruments.
A number of these organizations are created to respond to the legal issues meaning they are a result of the local law societies even though some are simply bar associations.
Those originating from religious organizations tend to be strong in engaging the government in dialogue to provide an enabling environment for individual fulfillment even though their scope is limited.
One of the greatest weaknesses of local and regional human rights organizations is the lack of coordination and collaboration. Each organization wishes to operate independently making it difficult to realize the main goals.
Studies show that the human rights organizations operating in Africa, South America, and Asia are more of a dream rather than reality, as their members rarely contact each other, exchange ideas, or materials (Lauren 2011, p. 57).
Insufficient articulation of ideas and resources among these entities is a threat to the provision of individual privileges since states have always explored this opportunity to weaken them further (Steiner & Goodman 2008, p. 38).
Such organizations fail to consult extensively before devising policies, yet they could be better off if they coordinate with other segments of society, such as the media and the legal fraternity, which are known to champion for human rights.
In Africa, the demands of francophone human rights groups are different from those of the Anglophone and this has made it difficult to achieve the desired results.
In West African region, a strong human rights organization referred to as the Inter-African Union for Human Rights based in Burkina Faso, exists but its major weakness is political and personal differences among its members.
The organizations fighting for the rights of the underprivileged in society have unclear goals and objectives since they are spread too thinly, yet there are many the human rights issues facing individuals.
While some are established based on the ideas of pan-Africanism, the reality is that they operate in their state borders with limited operational methods that are inapplicable elsewhere. The organizations lack planning structures to an extent that the decisions they formulate are reactionary in nature (Reif 2004, p. 113).
For these organizations to improve they have to conceptualize and execute educational programs, as this would allow sustainability of programs instead of trying to claim they are relevant in society yet the results are negative.
The human rights groups in Africa, Asia, and South America are focused on political rights, such as the freedom of expression, association, political participation, and the right of protection from the law whereby detention is made in the proper way and the conditions leading to torture are eliminated.
This means those engaged in the fight for human rights are lawyers, journalists, and other professionals, as the governments always infringe on their rights (Mutua 2009, p. 28). The human rights organizations could only improve if they extend their mandate to include a fight for economic and social rights.
Unfortunately, the organizations depend on donors for funding while studies show western governments are reluctant to finance organizations focusing on economic and social rights.
As mentioned earlier, the organizations do not have proper coordination and collaboration mechanisms leading to duplication and overlapping of roles.
In the industrialized states, the human organizations are faced with the major predicament of urban-rural division since majorities of the groups conduct their activities in municipalities and metropolis, particularly in the capital cities, yet many people are found in the rural areas.
Research shows further that the city life has its own dynamics and it does not represent the views of those living in the rural areas. The human rights groups have attempted to establish branches to resolve this issue, but still poor communication from the center affect the operations leading to underperformance.
However, the human rights groups linked to the modern religions have succeeded in achieving the common goal since they have a readymade structure nationally (Calnan 2008, p. 65).
In South Africa, the United States, and other countries suffering from racism and ethnic conflicts, social divisions have been a big issue, as far as realization of the goal and the set objective is concerned since the white race utilizes the political power granted to it to subjugate the rest of the races leading to additional tensions.
The performance of such regional groups would be strengthened by involving the minorities in the leadership structures. In some cases, human rights groups are viewed as representing the ideas of a certain dominant ethnic group, particularly when the human rights issue at hand is violence (Bob 2009, p. 76).
A majority of human rights organizations in various regions are one-man show meaning they lack internal democratic structures whereby attorneys, researchers, and journalists, are given an opportunity to participate.
This might be occasioned by funding issues, which allows the head of the organization to dominate the decision-making process. Another problem is gender imbalance whereby women are not given sufficient positions in the organization.
It is surprising to note that men control even those organizations dedicated to solving feminine problems. Because of poor structural organization and ineffectiveness in policy formulation, the organizations suffer from funding, which makes them underperform (Bayefsky 2002, p. 17).
Only those organizations affiliated to churches and the international organizations have stable funding, but most of them have been forced to shut down their operations because of funding issues.
The regional human rights bodies have poor relations with global organizations that are known to support human rights organizations.
System of Individual Communication and Complaints
The United Nations council in charge of human rights and other regional human rights bodies could improve their performance through a system of individual communication and complaints.
Through the new system, individuals would be given an opportunity to protest directly regarding the violation of their rights, which would go a long way in bringing out the real meaning of the rights as contained in the various treaties (Ochoa 2013, p. 71).
First, individuals should be familiar with the procedure of problem escalation whereby the offices concerned with the preservation of individual rights should set reporting desks that will facilitate inquiries.
Through this, individuals will be in a position to communicate easily with the agencies and if the problem is complex, the neighboring state will have the chance of intervening in what is referred to as state-to-state complaints.
In the current system, nine treaties exist, which facilitate individual communication. Each of the treaties has a monitoring body that is concerned with ensuring the law is followed in carrying out key state functions.
The Human Rights Committee is one of the treaties that take into consideration individual complaints whenever the international law is broken. The committee is mainly concerned with the provision of political and civil rights.
If a candidate feels that his or her political rights have been denied in society and the state organs are unable to resolve them, he or she should feel free to seek guidance from the committee.
The committee will move in to analyze the situation and in case the political process is inconsistent with the national and international law, action will be taken against the state or its actors.
This plays a critical role in resolving political problems that always result in mass killings and forceful transfer of populations through ethnic wars (MacFarlane & Khong 2007, p. 32).
The committee on the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDEW) is another treaty that was formulated to protect the interests of women in society and it mainly accepts individual complaints from the affected members.
The committee bases its authority on the previous treaty that bars all forms of discriminations directed towards women. The committee against torture is commended for the work it does to eliminate all forms of cruelty, degrading mistreatment, and unnecessary punishment (Normand & Zaidi 2008, p. 90).
Recently, states has employed unwanted methods of information extraction, such as torture, which is applicable even in developed countries. Since individuals are taken through pain, they might end up admitting doing something while in reality they are innocent.
Under such circumstances, the individual has to be given an opportunity to report directly to the committee for proper action to be taken.
Again, people living with disabilities suffer a lot when it comes to interacting with other members of society because they are not provided with adequate facilities to ease their movement.
In many societies, such members are instructed to accept their conditions, but the case is different internationally because they have to be provided with all necessary equipments to help them interact and interrelate freely.
Since the groups might not have the ability to fight for their rights, they must be given an opportunity to report directly to the existing human rights organizations for their cases to be heard and resolved. Either the affected individuals or their legal representatives might launch complaints.
If one state violates the existing treaties on human rights, the international law allows other states to launch complaints with the human rights groups, including the one under the United Nations. Some states are known to extend their aggression to peaceful states demanding for things that do not belong to them.
For instance, some might want to alter the boundaries with claims that the land belonged to them traditionally, which might lead to wars and armed conflicts (United Nations 2008, p. 110). Border conflicts are better handled through peaceful negotiations instead of engaging in war.
However, some states have never considered utilizing this option. Therefore, the peaceful state is allowed to raise complain with the world body in charge of human rights, which will go on to initiate a peaceful process of conflict resolution (Hitchens 2001, p. 110).
The United Nations and several regional bodies are doing everything under their control to prevent states and other global actors from violating the human rights. However, they have failed to execute their mandates because of poor systems of operation that do not support reporting of problems and clear communication.
It is noted that the UN council on human rights is as ineffective as its predecessor and only a clear communication and complain reporting system could improve the situation.
Regional human rights organizations are trying to protect people, but their focus is narrow and this would not resolve all problems. In fact, without a clear communication and complaint reporting, the entire process of defending the rights of people is impotent.
List of References
Arsalan, M 2006, “Detainee Treatment Act of 2005” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 19, no. 6, pp 257-265.
Bayefsky, A 2002, How to complain to the UN human rights treaty system, Kluwer Law International, The Hague.
Bob, C 2009, The international struggle for new human rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Calnan, S 2008, The effectiveness of domestic human rights NGOs: A comparative study, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden.
Hitchens, C 2001, the Trial of Henry Kissinger, Verso, London.
Lauren, PG 2011, The evolution of international human rights: Visions seen, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Lindgre, AJ 2000, “The Declaration of Human Rights in Post modernity,” Human Right Quarterly, Vol. 22, no. 2, pp 478-500.
MacFarlane, SN & Khong, YF 2007, Human security and the UN: A critical history, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Megret, F 2008, “The Disabilities Convention: Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities or Disability Rights?” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 30, no. 2, pp 494-516.
Meyer, W 1996, Human Rights, and MNCs: Theory versus Quantitative Analysis,” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 18, no. 2, pp 368-397.
Mutua, M 2009, Human rights NGOs in East Africa: Political and normative tensions, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Normand, R & Zaidi, S 2008, Human rights at the UN: The political history of universal justice, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Ochoa, JC 2013, The rights of victims in criminal justice proceedings for serious human rights violations, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden.
Reif, LC 2004, The ombudsman, good governance and the international human rights system, Nijhoff, Leiden.
Roth, K 2004, “Defending Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Practical Issues Faced by an International Human Rights Organization”, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 63-73.
Ruggie, JG 2007, “Current developments, business and human rights: the evolving international agenda,” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 101, no. 4, pp 44-56.
Shelton, D & Wright-Carozza, 2013, Regional protection of human rights, Oxford University Press, New York.
Shestack, JJ 2014, Philosophical foundations of human right, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Smith, J & Pagnucco, R 1998, “Globalizing human rights: the work of transnational human rights NGOs in the 1990,” Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 20, no. 2, pp 379-412.
Steiner, HJ, Alston, P & Goodman, R 2008, International human rights in context: Law, politics, morals: text and materials, Oxford University Press Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Tobin, JW 2010, “Seeking to Persuade: A Constructive Approach to Human Rights Treaty Interpretation,” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 23, no. 5, pp 35-89.
United Nations 2008, Selected decisions of the Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol: Volume 9: 85th to 91st sessions (October 2005-October 2007, United Nations, New York.
Voeten, E 2008, “The Impartiality of International Judges: Evidence from the European Court of Human Rights,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, no. 4, pp 417-433.
Weissbrodt, D 2006, “Extraordinary Rendition: A Human Rights Analysis,” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 19, no. 1, pp 123-160.
Weissbrodt, D 2010, “The Role of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Interpreting and Developing Humanitarian Law,” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 24, no. 1, pp 10-41.