Thursday, December 15, 2022

Point of Order: Take that, Iran......

.......but what must countries do to be considered unfit for sitting on the UN Human Rights Council?

China is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, along with countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Libya, despite their shabby records when it comes to political rights and civil liberties.

We can only conjecture on what they must do to rile our government – and others – and be kicked off the council.

But today we can celebrate the news that Iran has been booted off the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, the first time a member state has been removed, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

She welcomed the news in a statement headed –

New Zealand is welcoming the successful removal overnight of Iran from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, the first time a member state has been, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The government had flagged its disapproval of goings-on in Iran a week or so ago, when Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced New Zealand was suspending its bilateral Human Rights Dialogue with Iran.

“This decision sends a strong signal that bilateral approaches on human rights are no longer tenable with Iran, when they are denying basic human rights and violently suppressing protests of those who stand up to them,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

New Zealand and Iran had established the Human Rights Dialogue in 2018 with the hope of advancing human rights issues and concerns. The first session was held in 2021; the next one ad been due to take place this year.

But the government was appalled by the brutality of Iranian authorities’ response to peaceful demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

NZ added its name to a joint statement by the women foreign ministers of twelve nations to condemn the violent actions that led to the death of Mahsa Amini and to reiterate calls, such as those by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the use of force by authorities and repression of demonstrations.

Our PM had also signed an open letter coordinated by a global collective of women including Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde and Malala Yousafzai calling on UN Member States to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Council has responded by voting by 29 votes to 8 with 16 countries abstaining to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women.

The PM’s statement welcoming news of the succ3ss of this diplomatic lobbying was recorded on the Beehive website along with news that –

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission’s case study Inquiry into the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit has been presented to Parliament, Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins and Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti said today.

The Government is rolling out additional measures that will improve safety in small shops and at-risk surrounding areas.

The economy is continuing to grow solidly with the return of tourists in increasing numbers and higher construction activity, putting New Zealand in a stronger starting point to meet the challenges of a deteriorating global economy.

Associate Minister of Health, Hon Aupito William Sio has urged Pacific students studying health and disability-related courses, to apply for a 2023 Pacific Health Scholarship.

Today the Government welcomes news that yet another important medicine will be fully funded due to a major increase in the budget of the national medicines-buying agency Pharmac.

The Government welcomes the Employment Relations Authority interim order on nurses’ pay equity following Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand’s application.

The Government today marks the successful completion of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) roll-out, one of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure deployment projects to date.

In her statement posted on the Beehive today, the PM said:

“New Zealand is proud to have played a leading role in the efforts to remove Iran from the Commission,” Jacinda Ardern said.

She acknowledged the work of the Vital Voices Global Partnership who initiated the call for Iran’s removal from the Commission through an open letter in the New York Times.

She had been the only current head of Government to sign the letter and New Zealand then took up the challenge to see the call become reality.

“We reached out to the UN Secretariat to discuss the steps required for this unprecedented action to remove a country from the Commission. Once the wheels were set in motion, our embassy teams around the world lobbied other countries to support the removal of Iran. I personally raised the issue just yesterday with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“In recent weeks our embassy teams around the world have lobbied others to support the removal of Iran and I personally raised the issue just yesterday with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“Additionally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with the Iranian Ambassador yesterday to again register New Zealand’s condemnation of Iran’s use of the death penalty and execution of protesters.”

The removal of Iran from the Commission was “the right outcome”, Ardern insisted.

“It was no longer appropriate for them to remain a member, given the degradation of the human rights situation there in recent months and the ongoing violence against women and girls.”

This has us wondering why it is appropriate for other countries with shabby track records on the human-rights front to sit on organisations such as the UN Human Rights Council.

To identify the ratbags, we consulted Freedom House, an organisation which rates people’s access to political rights and civil liberties in 210 countries and territories through its annual Freedom in the World report.

Countries are placed in three categories – free, partly free and not free.

Freedom in the World gives them scores depending on their aggregate Political Rights score (on a scale of 0–40) and aggregate Civil Liberties score (on a scale of 0–60).

The list below shows the countries sitting on the Human Rights Council that were given scores (out of 100 ) which ranked them as “not free”.

Members of the United Nations Human Rights Council

with the shabbiest human rights records

Cameroon 15

China 9

Cuba 12

Eritrea 3

Gabon 21

Kazakhstan 23

Libya 9

Qatar 25

Somalia 7

Sudan 10

United Arab

Emirates 17

Uzbekistan 11

Vietnam 19

How did Iran score?

It was given a score of 14 out of 100 – 4 out of 40 for political rights and 10 out of 60 for civil liberties (although it is likely to be given a lower rating in the next report on the strength of its appalling crackdown on protesters in recent months).

But let’s note that China scored only 9 out of 100 – this was comprised of -2 out of 40 for political rights (yes, minus 2) and 11 out of 60 for civil liberties.

China – of course – buys lots of New Zealand produce.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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