UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY (UNGA) – CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION!!

We have received the letter below from seven US-based human rights groups – Human Rights First, American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International, Council for Global Equality, Equity Forward, Global Justice Center and Human Rights Watch – calling on all human rights supporters to:

Urgently contact your government’s representatives at the 2020 UN General Assembly in New York (15-30 September 2020) before the first general debate on 22 September 2020. Please share the letter below with them and ask your government to reject the US Government State Department’s Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which will be presented at UNGA, and not to support US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s UNGA event.  

Dear colleagues,

“… [We] write today to present the concerns of hundreds of human rights, faith-based, civil liberties, professional, academic, and social justice organizations, as well as former senior U.S. government officials, foreign policy experts, scholars, and religious leaders, in asking that you reject the intent and report of the United States Commission on Unalienable Rights. We are aware that Secretary Pompeo plans to host a high-level meeting on the Commission during the opening week of this year’s UN General Assembly. We are therefore calling on you not to support this event to make clear to the U.S. government and the public that you reject the Commission’s dangerous view of selective, nationalized human rights. 

As catalogued in joint letters and formal submissions to the U.S. Department of State in July 2019, May 2020, and July 2020, respectively, hundreds of leading human rights organizations, scholars, and practitioners have raised serious concerns with the Commission’s purpose, rationale, membership, and prioritization of certain rights at the expense of others, regardless of international human rights law. As these and other submissions make clear, since its inception, the Commission has served as an attempt by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to unilaterally redefine the United States’ human rights obligations and undermine the multilateral human rights system. Its final report has no grounding in law or in the United States’ own treaty obligations, and stands as a direct threat to decades of progress in protecting universal rights. 

Secretary of State Pompeo announced the Commission’s creation in 2019. He did so unlawfully, spurring legal challenge, and without the input or knowledge of his agency’s own human rights bureau. The majority of individuals named to the Commission (see member bios), far from constituting an ideologically balanced panel as is required under US law, espouse an ideologically selective view of human rights, and have demonstrated a bias toward advancing a definition of religious freedom that undermines other rights, including sexual and reproductive health and LGBTQI+ rights. Similar to Secretary Pompeo’s own dangerous human rights record, the commissioners’ statements and work have included praising authoritarian governments, questioning the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and refuting gender transitions, and opposing access to comprehensive reproductive health care services. 

The commissioners’ extreme and harmful views of human rights were on full display throughout the Commission’s public meetings, and are reflected in the body’s final report. Concerning that report, [here is a link to] the text of the final joint letter submitted to the Commission by 111 concerned organizations, including our own, and 119 human rights and foreign policy experts, scholars, and practitioners. The letter briefly summarizes the many ways in which the Commission’s report, if implemented, would undermine universal respect for human rights and imperil millions around the world.    

As our letter makes clear, the Commission’s interpretation of US founding documents and self-appointed status as arbiter of what is and is not a human right creates a slippery slope for other governments to do the same. We fear the implications of the Commission’s work will extend globally, as States could very well use its report to nationalize and rubber-stamp their own human rights violations. 

We deeply regret that Secretary Pompeo has decided to showcase the Commission’s highly flawed and dangerous work during the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting. We urge your government to make clear its opposition to this misguided, legally dubious, politically driven initiative that, if left unchallenged, will undoubtedly harm the human rights framework.    

PHOTO: UNGA hall