Well within our rightsNow a member of the UNHRC, Nepal has to fully commit to upholding human rights
Nepal was elected to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on October 16. This is a positive development and one worth celebrating. It indicates somewhat of a triumph for Nepali diplomacy at the global stage.
Only recently, Nepal was more known for its weak foreign policy, especially on multilateral forums. There have been several times when it has failed to lobby with UN member-states effectively, and lost opportunities.
This time, however, Nepal secured 166 votes, the highest in the Asia Pacific group to secure a seat for itself at the UNHRC. This indicates that our diplomats the Council membership seriously and undertook a credible campaign. Nepal will be on the council for the 2018-20 term. Notably, this is the first time that we have been represented on the UNHRC.
However, this is just the start. Nepal’s credibility at the UNHRC will now be determined by how our representatives conduct themselves over the next two years. And Nepal does not just have a responsibility to demonstrate that it is a responsible member of the international system, it also has a responsibility to uphold its own human rights norms. For much too long, there has been great cynicism regarding the UNHRC by our establishment, both the political party leaders and senior bureaucrats.
There are often criticisms in the media that the council includes countries that are violators of human rights. Rather than using their membership to promote human rights, they rather use it to avoid scrutiny by other member-states. The presence of countries like Saudi Arabia on the UNHRC has significantly undermined the power and credibility of that body.
There is in fact a possibility that Nepal will seek to do the same. Over the past decade, there have been numerous occasions when the Nepali government has been criticized at the UNHRC for failing to promote human rights and complete the transitional justice process. Numerous times, Nepali representatives have promised that the transitional justice legislation will be amendment in line with international standards and the Supreme Court judgment of 2015.
However, this is yet to happen. There is a likelihood that Nepal will now lobby to prevent the UNHRC from speaking out about Nepal at all. This would be deeply unfortunate. Nepal’s efforts in this direction would damage its credibility on the international stage. Such an attitude would also damage the UNHRC’s reputation and hamper the UN’s efforts to promote human rights worldwide.
As a member of the UNHRC, Nepal should demonstrate to the international community that it is fully committed to human rights, and is intent on completing the transitional justice process in a manner that is satisfactory to victims’ groups and rights activists. This will give Nepal the credibility to engage more fully on the international stage, and speak up in favor of human rights in other parts of the world.