In Blaustein lecture, UN rights chief rebukes notion that multilateralism is a threat in today's world

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

19 October 2017 – The United Nations human rights chief today called for spreading greater knowledge about human rights to its skeptics, rebuking perspectives that see global organizations and their international legal frameworks as part of a problem and not the solution.

“Time and again, the denial of human rights considerations by national leaders, diplomats and international actors alike has in the longer term proven itself to be absolutely disastrous in terms of preventing terrorism, conflict and violence. And yet it still happens,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told a lecture at the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights in New York.

“To compound our difficulties, the multilateral framework itself is now accused of being a threat to States, or portrayed as the object of manipulation by States,” Mr. Zeid added.

He chided what he called a “growing belief” that human rights are inconsistent with today's world – “a world which demands of us a steelier, more Machiavellian orientation” – referring to a political ideology where the end justifies the means.

“It is a worldview which contrasts the excitement of political combat, the thrill of military action, with the tediousness of principle, of law, of human rights – a view that some, who have turned away from the lessons of history, are inclined to embrace,” Mr. Zeid said.

He said: “Because we are now in a world being thrown off balance by lies and deceit, we need the certainty and security of its universal laws. We need the anchor of principle, steeped in the lessons of human experience. Ultimately, this is not only about people's intrinsic rights, it could well be about their lives.”

The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights is named in memory of past President of the American Jewish Committee and consultant to the United States delegation to the 1945 founding conference of the UN in San Francisco.


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