October 23, 2009
On October 23, 2009, I attended the United Nations briefing “Special Procedures: Early Warning and Emerging Issues.” Its primary purpose was to address the roles and significance of the United Nations Special Procedures in emergency situations. The main focus of the discussion was on the improvement of prevention of and response to problems. Some of the main problems discussed were racism and religious hatred among groups in different countries and human rights violations. The panel tried to address how to better address possible future threats through early warning and emergency management.
One of the panelists, Mr. Oliver De Schutter (Special Rapporteur on the right to food) recommended that global problems should be initially dealt with on the national level. The national government should work with the local governments to identify potential problems. Furthermore, the panelist insisted that local governments should be keen and aware of what is going on in their local area, and thus report the status about present and arising situations back to the national government. In other words, local governments can report about potential risks in their region to their national offices, and the national governments, in turn, would report to the United Nations so that the problems could be dealt with. The result of this method, the panelist had said, is it would relieve the “bottleneck” of the many problems faced by the United Nations. This means that the United Nations can effectively allocate resources and give their undivided attention to any issue that may warrant it.
A panelist from South Korea argued about the importance of U.N. procedures and mentioned the UN’s capabilities to address emergency situations. One of the issues mentioned was the UN communication between the organization, the public, officials and governments. The UN Special Procedures can effectively collect data and produce reports on various problems for the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures can gain strict access to victims of severe emergencies. As the panelist reminded to the public, the Special Procedures would not function without the closely knit interaction with civil society organizations and watch dog groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Other panelists brought up interesting early warning techniques such as “joint-system sharing/center.” This joint-system would specialize in obtaining as much data on a region and work with governments to analyze the data and detect possible problems. Furthermore, the center would be available for information and consultation to general public and especially human rights victims. Overall, the discussion was sort of abstract but lightly touched on the specifics on how to improve emergency responses or prevent problems.
Written by Asif Zaman ‘11