Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The UN Human Rights Council and the Politicisation of Human Rights

In the ten years since its creation, the UN Human Rights Council has achieved some significant successes in the protection and promotion of human rights. Having overcome the selectivity and overt politicisation that beset its formative years, the Council has become a forum within which cooperation, dialogue, state engagement, and peer-support frequently take place. Worryingly, however, certain states, regional groups and political blocs have increasingly used of the Council to promote and advance objectives seeking to undermine – rather than strengthen – international human rights law. In particular, the Council has become a place in which Third Generation Rights are advanced, which dilutes traditional understandings of human rights and undermines the body’s ability to protect and promote fundamental rights and freedoms. Secondly, the Council has been used to advance agendas that seek to subjugate fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, or undermine the universal applicability of rights such as to LGBT persons. This talk explores some of the key backwards steps taken at the Council, interrogating the extent to which an intergovernmental body can and ought to be expected to overcome such clear politicisation.

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