Sub-Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection
of Minorities
Forty-seventh session
Agenda items 19 and 13

Statement of International Educational Development


International Educational Development expresses extreme regret that the Commission on Human Rights decided not go forward to the Economic and Social Council with a request from the Sub- Commission to authorize a study on implications on human rights of United Nations action, including humanitarian assistance, in addressing international humanitarian problems and in the promotion of human rights. (Commission decision 1995/107.

The Commission, however, did not stop at attempting to silence desperately-needed work in this area but compounded its gross mistake by implying that the Sub-Commission should "avoid making judgements on issues that within the responsibility of other United Nations bodies." (Id). Such a statement is very dangerous indeed and must be most strongly rejected by the Sub-Commission and the whole world of international scholars in these areas. To suggest that the Sub-Commission may not study or give its opinion on any topic it so decides is already a form of impermissible censorship. To single out topics relating to humanitarian issues arising in the course of United Nations actions politically shocking and totally legally untenable.

The bald truth is that many of the most critical and pressing problems facing the international community today are due to an incomplete or inadequate or misguided or politically skewed or motivated United Nations action. While occasionally, effected governments are able to at least raise some legitimate concerns, they may be outvoted or even persuaded by undue pressure to abandon concerns.

There are several glaring examples of situations now facing the international community that could have been long-resolved if mandated United Nations actions had been carried out. In Cashmere, if the United Nations had succeeded in 1950 or 1951 or 1952 in its insistence on a UN-authorized plebiscite to determine the disposition of Cashmere, the dreadful situation facing us today would be avoided. The lacuna of UN action, in part due to the exigencies of the cold war, allowed India to hold Cashmere in an ever-tightening net. Yet we all know that the situation will not be resolved until Kashmiris have their promised plebiscite. Cashmere is not a bi-lateral problem but a system-wide UN problem. In 1972 the General Assembly referred to the right to self- determination of Tibetans. Yet of late, some countries have been successful in preventing proper scrutiny of the situation in Tibet by relevant UN bodies. Surely the question of the failure of the United Nations's political bodies to act on this clear question of law and rights should be analyzed. For one thing, the human rights of the Tibetan people will not be improved until there is strong UN action in conformity with the earlier General Assembly resolutions.

In yet another example, in the process of state formation following independence from European colonial powers, several areas in what are now claimed by Indonesia have been forcibly seized: East Timor, Moluku (the Moluccas) and Acheh. In the course of difficulties arising, in the main, from the Moluccan claim, the United Nations established a United Nations Commission for Indonesia. This Commission was to oversee and mediate in the process of the Round Table Conference between the Netherlands and what was at first called the United States of Indonesia. The Round Table Conference Agreements contained provisions for independence for the Moluccas is the Moluccan people so chose. However, Indonesia seized that country in violation of the Agreements. The United Nations Commission for Indonesia faded into oblivion by mid-1950s without ever facilitating the resolution of the Moluccan question -- still before us today because the Moluccans understandably refuse to acceded to Indonesian sovereignty. The situation in East Timor also remains unresolved, although bodies of the United Nations have properly condemned Indonesia for illegal annexation.

If the Sub-Commission is, as it should be, a body composed of independent experts in international law, human rights and humanitarian law, and if the other bodies of the United Nations actually act as they should under the Charter of the United Nations, then one would assume that the Commission on Human Rights would welcome if not demand that the Sub-Commission study and advise in these critical areas.

The issue of peace is strongly related to the issue of humanitarian action yet is sufficiently different to require separate study. Yet this so important topic has gotten off to a poor start, with as yet no meaningful or useful work after too many years. International Educational Development recommends that the Sub-Commission begin anew on a study, and seek expertise with a commitment to quality scholarship and impartial exposition to ensure credible work on this important topic.