2. Encouraging people to behave responsibly toward one another.
The outcome of the annual sessions of the 2002 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, was considered by many the most contentious since the body began operating in 1947. The USA was absent from the 53-member Commission - for the first time ever. The normal mission of the Commission - to monitor the compliance of governments with the rules of the international human rights system - was altered as a result of a reduced budget and the escalation of the Middle East conflict.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), UN special rapporteurs and independent experts (who serve the Commission as observers and witnesses of human rights violations committed in the UN member countries) accused the Commission of curbing their freedom of expression during the sessions by reducing their formal presentation time to just a few minutes each, raising questions about the true intentions of the Commission with respect to the role of civil society. Some 30 NGOs were eliminated from the speaker lists; the reason given for reduced presentation time was budget cuts.
Another lamented feature of the meetings was the politicisation of some debates and the growing rift between the industrialised North and the developing South, notably in the votes on resolutions on racism and on the right to development. Discussions of the human rights situation in individual countries fuelled a tense atmosphere at the sessions. An initiative by Mexico that called for requiring that member states' anti-terrorism legislation conforms to international humanitarian law was withdrawn at the last minute as a result of pressure from the USA and opposition from the governments of Muslim countries, including Algeria, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which utilise their anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissidents.
2. No longer can governments claim to be the sole judge of their human rights record. Rights are now understood to permit independent security of government conduct. Human rights NGOs have played a pivotal role in practical causes, including the ban on landmines and the international criminal court.
3. Where do human rights begin? In small places, close to home: the neighborhood; the school or college; the factory, farm or office. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. (Eleanor Roosevelt).