Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, recently warned of atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict in Syria in an effort to draw attention to the conflict. In an email interview, Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, discussed the high commissioner’s role and capabilities. WPR: What is the role of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights within the landscape of U.N. agencies, such as the Human Rights Commission? Hurst Hannum: The U.N. high commissioner for human rights (HCHR) is the highest-ranking U.N. official specifically concerned […]

For the United Nations Human Rights Council, which began its final regular session of the year on Sept. 10 in Geneva, Switzerland, 2012 has been an important year. The closing session, the council’s 21st, provides a unique opportunity for the HRC to build on its recent successes and repair much of the credibility lost in the first few years of its existence. However, the potential still exists for “spoiler” states, such as Russia, China and Cuba, to stall or reverse progress. The best possibility for success is for the United States, Europe and the rising democracies to continue to guide […]

HONG KONG — A group of 10,000 demonstrators has surrounded government headquarters in Hong Kong to protest a controversial new National Education class being introduced in schools this fall. The course, the protesters argue, is just the latest example of Beijing’s attempts to control political discourse in the city. The government in Hong Kong claims it simply wants to boost students’ knowledge of and attachment to China. But the push to ensure that Hong Kongers are sufficiently patriotic comes straight from Beijing. Indeed, Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested introducing just such a course following huge street protests that toppled Hong […]

The Arab Spring has focused attention on democracy’s prospects in the Middle East. But the Arab world is not the only region at a democratic crossroads. In Africa and Asia, young democracies are coming under pressure to consolidate gains. In Europe, the financial crisis is putting postcommunist democratic institutions under strain. And in Latin America, a diverse variety of democratic governance remains healthy, but fragile. This WPR special report examines the state of democracy. Below are links to each article in this special report, which subscribers can read in full. Not a subscriber?Try our subscription service free for two weeks. […]