NGOs warn against weaponization of human rights

Experts from non-governmental organizations voiced on Tuesday their strong opposition to the weaponization of human rights by some countries and called to better promote human rights protection by advancing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Christoph Stuckelberger, chairman of Geneva Agape Foundation (GAF), said that human rights are being used more and more as a weapon.

“Every country has progress in human rights, and deficits. We should support each other to overcome the deficits and to applaud where we can learn from the others,” he told a seminar on promoting human rights protection and sustainable development held in Geneva’s Ecumenical Center.

Stuckelberger, who has taught at several universities around the world, including Beijing-based Minzu University of China, expressed that is the kind of relationship his non-governmental organization (NGO) wants to have with Chinese human rights NGOs and academic partners.

He criticized representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia who did not respect diplomatic etiquette during the January universal periodic review of China’s human rights record while every other country gave their input in a respectable way during a three-hour long session.

Stuckelberger described the weaponizing of human rights as a power game by some for dominance and warned that it will only produce a lose-lose scenario, adding that the world needs a win-win situation.

Nathan Day Wilson, fundraising, planning and reporting manager of World Council of Churches, echoed the views.

Without naming the countries, he expressed that some countries weaponize human rights to achieve geopolitical advantage and to try to hide their own deficits.

He listed the common challenges facing the world – the climate crisis, the pandemic and the conflicts.

“We should not think ‘one part of the world against the other’, but rather (think) ‘one world’,” he said.

Thorsten Gobel, director of Programs of ACT Alliance Geneva Office, expressed that the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are very strongly based on human rights, focusing on the most vulnerable and most marginalized.

“There are obvious relations between sustainable development and the realization of human rights,” he said, citing a wide range of areas from climate justice, to migration and gender equality.

Catherine Mbengue, a former official at the United Nations’ Children’s Fund, also emphasized the close relationship between sustainable development and better human rights.

She expressed that, as the world is facing many challenges, it is important for NGOs to facilitate dialogues.

Albert Barseghyan, a representative in Geneva of Sikh Human Rights Group, said that sustainable development must work for all.

“We can learn from each other and foster cooperation…. For effective cooperation, we need to respect each other’s civilization,” he said.

He urges people to find common ground and to work together and to make sustainable development a success.

Wilson, from the World Council of Churches, believes the approach of linking human rights with sustainable development will help counteract those who try to weaponize human rights.

The Tuesday seminar was sponsored by the Chinese Association for International Exchanges, China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the Amity Foundation. It was held while the United Nations Human Rights Council was holding its 55th session in Geneva.

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