Mary Wald

/ forwarding the messages that build a better world

UN Human Rights Council

In March, 2006, the term of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was expiring. A new proposal was on the floor of the UN to established the new Human Rights Council.

In late February, at the vote approached, the resolution for a new Human Rights Council came under attack in the press by the current UN Ambassador John Bolton, who denounced the council in the New York Times and elsewhere. His views were picked up and echoed by the New York Times editorial page.

Without a resolution and a new body, the Commission on Human Rights would have simply ceased to be. The UN would have no human rights body at all.

The Secretary General’s office contacted the UN Foundation for assistance in rallying support for the resolution. UN Foundation contacted the Carter Center and TheCommunity.com. The three organizations went into action in a cooperative effort to mobilize resources.

Mary first drafted an open letter from the Nobel Peace Prize winners in support of the resolution. Within 48 hours she had twelve Nobel laureates signed onto the letter and released it to the press. It was picked up by Associated Press and ran internationally. Text of the open letter with signatories here.

After then receiving the draft of an Op Ed by President Carter. Working with the head of Op Ed at the New York Times, Mary contacted other Nobel laureates — Archbishop Desmond Tutu, then former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, President of South Korea Kim Dae Jung, and Iranian human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi — to co-sign the piece. The article ran prominently on March 5. read article

Ten days later, the resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 107 to 4.

Both the President of the UN General Assembly, Jan Elliason, and Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan, stated that it was the support of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates rallied through this cooperative effort that had swung the vote and allowed the new Human Rights Council to be established.