News / Middle East

Navi Pillay Scolds UN Security Council for Inaction on Global Crises

Outgoing U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay talks during an interview to Reuters in her office in Geneva, Aug. 19, 2014.
Outgoing U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay talks during an interview to Reuters in her office in Geneva, Aug. 19, 2014.
Margaret Besheer

Outgoing U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has scolded the United Nations Security Council for its lack of action on some of the world’s most serious crises, saying hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved through greater council responsiveness.  

Pillay, a former South African jurist will wrap up a six-year tenure as the top U.N. human rights official at the end of this month.

Known for her outspokenness on topics ranging from the conflict in Syria to gay rights, in her final briefing, Pillay spoke of crises around the world, from the Middle East to Africa to the Ukraine.

"None of these crises erupted without warning," she said. "They built up over years, and sometimes decades, of human rights grievances: deficient or corrupt governance and judicial institutions; discrimination and exclusion; inequities in development; exploitation and denial of economic and social rights; and repression of civil society and public freedoms."

Pillay said early detection mechanisms repeatedly warned of these potential crises.

“So although the specifics of each crisis could not necessarily be predicted, many of the human rights violations that were at their core were known. They could have been addressed,” she said.

On the more than three-year war in Syria, Pillay warned the conflict is spreading outward and its eventual limits cannot be predicted.

She said such crises highlight the full cost of the international community's failure to prevent conflict.  Pillay said it is first the state’s duty to protect its citizens, but when it fails, the Security Council must act.

"But when governments are unable or unwilling to protect their people, it is the responsibility of the international community and, singularly, this council to intervene, and to deploy the range of good offices, support, inducements and coercion at its disposal to defuse the triggers of conflict," she said.

In an apparent reference to the lack of consensus among council members on issues such as Syria, she said short-term geopolitical concerns and narrowly defined national interests have repeatedly taken priority over ending human suffering.

“I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Pillay said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to  Pillay, saying she has been an “outstanding United Nations leader” who “tells it like she sees it.” Ban said people who face discrimination and rights abuses know Pillay is their advocate and she will continue to be a key voice for human rights.

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Comment Sorting
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
August 22, 2014 6:47 AM
Looking back is inexcusable that the international community did not do your duty Stop the War in World

by: Amos
August 21, 2014 11:14 PM
Navi Pillay has inexplicably wavered so much on the Zimbabwean issue, like Gukhurahundi (which cost 20,000 lives), The 2008 Elections, Marumbatsvina, Land seizures, the list is endless. As a jurist she knows the situation there very well, but the real question to be asked is "what has she said on these issues". The UN Security Council has not "acted" and only in specific instances, has the West acted with resolution
in Europe and the Middle East, perhaps because the threat has
immense repercussions for them including the humanitarian aspect, which would condemn them if they failed to act.

by: Mark from: Virginia
August 21, 2014 2:01 PM
I fully agree with Navi Pillay on this...the UN is supposed to be the one and ONLY world's policeman, and the world cop has been spending far too much time at the all-night diner drinking coffee and eating donuts and arguing with itself.

But then, at the core of it all... if the countries that represent the UN do not agree with each other, then we see the fruits of that labor (nothing). Much like Congress here in the U.S. the UN bickers over political and ideological nonsense and forget its true purpose.. to serve the world and protect the citizens of all countries. It is largely why the League of Nations failed so utterly after World War I, and why the United Nations is failing as well. No one gets along, and no one cares about anything but themselves.

When everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) realizes that we are all the same, that we all came from the same well spring of Life, and put aside our petty differences, then the world will know Peace. Until then, all we will know is suffering and misery and death. It starts with each of us.

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