Communities and Collections

Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Council: Dissent and division

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • In 2006, a new Human Rights Council came into existence, replacing the former Commission on Human Rights with a restructured intergovernmental body for the global promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Heralded as a turning point for human rights within the UN system, it was hoped that the new 47-member Council would operate with a renewed emphasis on fairness and objectivity, although it must always be remembered that the Council remains a political body governed by and directed by states. As a member of the Councilfrom 2006-2009, Canada became known as the lead voice of opposition, voting against what it viewed as unbalanced resolutions censuring Israel and the adoption of a long-awaited United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada also voted on principle and with the support of its usual allies against a variety of resolutions reflecting an agenda embraced by Asian, African and Islamic states, who can use their Council vote allocations to serve their own political goals at the expense of achieving consensus. More worrisome, however for the general health of the field of international human rights law is the seemingly unbridgeable gap between developed and developing states concerning the recognition of so-called \"third generation\" human rights, including collective human rights with an economic dimension, that is revealed by this review of the Council's resolution and decision-making activities from 2006-2009, focusing on those actions which were decided by a recorded vote. While the divisions between rich and poor and North vs. South, clearly pre-date the Council's establishment, their continuation and impact within a new institution dedicated to renewed cooperation reveals a degree of dysfunction worthy offurther discussion during the Council 's first review scheduled to take place in 2011.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
  • License
    © 2010 Joanna Harrington. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Harrington, J. Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Council: Dissent and division. (2010) 60 UNBLJ 78. Retrieved from
  • Link to related item