High commissioner criticizes political leadership in report about global human rights concerns

High commissioner criticizes political leadership in report about global human rights concerns

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official bio] on Wednesday released his annual report [text] concerning global human rights in which he criticized global politicians for acting to further their own political ambitions “at the expense of vulnerable humans.”

Al Hussein began the report acknowledging the celebration for Nelson Mandela’s one-hundredth birthday and his premier example of greatness in leadership, contrasting Mandela’s example with the conduct of present-day politicians. Al Hussein specifically addressed “narrow politicians … [a]uthoritarian in nature,” who are “prone to fan division and intolerance and just for the sake of securing their political ambition,” saying:

[Y]ou may seize power, or stubbornly hold onto it, by playing on and stoking the fears of your followers. You may congratulate yourselves for this and you may think yourself so clever for it. But we know all you’ve done is copy the behaviour of previous generations of once strong, but ultimately catastrophic, leaders and politicians. Yours will in the end become a mouse-like global reputation, never the fine example of the leader you think you are – and never even close to a Mandela. To deserve global respect, you must begin to follow his example – committing to the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Al Hussein then went on to address human rights violations in numerous individual countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Poland, Burundi, Kenya, the Maldives, Yemen and Syria, expressing his greatest concerns for individual human rights. He ended the report with a note on women’s rights and singled out the MeToo Movement [advocacy website] as, “an expression of solidarity and a force for dignity that is much needed, including in the wealthiest societies.” Al Hussein went on to say that “[w]herever I have travelled I have been privileged to meet women who defy restrictions on their freedom. These resilient and powerful women teach us ­- have, indeed, taught me – that every individual can help to reshape society, and the world. I don’t much like the phrase ‘speaking truth to power’ because in reality it is not rank which confers moral value: the power is in truth itself.”