AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for Human Rights Publishes Ground-breaking Volume on UN High Commissioner

Dec 19, 2013, 11:58 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Twenty years ago the UN General Assembly established the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position that AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights successfully advocated for, in order to advance the promise of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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On the occasion of the UN's top human rights position's landmark anniversary, celebrated this month, JBI has released a ground-breaking volume, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World. A collection of analytic essays examining the challenges faced by the six persons who have served as High Commissioner to date, it is the first comprehensive examination of the history and impact of the High Commissioner's office and the prospects for its future role in reinforcing and safeguarding global human rights standards.

In a statement delivered at the UN last week, High Commissioner Navi Pillay praised JBI for its "crucial role in the creation of the High Commissioner's office," and said that the volume's "expert and academic analysis" of the office will be "extremely helpful" as she and her team "take stock of where we are, what we have achieved and not achieved and what challenges lie ahead."

Edited by JBI Director Felice Gaer and Associate Director Christen Broecker, the 400-page volume examines the challenges facing the High Commissioner in upholding universality of human rights, raising a voice to protect victims of abuse, and interacting with the UN Human Rights Council and Security Council, as well as international criminal tribunals. It also assesses the High Commissioner's response to the "hard cases" of China, Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Burma and Colombia. 

The 20 contributors to the book, published by Martinus Nijhoff as part of the Nottingham Studies on Human Rights series, are among the world's leading experts on human rights. They include present and former UN policymakers, human rights practitioners, legal scholars and current High Commissioner Pillay. Many of them participated in JBI's 40th anniversary conference addressing the High Commissioner's achievements, held in New York in February 2012.

The contributors "encourage the individuals who currently and in the future will hold the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights to maintain the independence of the office, to speak out with authoritative information on human rights so it can be brought to bear on public policy and to act firmly and rapidly to advance the protection of individuals within countries worldwide," write Gaer and Broecker in their introduction to The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World.

"This publication will provoke renewed deliberations about how the High Commissioner can best lead the UN in advancing respect for and protection of human rights," said E. Robert Goodkind, Chairman of the JBI Administrative Council and author of the book's preface. "That conversation is all the more necessary as we face human rights abuses in Syria, North Korea, the Central African Republic, and beyond."

For more information about The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World and to order copies, visit www.brill.com/united-nations-high-commissioner-human-rights-0 or contact JBI at jbi@ajc.org.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee