Home inContext Syria to Remain on UNESCO Human Rights Committee

Syria to Remain on UNESCO Human Rights Committee

Samara Greenberg

The United Nations’ Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to condemn Syria in a vote on Wednesday at its executive board meeting, but not expel the country from its post on a UNESCO human rights committee. The UNESCO executive board, which includes the U.S., elected Syria to two panels last November, including one charged with judging human rights violations.

According to a draft resolution, member states will vote to condemn Damascus for “the continued widespread and systematic violation of human rights” and urge it “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations.” The U.S. and Britain fought for the resolution to also include language calling for the expulsion of Syria from the human rights committee. But their attempt was unsuccessful when 17 states, led by Russia, after failing to completely block the resolution, appear to have convinced members to water it down.

A burning portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad in Al-Qsair, near Homs.

On Tuesday, the United States proposed a new Security Council resolution against Syria demanding an end to government violence and, once that is accomplished, calls on the opposition to do the same. The new, watered down draft hopes to finally get Russia and China on board after they vetoed the first two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, although their support remains uncertain.

The UN has an unfortunate history of filling seats in human rights committees with known human rights violators. But with the Syrian regime’s high-profile massacre of its people at this time, it is nearly impossible to understand how Damascus was accepted into a UNESCO human rights committee just last November with little to no outrage, and how it will today maintain that seat.