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International Council Will Focus on Prevention of Human Rights Violations

Members of the new International Human Rights Council met for the first time in December at The Carter Center to begin developing strategies to advance and protect human rights worldwide.

Representing diverse elements of the human rights field, the 27-member Council will foster greater collaboration among nongovernmental, international and national organizations, and world leaders. Members began exploring ways to create greater visibility for abuses of human rights, to speak out more strongly for global standards, to provide ideas and support for more effective U.N. human rights activities, and to share information and coordinate efforts among organizations in the field.

"The human rights community has traditionally taken an ex-post facto approach to problems--creating publicity for victims of torture, demanding accountability for persons who have 'disappeared,' or calling for the release of political prisoners," said former President Jimmy Carter, Council chair. "A missing element in this work is an organized effort to try to prevent the violation of human rights. We hope the International Human Rights Council can fill that gap."

The Council meeting focused on several broad goals, including:

  • working to bolster the influence of human rights in United Nations activities;
  • finding ways to assist understaffed U.N. offices that collect and disseminate information on human rights violations;
  • promoting opportunities for domestic NGOs to have greater input on U.N. initiatives, including minimum standards of NGO participation in conferences and commissions;
  • seeking ways to support and strengthen the efforts of the newly created post of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights;
  • stimulating greater dialogue between private sector businesses and human rights organizations; and
  • seeking ways to bolster an early warning system for human rights abuses to prevent incipient situations from deteriorating into large-scale catastrophes.

Serving on the Council are human rights leaders from around the world who can advise or assist NGOs, international agencies, and governments promoting and protecting human rights (see below). The Council includes several well-known activists. Wei Jingsheng, an activist for democratic and human rights reform in China, was invited by President Carter to join the Council, but was not permitted to travel to the United States for the meeting. Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka fled his native Nigeria to avoid likely arrest two weeks before participating in the Council meeting.

Operational support for the International Human Rights Council will be based at The Carter Center, which received a $750,000 grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to establish it.

International Human Rights Council

Philip Alston
Chair, U.N. Committee on Economic and Social Rights

Hanan Ashrawi
Founder, Independent Commission for Citizens Rights

Florence Butegwa
Coordinator, Women in Law and Development

Radhika Coomeraswamy
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
Sri Lanka

Patricia Derian
Former Assistant Secretary for Human Rights
United States

Clarence Dias
President, International Center for Law and Development

Walter Echo-hawk
Senior Attorney, Native American Rights Fund
United States

Felice Gaer
Executive Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancementof Human Rights
United States

Stephanie Grant
Director of Program and Policy, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
United Kingdom

Thomas Hammarberg
Former President, Radda Barnen (Save the Children)

Hina Jilani
Prominent Women's Movement Leader

Elaine Jones
Director-Council, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
United States

Sia Kaxinawa
Co-Founder, Alliance of the Peoples of the Forest

Teddy Kollek
Former Mayor of Jerusalem

Ewa Letwoska
First Ombudsman in Eastern Europe

Gay McDougall
Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Group
United States

Bacre Waly N'Diaye
U.N. Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or ArbitraryExecutions

Pedro Nikken
Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on El Salvador

Jacqueline Pitanguy
Head of CEPIA, a national education organization

Michael Posner
Director, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
United States

Nigel Rodley
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture
United Kingdom

Mohammed Sahnoun
U.N. Secretary-General's Former Representative toSomalia

Dorothy Thomas
Director, Women's Rights Project, Human Rights Watch
United States

Andrew Whitley
Former Director, Human Rights Watch/ Middle East, Journalist,Writer
United States

Laurie Wiseberg
Executive Director, Human Rights Internet

Mona Zulficar
Lawyer and Member of the New Civil Forum

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