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What Role Does it Play in U.S. Foreign Policy?

Reported by Madeleine Brecher and Fran Butensky, ICJW Representatives at the UN, NY (June 2020)


The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a civil society NGO at the UN, made history at the United Nations founding conference in San Francisco in 1945 where it participated as one of the consultants to the United States delegation. During this, the UN’s 75th anniversary year, AJC held this event with two prominent former US Ambassadors to the UN John Negroponte and David Pressman who discussed how the world body has enhanced U.S. national interests globally particularly in bringing peace and security to troubled conflict areas, protecting human rights, and tackling emerging global challenges. Felice Gaer, the Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights at the American Jewish Committee acted as moderator and explored with the Ambassadors whether and how the UN can remain a key venue for enhanced U.S. foreign affairs leadership. 


While this event focused on the United States, we still thought it was important to let you know that this Jewish NGO, and Felice Gaer in particular, continue to be critical and very well-respected players at the UN in New York particularly in the field of human rights. Ambassador Pressman talked about how AJC is still pushing the UN to focus on human rights most especially in the field of peace and security. 


Both men remarked about the excessive attention paid to Israel by so many member states with their unfair obsession. They reminded the audience, which all of ICJW’s UN representatives do regularly, that the UN itself is not a single entity but rather a group of 193 nations each with its own national priorities. In the General Assembly and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, it is particularly lopsided against Israel and it is important for the U.S. delegation to keep plugging for a more balanced perspective even convincing states to abstain rather than vote against Israel. The Ambassadors found fault with the fact that the America often pulls out of international bodies when it is needed in the room to advance Western values, i.e. the Human Rights Council and now, during a global pandemic, threatening to leave the World Health Organization. While there is a lot to criticize about these entities, when the U.S. is not in the room, it empowers Russia and China. Both former Ambassadors acknowledge the supreme value of international cooperation, and today with so many pressing global problems, while the UN is not a panacea, there is NO substitute for it as the vehicle for collaboration.

UN Human Rights Council 43rd Session February 2020


As a participant of all four  UN World Conferences for Women, in Mexico City 1975, Copenhagen 1980, Nairobi 1985 and Beijing 1995, I have been privileged to follow the progress in solving the plight of women. Each Conference gave us incentives for further action. Women have been more accepted as integral to the sustainable development goals.


The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted in 1995 set strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in  several critical areas of concern. If only meagre progress,  at least awareness has been achieved concerning many of the objectives (now SDGs). Gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment and gender equality have become priority issues as well as the violation of women’s human rights under the name of cultural tradition. Without Gender Equality (Number 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals) none of the SDGs will be achieved.


One of the areas, which has regressed, are the media with the enhanced power to present, create and manipulate through the new technology. The no limits-principle has also meant erasing  the rules of good conduct in the media.


Karmela Belinki, born in 1947 in Helsinki, Finland. Journalist, writer and academic. Special expertise in media ethics and women's history. Published extensively both fiction and non-fiction. Lives in Helsinki, Finland. She is the co chair of ICJW’s Human Rights Committee with Mary Liling of Switzerland.  She addressed the UN’s Human Rights Council in February;  before that Council convened, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy occurred, sponsored by 25 Human  Rights NGOs and where Prof Cotler also spoke.

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