This article assesses the impact of ‘group politics’ in the particularly contentious debates of the United Nations (un) Human Rights Council and the un General Assembly regarding gender equality and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The article identifies those groups that have been most active in the debates, and then analyses how and why they have shaped debates and norms in this area, how they interact with each other, and whether groups help to facilitate consensus or foster polarization in debates. The article examines the extent to which these groups are cohesive, and identifies the norms that each group puts forward in debates (through statements and resolutions). It then assesses and explains their impact on outcomes, the creation of shared norms and the potential for collective action. It further explores the implications of increasing cross-regional group activity in the Human Rights Council.
Rosa Freedman, Failing to Protect: The UN and the Politicization of Human Rights (London: Hurst, 2014), p. 20. In 2006, the Human Rights Council (hrc) replaced the old Commission on Human Rights; its remit is to promote and protect human rights worldwide. The hrc is made up of 47 states elected from the five regional groups, and meets in Geneva three times a year, although one-third of the hrc membership can also call for a special session to be held to discuss urgent situations. The Third Committee consists of all of the un member states, and meets every autumn in New York. It debates human rights resolutions before they are presented to the un General Assembly. Far fewer resolutions are debated in the General Assembly than in the hrc.
See Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner, ‘A Global Force for Human Rights? An Audit of European Power at the UN’, Policy Paper (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2008); Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner, ‘The EU and Human Rights at the UN: 2010 Review’, Policy Brief (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2010); Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner, ‘The EU and Human Rights at the UN: 2011 Review’, Policy Memo (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2011); Karen E. Smith, ‘The European Union at the Human Rights Council: Speaking with One Voice but Having Little Influence’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 17, no. 2 (2010); and Karen E. Smith, ‘The European Union and the Politics of Legitimization at the United Nations’, European Foreign Affairs Review, vol. 18, no. 1 (2013). On the oic’s attempts to promote norms at the hrc, see Gregorio Bettiza and Filippo Dionigi, ‘How do Religious Norms Diffuse? Institutional Translation and International Change in a Post-Secular World Society’, European Journal of International Relations, vol. 21, no. 3 (2015).
Until2009, the United States refused to participate in the hrc, as it argued that the hrc still retained the weaknesses inherent in the former Commission on Human Rights, essentially that human rights-violating countries could still be elected to it.