January 14, 2014


Will Iran's New Support of Human Rights Go Deeper Than Rhetoric? (Helen Alkin and Jose Vericat, 1/14/14, ISN Blog)

Delegates in the UN General Assembly have been noticing a turnaround in the way that the country's representatives engage with social, humanitarian, and human rights issues. In October, observers were taken aback by the palpable softening of Iran's tone1 in the delegate's reaction to the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. In its statement, the Iranian representative to the Third Committee sounded conciliatory as she declared that "Iran emphasizes the need to use the momentum engendered by this election [of President Rouhani] to adopt a new and constructive approach by all relevant parties towards cooperation and dialogue for the promotion and protection of all human rights" adding that the "government does not claim that the situation of human rights within the country is perfect."

In November, the same tone was apparent in the response of the Iranian Permanent Representative Mohammad Khazaee to the resolution presented by Canada on "the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran." Though he still rejected the country-specific nature of the resolution--which Canada puts forward yearly--characterizing it as "politicized" and "subjective," he also noted the country's "long term approach," "genuine measures," and "constructive engagement" to safeguard all human rights, signaling future improvements.

However, the clearest evidence of this new approach is perhaps the effort to present the resolution, "A World Against Violent Extremism" to the General Assembly--to be voted on this week. Iran, traditionally perceived as a spoiler on humanitarian and human rights issues, has untypically chosen to be a main sponsor of a resolution attempting to build consensus around the subjects of violence and extremism.

Despite the fact that resolutions such as these have a mostly symbolic value, they are an indication that the new Iranian president has launched a wide-ranging diplomatic campaign attempting to change perceptions in areas such as human rights, humanitarian issues, and the culture of peace, which fall under the Third Committee of the General Assembly. In fact, the Permanent Representative of Iran has been personally invested in dozens of démarches--that is, hours and hours of discussions with other permanent representatives.

Posted by at January 14, 2014 3:31 PM

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