Co-sponsoring in Geneva
Your chances of a healthy life
are improving by the day, thanks not so much to a vast number of high
class hospitals, as to a strict compliance with WHO. Our public health
system – even with its meagre resources – has successfully complied with
many basic health standards that United Nations member states are
legally obliged to meet under numerous protocols and institutional
arrangements established by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
An example of how ‘shared sovereignty’ is healthy for you.
Our country is a long-standing and, relatively accomplished, member
of many global clubs, the UN and its affiliated ‘specialised agencies’
and councils, perhaps being the politically most important. In the
economic sphere, we are members of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO among
other multi-lateral bodies. In the social sphere we are bound by UNESCO
and other international standards and goals. The inter-State
connectivities are myriad already – and we have only just begun the
‘Sovereignty’ is, today, a concept that is no longer merely based on
nationhood: not when we aspire to move more easily between countries
and, to a bigger choice of homeland; not when we communicate and agree
across State borders and cultural identities via Facebook and Twitter
and, act on it.
Today, we participate in an increasing number of political, social
and economic networks across the globe, and our enjoyment of this
participation – whether as movements or associations or governments -
has meant that we do things less on our own. We already enjoy our right
to, and facilities for, faster and better work together not just within
national boundaries but across continents, and across cultures, classes,
castes and genders.
Sovereignty is no longer exclusively ‘possessed’ permanently and
blindly by any single group whether a nation or not. Indeed, there are
some global problems – like global warming - that can only be resolved
by a sharing of responsibility and accountability.
Just as much as good health or, good financial accounting, has global
standards, so does good governance and human rights. And that is what
Geneva is all about.
When Sri Lanka comes forward to co-sponsor a resolution on human
rights processes and standards within the country, that is the best way
to ensure that our responsibility is owned by us and is not a stricture
imposed by foreign powers.
The UN Human Rights Council is a place where, as in other UN fora,
the world’s various currents of geo-political interests balance out in
compromises that largely enable bilateral and multilateral agreement and
mutual benefit for member states and between regional groupings.
Sri Lanka, thanks to the previous regime, has already been tied down
to a process of monitoring and accountability that was being dictated
more by external powers thanks, also, to the previous regime’s inability
to follow through in the UN Human Rights Council.
It was, of course, this embarrassingly un-intelligent failure in
compliance that has led the recent Report by the UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights to bluntly question the credibility of Colombo. Despite
the UN report’s doubts, the swift and dramatic changes in policy and
practice already affected by the new regime has served to reassure the
international community that Sri Lanka is now back on track in the
community of nations and is not acting like a pariah.
Thus, what was legally binding us to a previous Geneva ‘template’ is
non-existent today because those powerful member states that were
previously insisting on such imposed obligations have now reversed
The remarkable about-face by not just the global powers such as the
US and the EU, but also by local and diaspora actors like the TNA and
the Global Tamil Forum, must be noted. ‘International tribunal’ and ‘war
crimes inquiry’ are no longer being singled out as the dominant or
priority issues for Sri Lanka’s journey toward integrity and
accountability in human rights.
Rather, the fact that throughout the decades of violent repression
and ethnic discrimination, many groups within Sri Lanka have raised
these issues and offered detailed redress procedures, is now being
recognised by the UN OHCHR as well as in the draft resolution tabled in
Geneva. Indeed, the government, in its submissions to the Council, is
pointing out that there is already an internal or domestic
accountability process long touted by the non-governmental sector – a
sector that was earlier demonised as ‘conspirators’ by the previous
When the Government proposes to bring these local actors in to
collaborate with new governmental mechanisms for human rights redress,
the Human Rights Council has no option but to welcome such elaborate
domestic initiatives. This is how Sri Lanka today has been able to build
up its own plans to puts its house in order.
As citizens, the question that we confront is not whether the country
must comply with merely an external impetus coming from Geneva but
whether, as concerned citizens and patriots, we, ourselves, see the need
for redress of the human rights and conflict situation here. This we
have already begun to do by voting to power a government that also
recognises the need for human rights and democratic repair.
The world community now recognises and appreciates our self-realisation
and, through Geneva, will initiate steps to support us all along the
way. We can claim ownership to a Geneva initiative only if we are
sincere in our recognition that we actually have a problem that needs