Aug 13, 2020

UNPO General Secretary: "UN Failing, UNPO Needed More Than Ever"

The XV UNPO General Assembly was an important opportunity for all UNPO members from around the world to come together in a spirit of solidarity with one another’s causes for self-determination. In his welcome address during the opening plenary on 31 July 2020, the General Secretary of the UNPO, Ralph Bunche, spoke about the role of the United Nations and the difficulties of undertaking advocacy at UN institutions. The General Secretary reminded that the UNPO was formed in 1991 to help those who were voiceless find a voice and be listened to. However, the hope for a world in which all people could have a voice and a say in governance irrespective of the nation-state a has been thwarted. "The world today is a hard place for unrepresented nations and people".

The recent UNPO report on Compromised Space at the UN details the struggles of UNPO members trying to conduct advocacy at UN institutions in Geneva. The report found that authoritarian states employ a number of methods to exclude and silence such advocates from their countries, ranging from intimidation tactics at the institutions to outright violence in the home country.

While there has been some progress at the United Nations to give people a voice, in the form of initiatives such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Minority Forum, and the Universal Periodic Review process, those initiatives, more-and-more, look like window dressing to a system that is getting increasingly difficult and more dangerous to engage in. As authoritarian states have begun taking control of the system, we are finding these participation mechanisms are becoming increasingly controlled by government-sponsored agents and we are seeing ever-more instances in which those who seek to engage at the UN level are persecuted for doing so.

Frighteningly, this isn’t just happening to those back-located in authoritarian states.  In our work we have seen violent attacks, intimidation and other activitiescommitted againstUNPO member people located in the European Union and the USA because of their international advocacy work. Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan all appear to be actively engaged in this regard.

Indeed, just two months ago, the Baloch journalist and critic of the Pakistani government, Sajid Hussain, was brutally murdered in Sweden. Dolkun Isa, our Vice-President has been endlessly harassed throughout Europe because of China’s abuse of Interpol Red Notices, with his family forced into concentration camps, and the tragic loss of his mother in them. Iran continues its campaign to bring its version of state-sponsored terrorism to Europe, attacking its minorities wherever they are.

However, on a more uplifting note, the USA, in recently enacting its Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, is taking a positive step to ensure the safety of its citizens and residents. Meanwhile EU member states are pushing back at the UN. But the two are not properly joined-up and are fragmented in their responses to reprisals such as these.

Watch the welcome address by UNPO General Secretary Ralph Bunche