Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More



Cablegate: United States Consultations with the Office of The

DE RUEHGV #2171/01 2491537
R 061537Z SEP 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

GENEVA 00002171 001.2 OF 002


1. DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary Erica Barks-Ruggles and
Ambassador Tichenor, accompanied by PolCouns and Washington-
and Geneva-based staffers, met with High Commissioner for
Human Rights Louise Arbour August 31 to discuss a broad range
of human rights-related issues, including OHCHR field
operations, support for special procedures mandates, budget
and management, and the new Human Rights Council (HRC). DAS
Barks-Ruggles stressed our strong desire to see the brunt of
OHCHR's increasing budget go toward results-based field
operations. Arbour said her office has made substantial
progress in bolstering its staffing levels in Geneva and in
the field and that this would lead to tangible results in
support of human rights. Arbour urged the U.S. not to write
off the new Human Rights Council (HRC) just yet, lamenting
the bad timing of events in Lebanon and Gaza that directly
led to anti-Israeli resolutions during the first Council
session and two subsequent special sessions. Nevertheless,
she urged the United States to publicly differentiate her
office from the HRC in the event that the Council continues
to perform badly. End Summary.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Budget and Funding Issues

2. Arbour warmly greeted our delegation and immediately
kicked off the meeting with an obligatory pitch for more
funding. OHCHR is trying to expand its donor base. It had
persuaded Russia to donate two million dollars and was trying
to have other traditionally non-donating countries contribute
voluntary funds - even small amounts - to dispel any notion
that OHCHR is an "agent of the West." Asking for less
earmarking of funds, she welcomed progress with Nordic and
other European countries to earmark less of their voluntary
contributions and make commitments for multiple years. The
Netherlands, for example, pledged 20 million euros in
non-earmarked funds over a four-year period. She praised the
U.S. record for financial support and hoped that we would
continue setting the watermark for other countries. She was
also hopeful that ACABQ (the UN Advisory Committee on
Administrative and Budgetary Questions) would clear the way
this fall for releasing funds for the second phase of OHCHR's
current biennium. While pleased by last year's decision to
double OHCHR's annual budget over five years, Arbour stressed
that the increase should not come at the expense of voluntary
contributions, thus resulting in no net gain for her office.
Barks-Ruggles noted the United States' consistent support for
the OHCHR and explained that our main concern was that these
extra funds be used to support field operations.

Field Operations

3. OHCHR's Capacity Building and Field Operations Branch
(CBB) Chief Fabrizio Hochschild, who also participated in the
consultations, said that looking at money spent at
headquarters versus in the field did not accurately reflect
how the money was being spent since desk and administrative
jobs in Geneva were being created to support field operations
not in OHCHR's budget. For example, there are 450 human
rights field officers whose salaries are being paid by DPKO;
however, support for human rights programming comes from
OHCHR in Geneva. This, he stressed, could lead to
misunderstandings that staffing is inappropriately weighted
towards headquarters operations. Arbour said that half of
Geneva's funding comes from the regular UN budget, while the
other half comes from extra-budgetary funds. For field
operations, 10 percent comes from the regular budget and 90
percent from extra-budgetary funds. While there was a great
need for OHCHR to be seen in places like Darfur, Arbour said
that her office currently had no capacity for it. Even in
the best circumstances, it has been difficult to get offices
up and running, she said, citing recent cases in Guatemala,
whose government took more than one year to sign the MOU.

4. As far as field operations, OHCHR is currently working
with four basic models: 1) stand-alone offices (e.g.
Colombia, Nepal); 2) partnerships with peace keeping missions
(e.g. Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo); 3)
provision of a human rights advisor for country teams with no
human rights component (e.g. Sri Lanka); and 4) regional
offices meant both to support national offices and to provide
support for human rights in countries without a UN human
rights presence. In response to Barks-Ruggles' expression of
concern about the mandate for these regional offices,
Hochschild admitted that this was indeed a problem. He said

GENEVA 00002171 002.2 OF 002

OHCHR was developing a model mandate to be used when
establishing future regional offices. Arbour also said that
past efforts in technical cooperation focused greatly on
teaching government bureaucrats how to do reports about how
their countries were not complying with their treaty body
obligations. OHCHR was now focusing more attention on
helping them to comply. This means that more field officers
were necessary. OHCHR expects to complete hiring
Geneva-based officers and administrative staff by the end of
2006. Arbour stressed that this was a necessary first step
and that field officers are also currently being hired; she
expected even more to be hired during the second half of the
2006-2007 biennium.

5. Arbour said that part of her vision for reform included
breaking away from the current unspoken rule that technical
assistance was good and monitoring was bad. She wanted to
continue engaging with countries bilaterally and with a
holistic approach, which she says builds trust and improves
the situation on the ground.

OHCHR and the Human Rights Council

6. Arbour said the Human Rights Council (HRC) needed more
time to mature and that the focus on Israel, which happened
due to "bad timing," should not serve as a distraction to the
real changes she expected to take place. She noted that, in
all events, states should differentiate her office from the
HRC. OHCHR had been established with its own mandate to
promote and protect human rights. While it provides
administrative support for the HRC and is often tasked by the
Council, it is not part of that body. While still hopeful
that the Council will rise to meet expectations, Arbour wants
to make sure that OHCHR is not associated with the HRC should
it fail.

7. She said it would be "catastrophic" if the United States
were to disengage in UN human rights fora, but she was
hopeful that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process
would lead to improvements and direct results. UPR would
make it possible to review the record of human rights abusers
who had once avoided scrutiny by hiding behind membership in
the discredited Commission on Human Rights. However, care
should be taken to avoid country-to-country comparisons for
UPRs. Comparing Botswana's human rights record with its
previous record, for example, would show whether or not
progress was being made rather than trying to compare it with
the record of a country like Norway. Barks-Ruggles said that
it was important that the Council not be overwhelmed by the
UPR process and that it treat all states equally. Arbour
said that she supported country-specific mandates but doubted
they would survive the mandate review process. There was a
possibility to link country mandates to the UPR process and
simply call them something else. Arbour said it was
important that the Council not use her office to undermine
OHCHR's technical cooperation system, since artificial
capacity building was worse than doing nothing. She said the
Sub-Commission was very good at doing that sort of thing,
joking that her office was asked to check on the "human
rights situation in Mars."

This cable has been cleared by DRL/DAS Erica Barks-Ruggles.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.