EDITORIAL: Surprising stance by Barbados at UN
It is hardly news anymore that there is a great divide at the United Nations over how best to handle allegations of widespread human rights abuses in specific countries. But where it becomes an issue for us in Barbados is where it spawns confusion about our foreign policy.
Whether in the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council, member-states usually agree to disagree over country specific resolutions, which often paint ugly pictures of conditions in certain nations, including those considered as the worst abusers of human rights.
And so it was the case last week when the General Assembly’s Third Committee tackled the thorny problem of conditions in Myanmar, North Korea and Iran.
In the case of Myanmar, it was noted that its military maintains a stranglehold on the levers of power without giving people an important voice in selecting its leaders.
Furthermore, there is no free and fair exercise of franchise as we do roughly every five years.
North Korea has also been cited for limiting its citizens’ ability to interact with the rest of the world, regulating what people can watch over television and for not holding elections in more than 60 years.
With these facts in mind, it was more than a little surprising that Barbados chose to abstain during the UN debate on the question of human rights abuses in Myanmar and North Korea.
Jamaica, on the other hand, voted to express its concern about conditions in two of these states but joined Barbados and others in abstaining on Iran.
What made the Barbados vote especially confusing was that it had correctly backed a resolution calling on Israel to end abuse of the natural resources of occupied Arab land, including the Palestinian territory. The Israeli resolution was focused almost exclusively on Tel Aviv and it was widely viewed at the UN as a name and shame measure, the kind to which Barbados objects.
The resolution on Iran is another matter. It was part of an international campaign linked to the country’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons and Barbados, like Jamaica, did the right thing by staying out of it.
What was missing in Barbados’ stance was consistency. If you are against naming and shaming, then you must vote that way whether it is Israel, Myanmar or North Korea.
This situation underscores the need for a vigorous parliamentary debate on this island’s foreign policy.
We have in recent years expanded our diplomatic missions abroad, with the additions of outposts in China, Cuba and Brazil. The public has a right to hear from the Government how its foreign policy is interwoven in its domestic policy at a time of austerity.