Significance of Bangladesh’s UNHRC membership

Published : 22 Oct 2022 07:13 PM

Bangladesh has been re-elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). The country will be a member of 47 member councils from 2023 to 2025 and participate in all proceedings and activities. Bangladesh secured 160 out of 192 votes - the highest in the Asia Pacific. This is also the fifth term for Bangladesh in HRC as the country secured membership through the vote in 2006, 2009, 2014, and 2018. This will be the country's consecutive second term at the council. Bangladesh's re-election shows the country's commitment to global Human Rights. The large number of votes that it received shows the trust that most countries have in it when it comes to Human Rights.

Global Human Rights and HRC

In the 21st century, the Human Rights situation has been worsened worldwide due to conflicts, war, re-emergence of rightwing politics, and supremacist ideologies. Superpowers were quick to understand it and use it against their rivals. As a result, it has also emerged as a weapon for superpowers. Such weaponization has also had an adverse impact on the overall Human Rights narrative. It has bolstered bloc politics and created scope for a hegemonic interpretation of Human Rights that serves great power interest.

Indeed, the overall human rights situation is not perfect in Global South. Third-world countries have a wide range of aspects to improve. Again, efforts to strengthen Human Rights require commitment. Even though the rights situation has worsened during the last two decades, Global South has shown its commitment to it. But Human Rights are not isolated aspects. Instead, it has a substantial nexus with politics, economy, and society of the state, where low capacity and weak institutions challenge them.

HRC is an inter-governmental body of the UN that allows countries to work on global rights situations directly. HRC was formed in 2006. The mission is to protect and uplift human rights worldwide. 

The main work is to observe and investigate allegations of rights violations such as freedom of speech, freedom of belief, religious rights, and women's rights. It also documents and updates rights situations through several working groups that present their findings before the council. It is a multilateral body to work on Human Rights. HRC and its membership is a sign of this commitment that countries express by participating as a candidate and working after the election as a member.  

Bangladesh’s contribution

Bangladesh is a firm believer in multilateralism. The country also has active participation in all UN bodies. The country's contribution to global peace and security is also worth mentioning. It is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The country has also given shelter to 1.2 million stateless Rohingya, the most persecuted community of our time. It also plays the role of Guardian of the Rohingya in the international community.

Besides, as the country follows a neutral and balancing policy towards great powers, it has the least participation in bloc politics and hegemonic rivalries, which makes the country unbiased in its multilateral approach.

These contributions and foreign policy approaches also played an important role in attracting such a large number of votes, as countries can easily trust Bangladesh. 

Membership and voting in HRC is a gesture of trust and commitment. Bangladesh has reiterated its commitment to Human Rights by participating as a candidate for membership. The highest number of votes also reveals most countries' confidence in Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh is not perfect regarding its domestic human rights. The county has a lot to improve. But the country is not void of commitment. It has made serious efforts to improve its domestic condition. The country has already achieved remarkable success in women's rights, child rights, and climate change. In recent times, It has acknowledged the rights of Transgenders, known as Hijras. One must remember that improving Human Rights is a continuous process.

Bangladesh's membership will also play a vital role against the smear campaigns and misinformation against the country. HRC could be a place to showcase Bangladesh's engagement and efforts in Human Rights.

Shafiqul Elahi is a retired government official of Bangladesh