NGOs Planted Human Rights Seeds at UN
The opinion-page article ``UN and Human Rights,'' March 2, states that Costa Rica introduced the idea of a High Commissioner for Human Rights about 30 years ago. Actually, it was introduced by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) more than 45 years ago, and the first government to promote it in 1952 was Uruguay. Costa Rica took up the cause in 1965 and came close to achieving its objective in 1977, when Cuba stymied a vote at the last minute.
Reconsideration of the idea of a high commissioner came about last year because of the initiative of the UN NGO Human Rights Committee, which successfully campaigned to put it on the agenda of the World Conference on Human Rights.
Ambassador Jose Ayala Lasso, chairman of the working group that drafted the high commissioner's mandate, and the choice of UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to fill the post, has already indicated to the Human Rights Committee his desire to maintain very close ties with the NGO human rights community. The committee, founded in 1968, is the instrument of the NGOs at UN headquarters that are dealing with human rights matters; it has called attention to and promoted action on pressing human rights issues.
The committee also helps people worldwide, through its constituent organizations, to become more aware of and thus able to employ rights they already have. Harris O. Schoenberg, New York Honorary Chairman, UN NGO Committee on Human Rights