In September Russia supported a UN initiative “promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal.” The measure granted no new rights, but was simply pledging to initiative a “review” of current policies. Below, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations praises the efforts, but the initiative was received with skepticism immediately upon its release. Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about the law that requires foreign NGOs to register as “foreign agents,” and a law that could land athletes in prison if they champion gay rights. – Ed.
A formulation about observance of the rights of the LGBT community turned out to be unacceptable for Muslim countries.
At the initiative of Russia, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution last week, promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yury Paniyev interviews Aleksei Borodavkin, permanent representative of the Russian Federation at the UN and other international organizations in Geneva on the difficulties Russia encountered in drafting this resolution.
YP: How broad was the support for Russia’s initiative to pass a resolution on sports at the UN Human Rights Council?
AB: On 26 September in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council passed by consensus the resolution “Promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal.” It expresses high appreciation of the measures undertaken by Russia as organizer of the Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics Games in Sochi, in particular for the creation of a barrier-free environment for persons with limited abilities. The resolution also calls for demonstrating the potential of sports in the advancement of such fundamental human values as mutual respect, honesty, dignity, equality, tolerance and non-discrimination.
The resolution is Russia’s initiative. States from various regions of the world expressed the wish to advance the draft resolution along with us: Brazil, Greece, Morocco, Lebanon, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea. Altogether, there are a record number of co-authors of the resolution – more than 130. We worked openly and without prejudice, consulting with all the regional groups. It is important that the draft was supported by countries with different traditions, political systems and ideologies. This testifies to the unifying power of sports and the harmony of human rights values and the ideals of the Olympic movement. An exceptionally important role in the context of efforts by the international community in settling conflicts should be played by a call contained in the resolution to observe an Olympic ceasefire.
YP: Taking into account the harsh criticism of the West of the Russian law banning propaganda of homosexuality among minors, did barriers arise on the way to the resolution?
AB: Unfortunately, a number of politically-engaged NGOs have been waging a dishonest anti-Russian campaign whose purpose is to discredit the Games in Sochi. As a reason, they use the Russian law which you referenced. However, the majority of members of the international community hold a fairly low opinion of such NGOs which are aimed at defaming some states while remaining silent about the most egregious violations of human rights of others. In fact, these NGOs are funded from the budgets of some states , thus becoming a part of the unconscionable policy conducted by those governments.
As for the work with states, some in the West insisted on incorporating points in the resolution concerning the observance of the rights of the LGBT community. As is known, Russian law does not restrict the rights of persons of a non-traditional sexual orientation. The law is aimed at protecting children from harmful information. However among the co-authors of the draft from the outset were a large number of Muslim countries for whom such formulations were unacceptable. For our part, we actively worked on the achievement of a compromise. We proposed incorporating into the text the need to struggle with discrimination in any of its forms. So in the end a majority of countries joined us as co-authors – the members of the European Union and also the USA. In such a situation, the NGOs didn’t dare to openly criticize the Russian initiative which had a powerful unifying potential and was supported by a majority of countries.
YP: Does Russia intend to advance new initiatives at the UN Human Rights Council?
AB: The approval of the Russian initiative by consensus, and its support by the majority of the UN member states, has illustrated how constructive such depoliticized interaction by the countries in the UN Human Rights Council on key human rights issues [can be]. This is testimony to the growing understanding of the need to arrange work in the Council on the basis of cooperation and not the settling of political scores. Russia together with its like-minded countries continues to grow the potential for cooperation in this UN body, including through joint advancement of unifying, useful initiatives in the area of human rights. Our plans are for the further advancement in the Human Rights Council of a positive, unifying agenda, and to strengthen the principle of cooperation as the keystone to human rights works in this world organization.