The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein recently announced he would not be seeking a second term in office.
‘To do so in the current geopolitical context might involve bending a knee in supplication… lessening the independence and integrity of my voice’ he explained.
His vivid words implied that human rights advocacy has become untenable and this statement of resignation – from a highly respected and effective voice – is a tragic indictment of the current state of play.
Consider for a start the Trump administration’s record- including attempts to ban Muslim travel and exclude transgender people from the military and how it highlights a UN system now deprived of an important historical champion.
What’s more – faced with rising populist nationalism European states have largely failed to fill the void and the continent’s treatment of refugees has seriously damaged its moral authority.
Deprived then of its traditional liberal democratic allies the UN system appears increasingly toothless.
It effectively operates as a peer network and without strong government leadership it struggles to bring about change.