During the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka (2007-2009), the UN maintained a complicit silence in the face of the atrocities committed, which led Ban Ki-moon to commission a study that, among other things, pointed out that the UN “did not adequately invoke the human rights principles that are the foundation of the UN, but instead appeared to do what was necessary to avoid confrontation with the government“.
This disgraceful performance led the Secretary General to promote the “Human Rights Up Front” initiative, whose objective was precisely that: to put the pillar of human rights in a central position in all UN activity. This important initiative, however, continues to encounter resistance on the ground.
The most recent evidence is the new framework that will govern the United Nations Cooperation in Venezuela for the period 2023-2026, agreed between the government and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in the country. More than 80 independent civil society organizations expressed their concern about what they consider “striking deficiencies and omissions in said document“, highlighting the lack of contextualization of the sociopolitical circumstances in which the cooperation will take place and the lack of clarity about the scope of the consultations with civil society, which leads them to warn that the cooperation framework “should not be instrumentalized to normalize this crisis“.
It is not the first time that the UN system in Venezuela has evaded substantive issues such as the humanitarian and human rights crisis. In the study recently published by AlertaVenezuela Lessons not learned, it is recalled that:
Following the international programming cycle of response activities in a humanitarian architecture, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) prepared a first diagnosis of humanitarian needs in the country, called the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO). The 2019 HNO was banned by the government and was never published.
A study by the World Food Program (WFP) carried out in December 2019, stated that 9.3 million people needed humanitarian assistance in food, which also received the veto of the Venezuelan government. Due to the veto, this figure could not be used in the re-estimation of the number of people with humanitarian needs for the second HRP of the year 2020, returning to the initial estimate of 7 million people, increasing the assistance goal to 4.5 million (64.3%), but ceasing to speak of “needs” to refer to “demonstrated operational capacity”, which goes against the humanitarian standards themselves.
Everything seems to indicate that the official veto continues to be imposed, blurring the true dimensions of the humanitarian emergency and leaving human rights out of the equation of the cooperation framework, despite being one of the three pillars of the organization.
The international community and civil society organizations have the obligation and the right to ensure that the cooperation framework between the government of Venezuela and the UN is truly participatory, inclusive and respectful of an adequate balance between the three pillars of the multilateral organization. The aspiration of leaving no one behind cannot be fulfilled if human rights are left behind.