Bob Last » Senior Human Rights Advisor, UK Mission human rights team

Coming to the surface

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It’s hard to convey quite what it’s like to go through a March Council session. The four-week experience is a prolonged assault on the mind, body and soul and while the end of the session is a cause for elation it also feels distinctly post-traumatic. The process of stress-decompression and re-entering normal life needs to be handled carefully, like surfacing from a deep sea dive or returning to earth after … Read more »Coming to the surface

Moment of truth

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Every Council delegate will know what a strain the March session can put on your family life. Things have got so bad that I’m now considering looking for a new wife. It’s not for me though. My wife has got to the point that she’s told me she needs someone like her to help look after our two small children, provide sustenance to compensate for the vitamin-deficient UN sandwiches and … Read more »Moment of truth

Shrinking Space

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Shrinking Space Human Rights Council sessions are always tough but this one feels particularly lacerating. As we reached the midway point on Friday evening there were some desperate looking faces heading towards the exits, including my own. The impact of several weeks of negotiating human rights at the UN is physically demanding, mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. It’s what I’d imagine a family camping holiday in the north of England … Read more »Shrinking Space

The Game is Afoot

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With all the talk these days of business and human rights it can only be a matter of time before Council sessions start getting corporate sponsors. When it happens I hope that manufacturers of beta blockers are first in line to put their name to the March session and that they have plenty of freebies for delegates. For regulars at the 4-week meeting stress levels follow a predictable rollercoaster pattern. They … Read more »The Game is Afoot

Council at a Crossroads

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A lot has happened here since the end of the last session. Starting with the most important, I became a dad again, when my little girl entered the world last November. My son had cleverly timed his birth 3 years ago with the Human Rights Council’s annual day on the rights of the child but in a spirit of neonatal one-upmanship my daughter picked a more significant date, arriving on … Read more »Council at a Crossroads

Sleepwalking, Stress and Civil Society

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Council sessions are bad for your health. So bad, in fact, that I’m thinking of inviting colleagues from the World Health Organisation along to the next session to see if they agree with me that all delegates should be issued with a health warning so that they can take suitable precautions at the outset. The combined toll of three weeks of sleeplessness, stress and soggy late-afternoon sandwiches are more than … Read more »Sleepwalking, Stress and Civil Society

Potty Theory

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I’ve often thought that subscribers to chaos theory would do well to spend a week or two watching meetings at the Human Rights Council. The principal idea is that a small random change at one point can result in major unexpected consequences later on.  It would be fascinating to try to catalogue the seemingly minor events which end up with a disproportionate impact on the outcome of UN negotiations. Success … Read more »Potty Theory

No room at the UN

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September didn’t used to be like this. It was the session which could be relied upon for a genteel beginning as delegates eased themselves in after the summer, meeting new colleagues and renewing old acquaintances before getting down to some serious Council business. But not any more. This session has got off to a blistering start with every day packed full of meetings on the forty-plus resolutions which states have … Read more »No room at the UN

A September to Remember?

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I hope you’ve had a good summer. My holidays have become a lot less adventurous since fatherhood, and gone are the days of disappearing off to far-away countries with a rucksack, a guidebook and a cautiously large amount of Immodium. Nowadays all I want from a holiday is some sleep and to spend my waking hours moving at the speed of a three-toed sloth. I’m not expecting much rest during … Read more »A September to Remember?

Going the distance

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As the three-week session came to a close on Friday evening, delegates looked each other in the eye with weary emotion and asked how was it for you? The general mood seemed to be that it had been a good session but that the earth didn’t move. Getting through Council sessions is as much a test of stamina as anything else. Yes, some human rights knowledge, negotiating skills, and a … Read more »Going the distance