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Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India, presents credential to UN General Secretary

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New Delhi: Syed Akbaruddin, on Monday, presented his credentials to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the 21st Permanent Representative of India to the world body.

Mr Ban welcomed him, saying that he appreciated India’s significant role at the United Nations as a long-trusted partner of the multilateral system.

Reiterating India’s commitment to the UN, Akbaruddin assured Ban his fullest support to help fulfill the priorities and aims Ban had set for this year, including the quest for peaceful political solutions for international problems and working towards the developmental goals of Agenda 2030.

Akbaruddin brings to the crucial diplomatic posting at the heart of the 193-member organisation a trove of rich experience and contacts from his stints at an international body, as the organiser of the recent India-Africa Summit and from serving as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s de facto spokesperson during his many foreign tours.

Akbaruddin, India’s 21st permanent representative at the UN, has succeeded Asoke Kumar Mukerji who retired at the end of last year.

This is the second turn at the UN for Akbaruddin after joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1985.

From 1995 to 1998, Mr Akbaruddin served as the first secretary in India’s UN Mission where he focused on Security Council reform, a matter that assumes urgency in his current role as the long-delayed process is finally gaining traction.

Another major area where his contribution has been remarkable in 1990s assignment was peacekeeping, which continues to be a crucial contribution to the UN by India.

Currently, 7,798 Indians are serving in UN peacekeeping operations. India has been the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping, having sent more than 180,000 Indian troops to 48 of the 69 UN missions so far.

Akbaruddin also brings an insider’s insight into the workings of international organisations from his work at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna from 2006 to 2011. He worked at the IAEA as the head of external relations and as the special assistant to the director-general.

Recently at External Affairs Ministry, he was the Chief Coordinator of the India-Africa Forum Summit held last October in New Delhi with the participation of all 54 African nations. Africa being the largest single group at the UN, this experience gave him a rich Rolodex of contacts.

Before that he was the External Affairs Ministry’ official spokesperson from 2012 to 2015 when he attended several multilateral and bilateral meetings at the ministerial and prime ministerial levels. Since Modi does not have a prime ministerial spokesperson, Akbaruddin also served as his spokesperson during Modi’s hectic itinerary of international visits.

Akbaruddin’s diplomatic postings include Counsellor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and various positions in missions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.(IANS)

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Concerns Rise Over China’s Stand at United Nations Human Rights Council

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing's human rights record during the most recent process.

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The 22nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva on Feb. 25, 2013. RFA

Rights activists are increasingly worried that Beijing’s influence operations are having a negative impact on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which concludes its 40th session on Friday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson warned in an article this week that China is seeking to undermine the mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council from within.

She also cited HRW research in 2017 which reported threats and harassment of U.N. staff involved in human rights evaluation by Chinese officials.

“As we head towards the final phase of [China’s U.N. human rights review], ask yourself: What other government threatens #humanrights treaty body experts?” Richardson tweeted on Thursday.

“As an [Human Rights Council] member #China is expected to uphold highest standards,” she wrote in another tweet, referencing a report in The New York Times. “Instead it tells people that merely attending an event is a ‘hostile act.'”

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During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council. VOA

According to HRW’s 2017 article based on a 97-page report: “Chinese officials have at times harassed and intimidated U.N. staff, experts on treaty bodies, and independent experts focusing on specific human rights issues.”

The 2014 death in detention of activist Cao Shunli, who was detained on her way to a U.N. human rights event in Geneva, also sent a “chilling” message to Chinese activists who may want to participate in the U.N. human rights process, the article said.

HRW isn’t the only human rights organization worried about Chinese influence at the U.N.

Renee Xia, who heads the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, reported from a side-event of the Human Rights Council conference in Geneva this week that it was “standing room only.”

“Strong show of interest despite #China urging countries not to attend,” Xia tweeted.

“The strong attendance was more remarkable esp. after #China officials went to many countries’ diplomats at the U.N., Geneva, to threaten them with “serious consequences” if they attended the side events,” she wrote in another tweet.

“#Bullying at the UN must stop!” she wrote.

‘So many restrictions’

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, is also in Geneva this week.

“To tell you the truth, my feelings during my two days here are that China has huge influence at the U.N.,” Wang told RFA.

“For example, at one side-event, it wasn’t just the Chinese delegation who spoke against [criticisms of Beijing’s rights record], but other countries came to speak in support of China’s position,” he said.

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“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights, Pixabay

Wang said tight controls over public speech also make it less likely that the ruling Chinese Communist Party will have to face criticism of human rights violations coming from within its own borders.

“There are a lot of people online in China, but they are under so many restrictions,” he said. “You can’t mention the Tiananmen Massacre. You can’t mention [late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner] Liu Xiaobo. You can’t say this, you can’t say that.”

“I don’t think that’s how you define freedom … but then the Chinese point to the U.N. charter, which says that all member states must be respected,” he said.

‘Autocratic rule the default’

Veteran New York-based rights activist Liu Qing said the work of the council had become “unrecognizable” to him.

“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights,” Liu told RFA.

“The only purpose of these countries in insinuating themselves into the Human Rights Council is to curb the positive role of the Human Rights Council and make autocratic rule the default setting on the international stage,” he said.

Amnesty International blogger Shao Jiang wrote in December 2018 that Beijing is reinterpreting universal human rights as merely the right to survival, freedom to access food, and regards other definitions of human rights as secondary to trade and economic development.

“The Chinese government has appointed government officials as independent experts into the UN’s Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and the U.N. treaty bodies,” Shao said.

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing’s human rights record during the most recent process.

During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council.

Also Read: Myanmar Government Calls Ethnic Armed Groups To Attend Collective Peace Discussions For The First Time

The United Nations now reports annually on government reprisals against human rights defenders participating in U.N. human rights efforts, Richardson wrote in an article in The Hill last December.

“China has topped the list of offenders in every report issued,” she said. (RFA)