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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BRUSSELS1016 2009-07-24 11:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Brussels
Cable title:  

BELGIUM: COOPERATION URGED ON UNHRC

Tags:   PREL PHUM PINR UN BE 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001016 

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT NUMBERING)

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE, IO/RHS, AND DRL/MLGA
GENEVA FOR MARK CASSAYRE, ANNA CHAMBERS, MELANIE KHANNA AND
ANNA MANSFIELD
USUN FOR JENNIFER SIMON, CRAIG KUEHL, JOHN SAMMIS AND
LAURIE PHIPPS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2019
TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR UN BE
SUBJECT: BELGIUM: COOPERATION URGED ON UNHRC

REF: BRUSSELS 985

BRUSSELS 00001016 001.4 OF 002


Classified By: Acting Political Economic Counselor Robert Kiene for rea
sons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (U) Summary. With the U.S. a new member, and Belgium
now president of the United Nations Human Rights Council
(UNHRC), the time for coordination and consensus building is
now, according to Belgian MFA human rights officer Nathalie
Rondeux. Rondeux opposes wholesale changes to the UNHRC
system during the 2011 review, as this could jeopardize
recent positive achievements. End Summary.

Cooperation Requested


--------------------------





2. (U) Poloffs met with MFA human rights deputy counselor and
out-going EU negotiator in the UNHRC, Nathalie Rondeux, on
July 17. Rondeux has developed significant expertise during
her eight years as EU negotiator. She believes that
significant opportunities exist for the U.S. and Belgium to
work together in the Council. Rondeux said that Belgian
position are very close to U.S. positions, although not
identical. There will be many opportunities to wordsmith
agreements to achieve common goals. One area is the 2011
review of UNHRC. Increased cooperation can yield positive
results and re-focus the UNHRC on bad actors rather than bad
processes. She urged better coordination at all levels. She
believes a nuanced approach yields better outcomes than
drastic procedural changes, because this would provoke some
countries into requesting more concessions and result in a
loss of ground that has been clawed back over the last 18
months.

Differences Exist Between U.S. and Belgian Positions


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (C) Rondeux continued that evidently all countries have
differences of opinion. By and large the U.S. and Belgium
are well-aligned, despite some differences in opinion on
freedom of expression and children's and women's rights. She
stated that the U.S. is often able to take stronger positions
than Belgium, thanks to its influence in the international
"lobbying machinery". At the same time, the U.S. has a mixed
reputation on human rights, which has diminished its
influence in the UNHRC. The UN Human Rights Commission
(predecessor to the Council) viewed Guantanamo prison as a
step in the wrong direction. Out of solidarity with the
U.S., the EU was silent on this issue, which caused the
Council to lose credibility. Belgium stilr not signing the end treading soQtly in the 2011 review of the
way the UNHCR wrks.

Belgium's Aims


--------------------------





5. (C) Rondeux believes that there will be no chage in the
Belgian approach to human rights orits priorities under new
Foreign Minister Yves Leterme, and both he and the career
staff are committed to achieving the GOB's goals. Belgium
wants the UNHRC to be autonomous and independent of other UN
agencies. It wants the UNHRC to be able to take up issues,
like Darfur, during times of crisis and not only during
periodic reviews. Rondeux feels these goals could best be
achieved by first cautiously building a strong coalition of
like-minded states and then tackling the heavyweight issues.
In the short term, the EU and the U.S. experts should work on
these issues before the September meetings. The EU would
then discuss them internally in November. The earliest
opportunity to influence the UNHCR would be at the beginning

BRUSSELS 00001016 002.2 OF 002


of 2010 after both substance and style have been coordinated.



6. (C) Consensus would also have to be built outside of the
Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG). Rondeux said the
U.S. and Belgium can attract the support of certain countries
in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Latin American countries
that might be pre-disposed to helping (depending on the
issues) are Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile and
Guatemala. Brazil is often less helpful, not wanting to
appear too close to the WEOG and closer to the BRIC
countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. Potential Asian
allies are South Korea, Japan, Philippines and India, again
depending on the issues. African countries are also
important, with Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal and often Nigeria
willing to help. Rondeux was clear that sometimes countries
will take a different position than expected because of
internal political reasons and there can be differences
between capitals and the UNHRC in Geneva. She cited Cuba as
a consistently bad actor. However, now that the Council no
longer focuses specifically on Cuba, Belgium finds Cuba's
stance less aggressive on some topics such as the death
penalty and gay rights. Nevertheless, Cuba remains a
significant adversary and is able to wield significant
influence due to its diplomats' detailed knowledge of UN
procedures.

Belgium's' Two Durban Experiences


--------------------------





7. (C) Rondeux explained that Belgium's approach in the
UNHRC has always been to stay in the room and fight from the
inside. Rondeux was at both Durban meetings - in 2001 and


2009. In 2001, the contentious issues were reparations to
former colonies and events in the Middle East (the first
intifada). Belgium was then president of the EU and despite
its best efforts the Durban communiqu was "imperfect".
During the Durban Review Conference in 2009, religious issues
came more to the fore, and there was increasing pressure to
put religious rights above personal rights. That effort did
not succeed and ultimately Rondeux was able to persuade 25 of
the 27 EU member states to adopt appropriate language, with
only Italy and the Netherlands holding out. In Rondeux's
view, giving priority to religious rights would severely
weaken individual rights. In her opinion, negotiation is
more difficult once the U.S. leaves the room because there
are fewer like-minded countries to argue the points. She
mentioned that language condemning anti-Semitism provoked a
push for similar language from the Muslim and Christian
lobbies. She thinks the current norms adequately cover
religious hate speech.

BUSH