The 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum, organized by the Chinese State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was held in Beijing, China December 10-11, 2019.The English language press release provided by the Xinhua News Agency and reported by MSN, described the event in these terms:
2019 South-South Human Rights Forum builds consensus among developing countries
The 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum is held in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 11, 2019. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)
BEIJING, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- The 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum was held in Beijing from Tuesday to Wednesday. Attendees from home and overseas carried out in-depth exchanges and reached consensus based on the forum's theme "Diversity of Civilizations and Global Development of Human Rights."
Primary topics covered by the forum included "Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind and Global Human Rights Governance," "The Right to Development: The Belt and Road Initiative Promotes the Realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" and "The Practice and Experience of Human Rights Protection in the Countries of Global South."
The 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum was acclaimed by attendees as an important platform to promote the development and human rights progress of developing countries.
The forum was organized by the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More than 300 officials, experts, scholars and diplomats from over 80 countries, regions and international organizations attended the forum. ■
The contrast between the two Forums were noticeable in the longer description of the South South Forum provided (in Chinese) on the South South Forum Website. Singapore based CNA (an English language Asian news network) was critical but in the process exposed the fissures that are beginning to divide two distinct conversations about human rights in globalization;
BEIJING: China is ramping up a global campaign to promote its own vision of human rights, inviting the likes of North Korea and Syria to a forum on the topic and drafting other countries to back its policies at the UN. Western nations have condemned China's rights record, including a security crackdown that has detained an estimated one million mostly Muslim minorities in re-education camps in northwest Xinjiang region. China is responding with an increasingly strong counter-narrative, which emphasises security and economic development over civil and political freedoms. "The people of each country all have the right to decide for themselves their human rights development path," Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu told delegates at a summit on the issue this week. Attendees at the "South-South human rights forum" included representatives from North Korea, Pakistan and Syria - three countries with their own chequered human rights records. One of the speakers at the forum was a political adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of a series of chemical attacks and indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets in Syria's civil war. (China ramps up campaign to redefine 'human rights')The criticism, of course, is both accurate and misses the mark. It is true enough that the South-South Human Rights Forum might have been larded with "rejectionist" states. At the same time, rejectionism itself suggests the possibility of the construction of a counter-narrative. That counter-narrative means little if it comes from Damascus. It might well count for more if it is developed under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and its state apparatus.
This post considers some of the scope and implications of some of the differences between the "standard" human rights narrative overseen by the U.N. apparatus in Geneva and (sometimes) New York, and what may be emerging from South-South conversations under the leadership of China. It starts with my own brief reflections on the South-South Forum and then includes links to and translations of some of the key materials on the South South Human Rights Forum Website from which the reflections are drawn. The materials that follow include the original Chinese along with some crude English translations.