Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Meet the Delegate
And now we present a report from Montreal the human rights assembly. This is a special series bringing you highlights of a recent international gathering held in Montreal Quebec bringing together some 80 unofficial delegates and observers from all parts of the world. The assembly was presented in connection with the current international year for human rights proclaimed by the United Nations and it was supported by the Johnson Foundation of Racine Wisconsin and other philanthropic organizations for this program. We take a meet the delegate theme and feature informal interviews with three prominent assembly participants two of them from Nigeria and one from the only communist nation represented Yugoslavia. First we're going to meet the president of the Assembly for Human Rights Under Secretary General of the United Nations. Director of the U.N. Institute for training and research and former representative of Nigeria to the U.N. jeep today about the most colorfully attired of the assembly delegates in his bowing robes and colorful headband began by describing his role as chief in
his native Nigeria. Well I come from a section of Nigeria in the south and part of the country from what he's now called the West on states in Nigeria. And I come from a community which had opportunities of education and development. I come from a community also a way in which we have different redly Jones half of my family and my family that is just say Christian. Half of them. I also come from a community had its roots in the old study shows but which also. How has managed to accommodate
just itself to the modern age a shift in CA that I have inherited had a dictionary in a sense but it is not study taught that history say by Deborah I do not have a particular territory in my my community but so the 15th on rally was a large ship in the United Kingdom would be. I went to schools of religious foundation primary and secondary level and I like to think that this has affected my own belief in the. Essential community of humanity and in the brotherhood of man. I have also had the opportunity in all the
schools I have attended primary secondary in the church Easter we have belonged and also in the contacts that I have made both in the civil service and in the world community. I've come across a great number of people of many lines. And this has left the impression upon my mind very firmly that the world is really one that good and bad people everywhere in the world. And although it is exceedingly difficult to promote this brotherhood of man in reality that it is something that is worth trying to do. All of the time and in so far as lies in my power wherever I may be whether serving my own country the United Nations or serving units as I do now or even any time and determined to use all my energies in the promotion of these ideals which I
firmly believe which of the Nigerian peoples do you represent. Well I don't represent a particular section of the Nigerian people. I think you mean to each one. I was there one in which I was born into. I always listen to eat you up on the tribe into which you have bombed the country into a ball on the continent into which you are born is merely an accident. I was born into the you're about tribe in the western states of Nigeria. But I have always had more friends elsewhere in Nigeria than even among my own tribe in Nigeria. Just as I have so many friends of different colors and different ethnic origins all over the world who are very dear to me even though they don't belong to the you're about in the western states of Nigeria would you like to see the divisions of people along tribal lines under played or devalued shall we say in Nigeria and elsewhere in
Africa. I think that first of all we must realize that what are called tribes in Nigeria and the rest of Africa just what are called ethnic groups elsewhere. I know there is some diversity as to whether we should use the term tribe and regard. But the thing is essentially the same. The problem is essentially the same just as in this great country of kind of the people of Quebec feel that there ought to be able to retain their racial identity. And the rest of Canada feel that they ought to be able to do so provided they already mean part of this country in the same way. I hope that in my own country of Nigeria though nobody can make any man forget that he was born into a particular ethnic group. That is you have put it. We should play the question of ethnic identity. Remember that within a country we are
all fellow citizens within these worlds. We're all fellow citizens of the larger world community. This seems to be too idealistic for some people. In my own experience I have found that it is possible to reconcile the tribal districts national. And the world ends without any detriment to the obligations that one has. Those different levels. We know that there have been some very serious threats to the unity of Nigeria in the eastern region I believe it is wants itself to be known as BE offer and this development hasn't been in the news very much of late and I wonder if you could bring us up to date on how that struggle is going and what hopes you may feel for a unified Nigeria over the long run.
I think it is regrettable that my country should be in the state in which it is today. I don't think this is the place to discuss how it has come to reach that position. But I want to assure you that it makes the hearts of. All Nigerians ache wherever they may be that we're in this dilemma. I am more firmly convinced than ever that Nigeria should continue to try to be one country. And my hope is that with determination hopefully and ighly dates of the present conflict and with the determination that I know a great many Nigerians process of reconstructing their country on very firm bases of justice and freedom that we shall be able to remain one country. You see that he's a gentle man in kind of
just now at the same time as myself. Francis CBM who has always been one of the most prominent church leaders. He and I have been great friends ever since we came to know each other in spite of the fact that I am your neighbor and he's an ebook. And whatever happens I think that we can really construct our country on the bases that suffer ICBM and I will always be friends and that we shall be able to set examples to the rest of Nigeria that in spite of the unfortunate episodes that have played plague that country in the last two and a quarter years and shall remain one must remain well in conditions in which both he and myself and all of the people of Nigeria will be able to enjoy a glorious future in freedom. Calling ourselves
and treating ourselves as fellow citizens of united Nigeria to fight a war. You recall one of the speakers at an assembly session here in Montreal. I made the point if I understand him right that the Africans the newly developing independent nations of Africa have in effect learned. They're whatever they know about the human rights problem from former Western colonialists he seems to have felt that there would not be racial or other human rights discriminations in Africa. If this had not been imported from the Western nations. I wonder if you have any reaction to that theory or that contention. I'm not sure that that's was that is the proper construction of the statement that was made.
But if it was I would say it right away. I don't quite agree because I think that in all of the continents we've seen all of the countries in this world that our manifestation is in varying degrees of discrimination if not on grounds of color on grounds of language grounds of tribal ethnic origin. And I do not think that one can say that a metropolitan country imported these idea of discrimination into its colonies. What I can say is that colonialism was responsible for. Worsening the tendency in many areas of the world suddenly in Africa racial
discrimination between white and black is off colonial is definitely of colonial auditing. I don't think that even the representatives of the Metropolitan countries will deny that and I think that that was the intent of the statement of the particular person you quoted. I don't think you meant that discrimination of any kind whatsoever or so imported. But the discrimination between white and black was of colonial origin. Because the presence of the white man in Africa itself was of colonial audit you or you know that the independent nations of Africa have a great interest in the apparent discrimination that goes on in South Africa and Rhodesia and Mozambique and some countries in the southern part of the continent. Do you feel cheated able that the United Nations or any arm of it can be effective
in changing that situation. Well I think that is quite definitely yes in certain circumstances. The United Nations has been struggling with this problem through the General Assembly and the Security Council for many years. The United Nations are succeeded in securing worldwide condemnation of up a fight and other racist manifestation in South Africa over many years by the United Nations are filled to devise and implement effective measures to check these racist manifestations. It's the little additional which the United Nations can be effective is that those who compose the United Nations should be prepared to support their governments and compare their governments to join in affective measures to deal with this matter.
For instance the great powers of the world the United States the Soviet Union Frons Germany and we we also would include the media empires as well like Canada and the rest of them must be prepared to make the sacrifice economical. Especially that would be necessary if this matter was to be tackled effectively and I think that's just say that at this moment it does not appear that the world is prepared to make that sacrifice and our feeling in Africa is that the longer the solution the inevitable solution is delayed the greater will be the price that will have to be paid when the solution house to be
effected. Many of the African representatives seem to feel that Britain should intervene actively in Rhodesia this is just to cite one example the British probably feel that would be an undertaking that would be extremely difficult for them to carry out with their resources being what they are. But I wonder if you would have any particular position on that issue. I think I do. I have no doubt in my mind that the British have made unfortunate errors that have made their position exceedingly difficult and you've got to DCA. First the geode the use of force from the outset and proclaimed that they were not going to do anything forcible. Well I think that was crazy because if you tell people that if anybody comes into your house no matter what he does in your house you are not going to use force. You know I encouraging him to do what he might not have done and I do
feel honestly that the British way now to have done that I believe that if they had not obviated the use of force from the outset that the fact that force could be used might of have prevented the Ian Smith regime from taking power because once they knew they could do it with impunity they just went ahead. Secondly I agree that the British because of the weakness of the economy would be quite unable to take on. And the combination of Ian Smith and South Africa and Particle at the same time. But if they had the will to follow principle to its logical conclusion and they were to ask honestly sincerely and genuinely and effectively for the I ask for the assistance of the United Nations. They have enough friends in the
United Nations who would have supported them in this and made it possible for the tasks to be done effectively. I think if they had the will that would be the way that he's my own view and I think that the British have to accept responsibility for having made on ugly an ugly situation even by the tardiness and the lack of will that they have demonstrated throughout. It's a general problem that can be read all through the current history of the United Nations isn't it. That whereas there is plenty of goodwill plenty of ideals plenty of proclamations that when it comes right down to putting the force to deal with a certain situation a certain inequities around the world that is where the problem lies isn't it. I think so and I think it is unfortunate because there isn't any country in Africa that wants the
application of force for its own sake. And we hope that the time will come when it will not be necessary to apply force in order in order to get the bulk of the world to conform to the principles of the charter of which we are signatories. But until that time arrives force must be available for use as a matter of last resort. Just as with individual countries no country cannot Geode the use of force when it does not yet been able to create a society in which there would be no violence at all on the part even of any dissenting minority. So we feel that where force must be billable to the United Nations to use as a means of last resort and that if the United Nations develops a will to use this force in circumstances in which justice demands they should be
used. It would be making a contribution to pacifying this world and making it world in which we can all live in peace. One last question at all. Are there any particular recommendations that you would like to see this assembly on human rights forward. I would like to see this assembly go on record as recommending to the TED conference that if human rights should be promoted and protected in future we should do less of talking but more of acting. Thank you thank you very much Chief S. O. They have a president of the Assembly for Human Rights at Montreal. Now we're going to hear in this series of informal interviews from another Nigerian delegate at the Assembly for human rights and he too betrays a particular interest in the apartheid problem of South Africa. Here now is one of the prominent
delegates at this assembly for human rights in Montreal Quebec. Mr. Ray Mohamad representative of Nigeria to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Mr. Muhammad will you summarize for us your experience so far with the United Nations. That is a very difficult thing to do. My experience in the United Nations is not just limited to the human rights field. And as you know the human rights field is a very very wide one. But if I could put it in a very terse nutshell my experience in the human rights field of the United Nations has been one of frustration because really we have reached us sort of a vicious cycle in that field because of the fact that the majority of members in the United Nations as far as the field of human rights I can say is concerned have. Had. Several frustrations or have had their aspirations dashed into lack of success.
Every area of human rights therefore suffers. Are you in favor of a drastic reorganization of the human rights machinery of the United Nations. Absolutely. I have tried to do my little piece of it in many ways in spite of all the oppositions that I get. Now of course any kind of revolutionary revision of the human rights work of the United Nations must be done with certain amount of circumspection. My most area of concern and where I'm swinging my greatest weight is to see that I try or we try to separate human rights problems as distinct from political problems. There is a proposal that is running through a great deal of discussion at the assembly. As you know. Possibly recommending a commission on human rights. How would this differ from the Human Rights setup that we now have in the United Nations. Well if you mean the High Commissioner for Human Rights Now the high
commissioner for human right as far as I am concerned so long as he is to be appointed by the General Assembly and that is what the proposal is is just another means of implementation. Now my view of that is although he might help in revolutionizing the problem of implementation which is the greatest problem in this in this field as the United Nations is concerned as a system of implementation and there is an international one at that appointed by the General Assembly he must again absolute acceptance because he is going to be something like an international on which meant. Now the thing is this because of the political nature of the problem at the moment in the United Nations. First of all it is very very difficult to get any one person in the world who could be universally accepted at the same time it is impossible to get his terms of reference which could be acceptable to or. Areas of the world. In other words if we have an African as a human rights commissioner
he may not gain respect in the West. He can never gain access into South Africa. If we get a Latin American he may gain respect in the West but he can never be admitted into the socialist countries. Oh Mr. Mohamed are you saying then that although this is ideally a practical arrangement that you don't think it will work in practice at the moment no. And that is why my contention is to reopen the whole question of the appointment of the High Commission in the international conference of human rights into heroin so that we can argue with the Russians who have so far been the greatest opponents of this idea. Now if we argue with them perhaps we might convince them which is almost unlikely but at least we could give them a hearing. And if we get the high commission I do at least have his area of work in the western world in Africa parts of Asia and Latin America. It will still be an achievement. When are the Human Rights Commission and the U.N. as a subdivision of the economic and
social cons. Is it not. Yes it is the U.N. under a changed arrangement would it be escalated into a major body not being a subdivision of some other group and I advocate that idea yes we want. Originally to have the human rights work to be entrusted to a council as a matter of fact we were thinking that now the trusteeship council which has to do with colonialism. Now the colonial era is dying out and therefore that council is having less and less work to do. So we want the trusteeship council to be transformed into a human rights council. But that would involve the division of the charter which is equally opposed by the Soviet Union United States and other powerful nations and the United Nations. So we think we should escalate the Commission on Human Rights to be something like a commission in the same lines as the International Law Commission directly responsible to the General Assembly instead of what it is now through the Economic and Social Council.
Well you don't however see a very immediate prospect of realizing this. If we take it in this way that is try to establish in the same way as the International Law Commission had been established. I am very optimistic because the African and Asian countries who constitute the majority in the United Nations would support any resolution in this line. Now once a resolution is approved such a commission would be established. But if we say we are going to create something like a specialized agency like UNCTAD or like I O it would require a big international conference and therefore exciting financial implications which the Russians and the Americans would equally oppose. Do you foresee any situation anytime in the forseeable future when any individual around the world might take a grievance with respect to deprivation of human rights. Some United Nations agency Well international body in my aspirations here defy was the reality in this field. I don't know whether you know it but the separate protocol which is now appended to the Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights was my own draft and I firmly believed in it because I said. It is doesn't make sense that as me as an individual with other individual would organize a government to protect us. And now we find we have to be protected from our own governments and it is absolutely necessary in that case to get some kind of a super power home could hear my complaint. If my government violates my rights. But that would be called visionary by a great many people. Absolutely but as it is it is almost impossible because Africa Asia particularly the communist countries are violently against any idea of individual communications because they say you cannot do that until the individual becomes a subject of international law. Not as far as I am concerned with the development of modern technology the fact that today I can be here and before sundown I could be in Africa and so forth and these this idea of cheer ism and its encouragement even by the United
Nations really makes the individual an international human being. Mr. Muhammad another subject that seems very very prominent here at the Assembly for human rights is a rather specific one dealing with with what I guess most of the delegates consider the most serious localized problem and human rights which is apartheid in the country of South Africa would you say that the independent nations of Africa including your own have more or less unified or solid front where apartheid is concerned or they differ among themselves. They don't at all and so at the question of a past they discuss and all African countries without exception have a very solid front. And anything that you would do in the field of human rights particularly in the United Nations so long as you don't talk about anything regarding the solution of a pathway. The other African countries are simply not interested.
What specifically do you think the international world could do about apartheid. You have a contest between certain rights to national sovereignty such as claimed by South Africa but you can also theorize that there are common interests that go beyond national boundaries and that the United Nations or other international organization should do something tangible something drastic about apartheid. So where do you come out. There are various I give mentation at this point for instance and that is this maxim of international law that is not gaining ground that any country which has laws or has established laws based on discrimination or. Delegating the rights of individuals to such an extent as to shock human conscience. Then international action or international intervention in that country is justified. Also many members in the United Nations are now I giving that Article 2 7 which is the tickle which provides that
non intervention in the past affairs of other countries must not be delved into by the United Nations seem to interpret that article not to affect the areas of human rights. But still this is a matter of contention of course. Each country can come into play to save them so long as they don't want anybody to delve into the FS. Not as high as South Africa is concerned all the African countries believe that Article 2 7 do not affect the idea in the southern Africa area that is to say South West Africa and South Africa. But this of course they receive opposition from mostly the Western powers. Well if the precedent is set for intervention and human rights disputes that would that affect your own country of Nigeria for example. Well you have heard about slaughter of the Ebola tribesmen in various parts of the country and this is only one country among many which has had its internal upsets so that you might might you not find a
situation someday where the United Nations body is taking it upon itself to intervene in Nigeria or any other country around the world.
- Meet the Delegate
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- For series info, see item 3739. This prog.: Meet the Delegate. Chief S.O. Adebo, Nigeria, Undersecretary-General, U.N.; A.A. Mohammed, Nigeria, U.S. Commission on Human Rights; Anton Vratusa, Yugoslavia, Ambassador to the U.N.
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Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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- Chicago: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Meet the Delegate,” 1968-11-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 9, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h41jnf58.
- MLA: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Meet the Delegate.” 1968-11-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 9, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h41jnf58>.
- APA: Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Meet the Delegate. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h41jnf58