Zeid Raad Al Hussein
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Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein born (26 January 1964) in Amman, Jordan is a Jordanian diplomat who served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018. He played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and was elected the first president of the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court in September 2002. He is career diplomat, son of Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid, Lord Chamberlain of Jordan, and Swedish-born Margaretha Inga Elisabeth Lind, subsequently known as Majda Raad. He is the apparent first in line to the throne of the Kingdom of Iraq.
- Even in kindergarten, children should learn – and experience – the fundamental human rights values of respect, equality and justice. From the earliest age, human rights education should be infused throughout the program of every school – in curricula and textbooks, policies, the training of teaching personnel, pedagogical methods and the overall learning environment.
Children need to learn what bigotry and chauvinism are, and the evil they can produce. They need to learn that blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends. They should also learn that they are not exceptional because of where they were born, how they look, what passport they carry, or the social class, caste or creed of their parents; they should learn that no-one is intrinsically superior to her or his fellow human beings.
Children can learn to recognise their own biases, and correct them. They can learn to redirect their own aggressive impulses and use non-violent means to resolve disputes. They can learn to be inspired by the courage of the pacifiers and by those who assist, not those who destroy. They can be guided by human rights education to make informed choices in life, to approach situations with critical and independent thought, and to empathise with other points of view.
- Winston Churchill famously claimed that of all human qualities, courage was the most esteemed, because it guaranteed all others. He was right. Courage—moral courage—is the companion of great leadership. No politician could ever be viewed as exceptional unless he or she had it in spades. And historically there would have been no social progress if not for the presence of specific humans dissenting and breaking from herd-inspired suspicion and fear... At best, courage is self-sacrificing, non-violent, modest and based on universal principles — and immensely powerful. Think Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.
- Look at today’s politicians... keen to be viewed as the virile leaders of their respective countries; eager to inflate their image by harming migrants and refugees, the most vulnerable in society. If there is courage in that, I fail to see it. Authoritarian leaders, or elected leaders inclined toward it, are bullies, deceivers, selfish cowards. If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre... Too busy with themselves, or too afraid to stand up to the demagogues and for others, they seem to shelter in the safety of silence and shuffled papers. Only when they leave public office do some speak up, discovering their courage rather belatedly. Many come and go; no one really notices... In consequence, too many summits and conferences held between states are tortured affairs that lack profundity but are full of jargon and tiresome clichés that are, in a word, meaningless.
- If we do not change course quickly, we will inevitably encounter an incident where that first domino is tipped—triggering a sequence of unstoppable events that will mark the end of our time on this tiny planet...
- My hope lies in... the leaders of communities and social movements, big and small, who are willing to forfeit everything—including their lives—in defence of human rights. Their valour is unalloyed; it is selfless. There is no discretion or weakness here. They represent the best of us... There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region… the real store of moral courage and leadership among us...
- What if 100m or more people marched around the world in protest at what it is we now see: the ineptitude, selfishness, the cruelties and the threats to our collective well-being? ...This has never been done before; but if we did do it, it might just deliver a sort of shock therapy to those dangerous or useless politicians who now threaten humanity.
- Well, it's deeply regrettable of course because the assumption given is that the refugees themselves are migrants, so those seeking political asylum are the problem. And if there are differences between states, between countries, whether it be on trade or strategic issues or greater importance, then states have to really come to grips with the source of the problems. And often it's not the most vulnerable. It's not the migrants. It's not those who are seeking a better life. To me, it seems almost cowardly that governments should seek to sidestep that.
I have so much respect for the U.N. in the field, that humanitarian aid workers, the human rights officials. And what frustrates me a great deal is the intergovernmental discussions where the states themselves are often unable to arrive at a conclusion, where the discussions are often rather thoughtless, banal and sometimes too formulaic. And I think the world's people deserve better, and they deserve a political class around the world that is really solving the problems of the planet.
- Quoted by NPR: Former U.N. Human Rights Chief Outlines The State Of The Geopolitical Climate, NPR: All Things Considered, (18 September 2018)
- [Question: What surprised him most about his U.N. post?] I knew there would be strong pushback from governments, but I didn’t anticipate the degree of human suffering, the feeling of inadequacy. I could give speeches, do reports and press conferences, but it was not equal to the need to alleviate the suffering... You see the severest degradation. Bombs hit schools, hospitals, marketplaces, and law seems not to matter at all. All rules of war were cast aside... Today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.
- It seems President Trump is drawn by authoritarian leadership that shows little respect for human rights. This feeds the perspective that the U.S. doesn’t care. When he attacks the U.S. media as ‘enemies of the people,’ two days later [an autocrat like] Cambodia’s Hun Sen uses the same language... It’s not like we gave a pass to the Obama administration, but we were able to talk to the U.S. administration under Obama. This doesn’t apply to the Trump administration.
- Quoted byPhilly.com: Former UN human rights chief on Trump, populism, and complacency toward war crimes, Trudy Rubin (28 March 2019)
Quotes about him
- The University of Pennsylvania has named Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014-18), the Distinguished Global Leader-in-Residence at Perry World House (PWH) for spring 2019. In addition to his residency at PWH, Penn’s global policy research institute, Al Hussein will also co-teach a class at the Penn Law School... During a tenure that saw human rights abuses in Syria, Myanmar, and elsewhere, he earned a reputation for being courageous and outspoken.
- Penn Today: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein named Perry World House Distinguished Global Leader-in-Residence, Amanda Mott (12 November 2018)
- At a time of change around the globe, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has devoted his life of public service to making the world more just and more humane, At Perry World House, Zeid will help students better understand the relationship between progress in human rights, international institutions and new technologies. At the same time he serves as an example for everyone at Penn of how knowledge and understanding across divides can be used to advance good in our world.
- Amy Gutmann president of the University of Pennsylvania, quoted in: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein named Perry World House Distinguished Global Leader-in-Residence, Amanda Mott (12 November 2018)
- ...a most unusual man who recently stepped down from four years as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (a separate office from the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council). A Jordanian prince whose father is Arab and mother European, a Muslim who has visited Auschwitz and bicycled around Israel, he is a fervent believer in “the human rights of each individual, everywhere.” A soft-spoken man who talks with hard-edged eloquence, he took on an impossible job, challenging violators on all sides, whether American, Russian, Chinese, African, Arab, Israeli, or other. And doing it publicly.... His arrival on the job “coincided with the horrific beheadings that ISIS put online, and the sheer viciousness in Syria and Iraq was in full flower. There was the [civil war violence in] Central African Republic, Southern Sudan, then Myanmar and Yemen."
- What worried him most was the absence of any constraints on human rights violations. The massive slaughter, suffering, and displacement of civilians breeds bitterness that has future implications, Zeid warns. “Today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.”,
Moreover, the U.S. withdrawal from its longtime bipartisan role as human rights defender gives autocratic regimes more leeway to repress with impunity, even on issues Washington cares about... The former UN official criticized U.S. human rights violations wherever he saw them. “It’s not like we gave a pass to the Obama administration,” he notes, mentioning Guantanamo, torture, and killing of Afghan civilians. “But we were able to talk to the U.S. administration under Obama. This doesn’t apply to the Trump administration.” ...Zeid was as hard on violations by Arab states as those by Israelis. While he criticized Israeli killing of civilians in Gaza, he earned the ire of his own government with human rights critiques (despite being a former Jordanian ambassador to the United Nations and Washington).