The position of the member states of the Human Rights Council on the Sri Lankan resolution and its final content

As the UNHRC member states voted on the Sri Lankan resolution last month, it is important to know how member states generally make their decisions on country focused and thematic issues.

In the last 46th session, as a usual practice, countries differed from each other on their  policy approaches based on global north and south geographical divisions regarding the resolution on Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council. The global south and north divide is one of the major factor in terms of cultural, political and geographical differences in the context of country-specific resolutions. The global south countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America continue to oppose resolutions by the countries of the global North, West and Eastern Europe.

Western European countries, Canada and the United States often through diplomatic means exert their pressure on small African, Asian and Latin American countries to push them to vote in their favour. Powerful countries like China, Russia and India are  in general take positions against country-specific resolutions. It is an extension of their political and foreign policy decisions. China has often opposed to interfere in the internal political affairs of other countries in the name of human rights. During the discussions on the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka, Mr. Chen Soo, the Chinese Representative, expressed his views on the double standard and duplicity of international politics on human rights, the politicisation of human rights and the intervention into the domestic affairs of countries.

Russia, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Pakistan, meanwhile, have condemned the High Commissioner’s report. India’s position on the Sri Lankan resolution is based on its regional politics and neighborhood policy. Because of its neighbors first policy India  gives priority to its neighboring countries. In the context of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s pro-China stance also becomes a deciding factor.  Recent geopolitical developments such as  initiative of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in setting up a maritime joint secretariat of the Indian Ocean in the backdrop of   last Indo-Pacific Quad Summit of India, the United States, Australia and Japan has also direct impact on  the human rights council. Furthermore, Sri Lanka’s current agreement to hand over the Western Container Terminal of the Colombo port to the India-Japan Development Program also should be taken as a key factor, although it is less of a strategic importance than the Eastern Container Terminal.  These pro-India geopolitical moves.

As a consequence, Sri Lanka resolution further watered down by the West and India.  In light of these geopolitical developments  India had two options to oppose or abstain from voting on the resolution on Sri Lanka. Finally, India abstained from the voting in the human rights council.   In the meanwhile, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Colombage confirmed in an interview that there had been an ongoing talks between India and Sri Lanka regarding the Indo-Pacific regional security at the National Security Council (ICC) level.  This again made it clear that the activities of the Human Rights Council, especially the content of the resolution on Sri Lanka and the vote on the resolution are in line with the geopolitical interests of major powers in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the same interview foreign secretary Comlombage used the terms strategic competition, strategic convergence and strategic dilemma to describe the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and the activities of the regional powers in the region. In this backdrop the Tamil people must be aware of the fact that in international relations economic and political interests of the West in the liberal world order inevitably linked to geopolitical interests. Further, it has direct relevance to their human rights approach towards other countries like Sri Lanka.

To this end, the Sri Lankan issue has been consistently maintained by the West as a tool of pressure within the United Nations human rights council agenda. It gives them a leverage to exert pressure on Sri Lanka based on its China centric approach. A letter from the British Minister of State for South Asian and Commonwealth Affairs (TARIQ) AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth to a Tamil diaspora organization makes it clear that these countries are currently reluctant to take the Sri Lankan issue to the other international forums like International Criminal Court and continue to keep Sri Lanka only within the human rights council agenda.

In the context of the current situation, Asian, African and Latin American countries, with the exception of the African country of Malawi, supported Sri Lanka.

Main and co-sponsors of the resolution :

Main sponsors:

United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Motenegro, North Macedonia


Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slocakia, Slovenia. Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States of America.

Therefore, the Tamil people must be aware that the content of the Sri Lankan resolution and the final voting on it were not be determined by the moral values ​​of the West on human rights, but by their geopolitical interests and the political positions of the globally divided human rights member states.

by Kananathan

Master of International Relations.

Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations


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