Category Archives: Council

Freedom of Expression Vs. National Security

Over the years, there have been several discussions about how much of an individual’s rights can be restricted to ensure the safety of the nation. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of human rights state that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” In several nations however, there are laws that allow the government to curtail an individual’s rights. But, is this just? Should the government have the power to curtail an individual’s basic human right?

During the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, when a group of terrorists held several civilians hostage in the Taj Hotel, several news stations were reporting live from the scene, and were doing live broadcasts. They were also broadcasting videos of the militants. In this case, the broadcasts could have exposed the militants’ strategies to the terrorists, who held innocent civilians as hostages. This, thus, put civilian lives at risk and the TV stations were banned from broadcasting live from the scene. In such cases, the media houses should be sensible about the information they are broadcasting. They should have taken into consideration the fact that the terrorists could have access to a television, and not have jumped at this as an opportunity to improve their TRP rating. The government did the right thing by stopping the broadcast in this case, despite it curtailing the freedom of expression.

On the other hand however, there are cases like the Tiananmen Square protests on 1989. The protests were forcibly suppressed and the Communist Party of China has forbidden discussion of the event. Within a year of the protest, several newspapers were shut down and over 150 movies and books were banned. Several people born after 1990 are not even aware of this incident. Foreign journalists are frequently denied access to the Tiananmen Square during anniversaries. While the government takes these measures to prevent any future protests like the Tiananmen Square protests, and to prevent civil unrest, it curtails the freedom of expression of millions of people. Also, the reason for censoring this information is not well founded, because censoring all information related to the protests is not going to ensure that no other such protests take place. Neither will people start protesting once they read about this incident. Clearly, in this case, the Chinese Government either has more information about the event that could put the whole nation at risk, or have ulterior motives behind censoring the information. Maybe they just fear that this information will inspire others to protest against the corrupt officials and other issues with the Chinese government.

While it is important that the nation’s security is given more importance than an individuals’ rights, there will be corrupt officials who can take advantage of this and misuse it. But on the other hand, if the state does not have powers to curtail an individuals’ freedom of expression, the individual can also misuse it and put the entire nation at risk. Hence, the state should have the power to curtail the rights of an individual to protect the interests of the state. However, there should be methods to ensure that this is not misused by government officials. An independent committee, for example, can be set up to look into these issues.

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why ECOSOC

When most people envision a UN meeting, they see sharply dressed men and women dictating the course of the world. They see cunning orators backed by powerful nations controlling vast armies and deciding the fate of entire countries. They see suits fighting with vibrant eloquence, each desperately trying to make his or her stand, to have his or her say. But, nobody sees the men and women deliberating on how to protect the environment. Nobody sees the philanthropy planning the eradication of poverty. Nobody imagines the altruists devising the banishment of society’s most serious grievances.

The ECOSOC is commonly overlooked because it deals with long-lasting issues, and most of its resolutions do not generate swift corrections. However, of all the principal organs of the UN, ECOSOC is the one with the greatest chance of impacting the general populace. Whereas the Security Council and the General Assembly deal with issues at the global level, ECOSOC deliberates on issues that affect mankind at the individual level. ECOSOC, being a smaller subsidiary of the larger U.N.O, holds one supreme attribute, the attribute of specification. It is a specific committee for economic and social agendas, making it easier to understand the technicalities of its jurisdiction, and thus, is most capable in addressing the grass-root level issues and can most easily resolve all the passively sitting issues. The Millennium Development Goals are a great example of this. Each goal is geared towards mending a specific issue of society; from poverty to gender equality, from disease to child mortality, all the most pressing defects of society are addressed by these goals. ECOSOC has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these goals relentlessly since their declaration by the UN. This is not to say that the General Assembly, or the Security Council do not concern themselves with social, economic, or environmental issues – they do. But, after one of these two has passed a resolution regarding such matters, it is ECOSOC that follows up on the resolution, reviews its effectiveness, and proposes further adjustment, if any, at regular intervals.

Furthermore, of all the UN organs, it is ECOSOC which is the most farsighted in its discussions and resolutions – with environmental protection, and sustainable development as essential criteria for any decision made, it cannot afford not to be. Since the General Assembly and the Security Council focus on relatively immediate issues and threats, it is up to ECOSOC to develop plans for the more protracted risks to society.

Today’s world is beleaguered by a myriad of problems. Some of them are far away, in places we only ever see on maps. Others are closer to us, waving at us as we walk through our lives. The UN was founded to help us with those problems that we can’t deal with on our own, or those problems that require a coordinated effort to abolish. Each organ of the UN was appointed a specific task, a specific set of problems to defeat, so that we could lead enjoyable lives. More specifically, if we say the task appointed to the General Assembly and the Security Council is to ensure the existence of a world to live in, then the task appointed to ECOSOC is to ensure a society for us to live in. It is only if both these duties are carried out, that humankind can continue.