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On 10 May 2023, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) President appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran to chair the 2023 Social Forum, which opens today.

“The upcoming Forum focuses on the contribution of science, technology, and innovation to promoting human rights, including in the context of post-pandemic recovery”.

appointing Iran is not a very popular choice among human right activists:

"...designating the Islamic Republic as the Chair-Rapporteur for this particular Forum on human rights and technology in 2023 is paradoxical. In the last few months, the Regime has used technologies such as facial-recognition cameras to threaten its citizens and identify participants in peaceful protests or those who do not comply with mandatory hijab regulations. Granting a platform to a regime that actively seeks to limit its population’s access to essential technologies like the Internet, hindering their ability to engage with NGOs, private businesses, and independent experts striving to create a more accessible and inclusive environment, should be regarded as a significant concern." (link)

What were the considerations of appointing Iran, considering their less than spectacular performance in promoting human rights?

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2 Answers 2

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Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs explained that

chairmanship of the Forum rotates regionally, in consistency with established UN procedures

It is worth noting that UN Watch, an independant NGO, commented that the Asian group, to which Iran belongs, has held the position four times in the past six years, to the exclusion of other regional groups.

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    This doesn't explain why it was given to Iran and not another member.
    – Joe W
    Nov 2, 2023 at 16:12
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It's worth pointing out that the Human Rights Council members are selected (at least in part) by region, and that the council has a policy of rotating its various offices among those regions to ensure representation. Ambassadors from countries with poor human rights records are going to end up on the council, and are eventually going to be assigned to prominent positions; that's unavoidable. Doing otherwise would call into question the political neutrality of the council.

It's also worth noting that an ambassador from a state with a problematic record can still represent the highest ideals of that state, not its worst behaviors.

At any rate, the HRC president had to choose the forum president from five candidates — one from each region — and will have to fill other roles and positions out of the 47 ambassadors elected to the council. Likely he got dealt a bad hand, and had to play it as best he could.

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    Was Iran the only member from that region that could have been selected?
    – Joe W
    Nov 2, 2023 at 16:26
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    Upvoted, but is one question where you really, really, need to overcome your allergy to posting references. You seem - HRC president had to choose - to have found knowledge of the procedures that are used. Please link to them because the devil is very much in the details - who is the HRC president? why choose Iran for this role and not others? etc, etc... Nov 2, 2023 at 16:28
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: I read the linked article, and then read the relevant portions of the HRC webpage, something I would expect any competent reader to do themselves. I don't happen to be privy to the internal discussion of HRC members, which is the only place you're going to find the 'why' you're looking for. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:31
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    @JoeW: As I understand the procedure, each region selects candidates for from their number for the post, and then the HRC president assigns someone from that list of five regional candidates. I can't yet find information online about the selection itself — it's probably somewhere, but it doesn't seem to have gotten much attention — but I'll keep looking. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:36
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: Apologies, that came across grumpier than I meant it to. having an off day... 🙄 Nov 2, 2023 at 16:47

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