UN Watch

Extended-protected article
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United Nations Watch
TypeNon-governmental organization[1]
FieldsUnited Nations,[1] Human rights[1] and struggle against anti-Semitism[2]
Key people
Alfred H. Moses, Chair;[1]
Per Ahlmark, David A. Harris, Co-Chairs;[1]
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director[3]
Morris B. Abram, Founder[4]

UN Watch is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization (NGO) whose stated mission is "to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter".[1] It is an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council and an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.[5]

Agence France-Presse has described UN Watch both as "a lobby group with strong ties to Israel"[6] and as a group which "champion[s] human rights worldwide". The organisation has been active in denouncing human rights abuses worldwide, for instance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela, often using its allotted time at the UNHRC to allow for dissidents and human rights activists to speak. Primarily, UN Watch denounces what it views as anti-Israel sentiment at the UN and UN-sponsored events.[7][8]


UN Watch was founded in 1993 under the chairmanship of Morris B. Abram. Abram served as the Chairman of the United Negro College Fund and President of Brandeis University. Abram was active in community affairs as President of the American Jewish Committee (1963–1968); Chairman of the National Coalition Supporting Soviet Jewry (1983–1988); and Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1986–1989).[4]

Abram supported the UN as an institution. In 1999, Abram delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress on the subject of the treatment of Israel by the United Nations in which he said "UN Watch categorically supports the UN as an indispensable institution. The US should pay its past dues to the UN as a matter of national honor and in recognition of the UN's importance. In spite of the UN's flaws, it is inconceivable that the US withhold support from the only truly global organization in such an interdependent world."[9][10]

After Abram died in 2000, David A. Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, was elected Chairman of UN Watch.[11]

In 2001, Harris announced that UN Watch had become a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Jewish Committee. According to a press release at the time, “UN Watch was established with the generous assistance of Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress. Eighteen months ago, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress reached an agreement, approved by the international board of UN Watch, to transfer full control of the organization to AJC, an agreement that went into effect on January 1, 2001.”[11]

Since 2013, UN Watch claimed it is no longer affiliated with AJC and is an independent organization.[12]

Structure and status

UN Watch participates at the UN as an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). It is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee,[13][14] a NGO established in 1906, which was a pioneer advocate of the UN Charter's inclusion of international human rights guarantees, and the creation of the post of a High Commissioner of Human Rights.[15]

UN Watch has participated in the following UN activities: the Commission on Human Rights, a Panel Discussion on the United Nations and the Middle East, a Panel Discussion on Proposals to Reform the Commission on Human Rights, the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Working Group on Minorities. A UN Watch seminar in Geneva featured a tour of the Palais des Nations, a visit to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, and attendance at a meeting of the Committee Against Torture (CAT) with briefings from the Committee's Vice Chair.[16]

In October 2008, UNHCR listed the organization as having a staff of six.[17] UN Watch had 110 members in 2007, geographically distributed as follows: 56% from Europe, 38% from North America, and 4% from Oceania.

Commentary from the group has appeared in the BBC,[18] Al Jazeera,[19] Reuters,[20] Washington Post,[21] Agence France-Presse,[22] Voice of America,[23] The Jerusalem Post,[24] Fox News,[25] JTA,[26] and others.

Board and funding

Current board members are:[27]

Former board members include:

UN Watch is funded by private individual donations and charitable foundations.[16]

Positions and activities



In 2008, UN Watch denounced the elimination of the post of United Nations special rapporteur for the Congo at the United Nations Human Rights Council which was done with the support of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Russia and other countries following a request by the Congolese administration. Other rights groups called for the reestablishment of the post.[28] In December 2009, UN Watch said a total of 50 groupings had signed the appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and human rights chief Navi Pillay, asking to restore the post of UN rights monitor there.[29]


On 27 April 2008, UN Watch joined human rights organizations around the world in launching a "Justice for Darfur" campaign. The organizations behind the campaign included Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch. The campaign called on the United Nations Security Council, regional organizations and national governments to pressure Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, and to arrest suspected war criminals Ali Kushayb and Ahmad Harun. The Sudanese government had refused to surrender either suspect to the Court, and had in fact promoted Harun to the position of State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs.[30]


UN Watch commended the US, France and other democracies for their “forceful criticism” of Iran's human rights record at a UN hearing in Geneva's UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in February 2010.[31]


Following Switzerland’s 2009 vote to ban minarets, UN Watch stated that it was particularly embarrassed by the fact and that it will work toward its repeal. The NGO's director Hillel Neuer said that banning of Muslim structures by a government is wrongful discrimination.[32]

UNHRC elections

Along with Freedom House, UN Watch has opposed the candidacies of states with poor human rights records for the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 2006 UN resolution establishing the council requires that, in electing states to the panel, UN member states "shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights."[33]


In May 2007, UN Watch and Freedom House submitted a joint report on an election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating that candidates Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar were unfit to sit on the human rights body, because they themselves violated rights. The report said that the four countries "are authoritarian regimes with negative UN voting records (on rights issues) and are not qualified to be Council members". The report further described candidates Slovenia, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands as "well qualified" for the Council, and called candidates Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, the Philippines and South Africa as "questionable".[34]


In May 2009, UN Watch and Freedom House again submitted a joint report on a UNHRC election. The report described candidates China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia as "the worst of the worst" in terms of human rights. The report also described candidates Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Djibouti and Russia as "not qualified", and Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Senegal as "questionable". UN Watch and Freedom House described the council's record for its first three years as poor. They stated that Islamic countries with Cuban support rewrote rules for a freedom of expression monitor in a manner that limits expression, and that an "alliance of regressive regimes" succeeded in having the Council cancel human rights investigators for trouble spots such as Belarus, Cuba, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur. In contrast, they said, the alliance led to the council appointing an investigator who was involved in founding a controversial human rights prize in honor of Muammar al-Gaddafi and another who believes that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. Hillel Neuer said, "The vision had been that the council would be a voice for victims, but it is now in a state of crisis."[35]


UN Watch expressed alarm over a report that Asian countries might facilitate Iran’s election in May 2010 to the 47-member UNHRC.[31]


UN Watch is credited with leading the campaign to deny Syria's bid for a seat.[36]


UN Watch strongly condemned the 2014 elections of Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, and Russia to the Human Rights Council. In an interview by France 24, executive director Hillel Neuer called this a “black day for human rights.”[37] A campaign to remove these countries from the body, "Dictator-free HRC" is ongoing along with a petition on the organization's website.[38][39]

Other UN activities

Goldstone Report

UN Watch submitted a 29-page legal petition to the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict requesting the recusal of member Christine Chinkin because she was one of 31 academics and lawyers who had co-signed a letter published in the Sunday Times before being selected for the mission that accused Israel of not complying with international humanitarian and human rights law.[40] The letter described Israel's military offensive in Gaza as "an act of aggression", stating that "invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law", and adding that "the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes".[41] UN Watch stated that, since Chinkin had already formed and expressed a judgment on the very issues the Mission was meant to investigate, she could not fulfill the impartiality requirement for fact-finding missions.[40] The petition cites authorities of international law, including a 2004 precedent of the international tribunal for Sierra Leone, in which Justice Geoffrey Robertson was disqualified by his fellow judges over the appearance of bias.[42]

The UN Watch request was covered by the Deutsche Presse Agentur and the Khaleej Times[43] and Agence France Presse.[6] UN Watch further noted that in a May 2009 meeting with Geneva NGOs, Chinkin denied that her impartiality was compromised, saying that her statement only addressed jus ad bellum, and not jus in bello; however, according to UN Watch, the statement not only determined that "Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence," but additionally charged that they were "contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law," and constituted "prima facie war crimes."[44]

The inquiry members rejected the petition and said that the mission investigated whether Israel, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority had unnecessarily caused death or injury to innocent civilians by specific acts of armed conflict that violated international humanitarian law and international human rights law stating "On those issues the letter co-signed by Professor Chinkin expressed no view at all."[45][46] The members further wrote in their reply that the fact-finding mission cannot be considered a judicial or even a quasi-judicial proceeding.[46] Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, said that the arguments raised by the mission ignored the well-established set of standards to international fact-finding missions.[47] Goldstone said that the letter signed by Chinkin could have been the grounds for disqualification, had the mission been a judicial inquiry.[48]

Israel and antisemitism

UN Watch is active at the UN in combating what it considers anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes, and what it dubs the selective and politicized treatment of Israel by many UN bodies.[49] The group supported former Secretary General Kofi Annan's declared goal of ending the UN's imbalanced treatment of Israel[50] and has been highly critical of the United Nations Human Rights Council.[7][8][51] The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has described U.N. Watch as a pro-Israel organization.[52]

March 2007 UNHRC speech

On 23 March 2007, UN Watch's Hillel Neuer delivered a harshly critical speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), stating that the Council had betrayed the dreams of its founders and become "a nightmare". Neuer charged that the Council ignores human rights abuses worldwide, opting instead to enact "one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel". He further argued that the Council's stated concern for Palestinian human rights is deceptive, and provided examples where he said it ignored atrocities against Palestinians "because Israel could not be blamed. … The despots who run this Council couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights. They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people."[53]


Sexual exploitation

UN Watch, the World YWCA, and the World Alliance of YMCAs published a statement against sexual exploitation and child pornography. "Today far too many children are sexually exploited and abused causing lifelong damage. More than two million children are exploited in the multibillion-dollar sex industry each year and 1.2 million children are trafficked annually", the statement said.[54]

Reception history

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said "I deeply appreciate the valuable work performed by UN Watch. I believe that informed and independent evaluation of the United Nations' activities will prove a vital source as we seek to adapt the Organization to the needs of a changing world."[55][56] At the 2006 Centennial Anniversary of the American Jewish Committee, the Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, praised the work of UN Watch by saying "allow me to also pay tribute to the valuable work of UN Watch in support of the just application of values and principles of the United Nations Charter and support for human rights for all."[57]

Ian Williams, former president of the United Nations Correspondents Association[58] and author of The UN For Beginners,[59] wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian in 2007 that the main objective of UN Watch "is to attack the United Nations in general, and its human rights council in particular, for alleged bias against Israel". Williams supported UN Watch's condemnation of the UN Human Rights Council as a hypocritical organization, but also accused UN Watch itself of hypocrisy for failing to denounce what he called "manifest Israeli transgressions against the human rights of Palestinians."[60]

Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence with the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, praised UN Watch as "stalwart and invaluable".[61]

The American journalist and political activist Phyllis Bennis described UN Watch as a "small Geneva-based right-wing organisation" that is "hardly known outside of UN headquarters".[62] She stressed that "undermining and delegitimising" Richard Falk through "scurrilous accusations" has been an "obsession of UN Watch" when he became Special Rapporteur.[62]

Agence France-Presse has described UN Watch both as "a lobby group with strong ties to Israel"[6] and as a group which "champion[s] human rights worldwide".[63] The Economist has described UN Watch as a "pro-Israeli monitor".[64]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mission and History". UN Watch. Archived from the original on 26 November 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  2. ^ "The United nations and Anti-Semitism – 2004–2007 Report Card" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  3. ^ "UN Watch: Executive Director Hillel Neuer". Unwatch.org. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b "UN Watch: Founder: Morris B. Abram". Unwatch.org. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  5. ^ Mission & History Archived 26 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, UN Watch
  6. ^ a b c Capella, Peter (7 July 2009). "UN Gaza probe chief underlines balanced approach". Agence France Presse. Archived from the original on 22 December 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Pro-Israel Activists Set To Do Battle At Durban II". Jewish Times. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b "U.N. rights chief praises Durban II". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  9. ^ United States. Congress. House. Committee on International Relations. 1999. The treatment of Israel by the United Nations [microform] : hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Sixth Congress, first session, 14 July 1999 U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the U.S. G.P.O., Supt. of Docs., Congressional Sales Office, Washington : 1999
  11. ^ a b "UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership". American Jewish Committee. 4 January 2001. Archived from the original on 18 January 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Mission & History".
  13. ^ "AJC Office and Departments". AJC. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  14. ^ "AJC Activities in Europe". AJC. Archived from the original on 11 April 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  15. ^ "Human Rights – American Jewish Committee". Ajc.org. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  16. ^ a b "UN: Quadrennial reports 2002–2005 submitted through the Secretary-General pursuant to Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31". United Nations. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  17. ^ "UNHCR – UN Watch / United Nations Watch". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Non-governmental Organization Directory. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 1 October 2008. Archived from the original on 18 February 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  18. ^ "Human Rights and Wrongs at the UN". BBC. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  19. ^ Kristen Saloomey in New York. "Debate rages over UN rights council". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  20. ^ "Reuters: UN urges China to protect human rights as state denies charges". World Bulletin / News from Turkey and Islamic World. Worldbulletin.net. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  21. ^ Rifkin, Ira (1 April 2009). "Guest Voices: Speaking Truth to the UN Human Rights Council". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  22. ^ "UN rights council divided over Sri Lanka". Mg.co.za. AFP. 26 May 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  23. ^ "UN Human Rights Council Candidates Raise Concerns". Voice of America. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  24. ^ Gold vs Goldstone Jerusalem Post:
  25. ^ "U.S. Taxpayers Pay Millions to Keep Despots Safe at U.N". Fox News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  26. ^ "U.N. watchdog slams religious defamation resolution". Jta.org. 12 March 2009. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  27. ^ "Mission and History". Unwatch.org. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  28. ^ Rights group calls for U.N. apology over Congo post, Reuters 26 November 2008
  29. ^ Groups call for UN rights monitor for Congo, Reuters, 23 December 2009
  30. ^ "Justice for Darfur" Campaign Launched, Amnesty International 25 April 2008
  31. ^ a b Iran under fire at UNHRC, Jerusalem Post. 16 February 2010
  32. ^ A Swiss Ban on Minarets, New York Times, 18 December 2009
  33. ^ States vie for seats on disputed UN rights body, Reuters 21 May 2008
  34. ^ Groups call 4 countries unfit for UN rights body, Reuters 7 May 2007
  35. ^ Oppressors running for UN rights council: Groups[permanent dead link], Montreal Gazette 5 May 2009
  36. ^ Jordana Horn, "Syria may drop bid for Human Rights Council seat", Jerusalem Post, 10 May 2011.
  37. ^ 'Black Day for Human Rights': Hillel Neuer on France 24 TV. YouTube. 12 December 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  38. ^ "Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy". genevasummit.org. Archived from the original on 14 November 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  39. ^ What if dictatorships judged the world on human rights?. YouTube. 2 March 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  40. ^ a b "Request To Disqualify Prof. Christine Chinkin From Un Fact Finding Mission On The Gaza Conflict" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  41. ^ Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime, The Sunday Times, 11 January 2009.
  42. ^ NGO: Academic should quit Cast Lead inquiry, Jerusalem Post. 23 August 2009
  43. ^ "UN's Goldstone completes public hearings on Gaza conflict". Khaleej Times. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  44. ^ LSE Law Professor Urged to Step Down from U.N Gaza Inquiry over Bias Archived 22 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine, UN Watch, 20 August 2009.
  45. ^ Dispute over 'biased' Gaza inquiry professor, TheJC.com, 27 August 2009.
  46. ^ a b U.N. Goldstone inquiry rejects ’so-called petition of UN Watch’; denies mission is quasi-judicial, UN Watch, 30 August 2009
  47. ^ Gold vs Goldstone, Jerusalem Post. 11 November 2009
  48. ^ Goldstone walks a fine line in an ancient war zone, BusinessDay, 4 August 2009.
  49. ^ "UN Watch – Mission & History". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  50. ^ "Annan Made the Nations a Little Less United Against Israel". Forward. 23 December 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  51. ^ "National Public Radio: Zionism Debate Clouds U.N. Racism Forum". Npr.org. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  52. ^ Abraham H. Foxman (8 September 2008). "JTA: U.N. rights chief praises Durban II". Jta.org. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  53. ^ "I Will Not Express Thanks". The New York Sun. 30 March 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  54. ^ NGO Statement on the Revision of the Council Framework Decision on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child-pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA
  55. ^ "UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership". Charitywire.com. Archived from the original on 26 October 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  56. ^ "Central Tibetan Administration: UN Watch urges UN to discuss human rights violations in Tibet". Tibet.net. Archived from the original on 25 October 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  57. ^ "The United Nations Office at Geneva: The Centennial Anniversary of the American Jewish Committee". Unog.ch. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  58. ^ "United Nations: Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the United Nations Correspondents Association Dinner". United Nations. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  59. ^ "Ian Williams". The Nation. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  60. ^ Casting the first stone The Guardian, 4 April 2007.
  61. ^ Claudia Rosett (20 June 2007). "National Review Online, June 20, 2007". Article.nationalreview.com. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  62. ^ a b Phyllis Bennis (9 January 2013). "Human Rights Watch: Time to stand with human rights defenders, January 9, 2013". Al Jazeera (English). Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  63. ^ 6 May 2008, NGOs say five nations unfit to serve on UN rights body, AFP 6 May 2008
  64. ^ "The UN Human Rights Council will be weaker if America leaves". The Economist. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.

Further reading

External links