“UN resolutions don’t lead to anything”

Solana Larsen

When did it become the fashion to say “UN resolutions don’t lead to anything”? I understand the world doesn’t look exactly as it should, but it misses the point of the process entirely.

Today, in the Vienna Café of the UN, Jamil Dakwar and Lenora Lapidus from the American Civil Liberties Union, explained how they use the international process as a tool for national lobbying.

Step 1) The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have found that girls in juvenile detention centers in New York are being abused and neglected by state authorities.

Step 2) There was no text in the draft resolution that spoke to the rights of encarcerated girls, so they wrote a few sentences and submitted them to the Commission for inclusion.

“…ensure that girls in conflict with the law are only incarcerated as a last resort, and in conditions free from physical and sexual violence. Ensure that conditions of confinement in all sites of incarcertation are independently monitored and meet international standards, and establish effective mecahnisms to investigate complaints of abuse…”

Step 4) They were certain the United States government would work against this, so they approached other governments who would be open to supporting it. Turkey agreed.

Step 5) If the change is implemented, the ACLU can then use the recommendations to press the US to improve improve conditions in US prisons.

The UN doesn’t do magic. Resolutions and international standards are tools for NGOs and ordinary citizens to pressure their governments with. Some places that’s more difficult and dangerous than others. I’m not saying the UN process is perfect. The point is it doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of working to improve things in our own countries.


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