The Role of the European Union at the United Nations Human Rights Council

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Title: The Role of the European Union at the United Nations Human Rights Council
Author: Tuominen, Hanna
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
Helsingfors universitet, statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, institutionen för politik och ekonomi
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic and Political Studies
Eurooppa-tutkimuksen verkosto
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2016-06-09
Language: en
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This dissertation studies the EU's normative power role at the Human Rights Council (HRC), which is the key UN body in the field of human rights. The EU has proclaimed an active and visible role in the HRC as an important part of its external human rights agenda. However, the EU's normative ambitions face challenges; other actors are not necessarily willing to accept the EU's role claims and deliver competing human right positions. In this respect, the HRC provides an interesting case for studying the recognition of the EU's normative power role in practice. The first two chapters present the theoretical, conceptual and methodological background of this dissertation. In particular, the EU role as a normative power is examined by combining it with role theory. As a consequence, the normative power role is seen as being closely related to the EU's own role conception or self-image. According to this self-perception, the EU claims to act as a force for good in global politics by promoting universal norms and standards through non-coercive measures. The EU is also seen to differ from other actors. However, as the EU's ambitious role claims do not necessarily correspond with its actual behaviour, the normative power role is better understood as an ideal-type. The EU's acts can more or less approximate this ideal in external human rights promotion. Because the normative power role is a highly Eurocentric notion and the debate is conducted mainly by European scholars, the alter side of this role is needed. Role theory enables a more critical approach to the normative power role by also directing attention to the EU's role performance and external perceptions of this role among different others. The EU's normative power role claims are especially evident in its external human rights promotion. Hence, this dissertation concentrates on examining the EU's role in global human rights governance. Chapter 3 demonstrates how domestic, regional and international factors have facilitated the development of the EU's role in this field. The normative power role draws attention to the EU definition of human rights and to the instruments it uses in human rights promotion. In order to be a normative power, the EU should also be able to achieve normative changes in others. In this respect the EU faces challenges, which become evident in the UN human rights machinery. Chapter 4 presents the UN Human Rights Council and the legal-institutional and political preconditions for EU participation therein. It demonstrates how the HRC is a case of inconvenient multilateralism for the EU, as the EU needs to balance between its normative commitments and multilateral preferences. The EU's normative power self-image and the coherence of this role are often taken for granted. However, an actor s role conceptions are rarely homogenous. Chapter 5 examines the self-perception of the EU at the HRC through official EU documents and statements. Furthermore, 23 theme interviews were conducted in 2013-2014 with the EEAS and EU member state human rights experts in Geneva and Brussels to reveal a more unofficial EU self-perception. The findings demonstrate that the official image underlines the EU role as a defender of universal human rights principles, a supporter and contributor to the UN, and a partner for others. Furthermore, the EU' s role has remained rather unchanged since the establishment of the HRC (2006). The policy practitioners views also supported the EU's normative power self-image; the EU was perceived, for example, as a promoter and defender of universal norms, a leader through its own example, and different from other actors. As a conclusion, the EU's self-perception at the HRC confirms the normative power role image, even if the limitations for practicing such a role at the HRC are acknowledged. This normative power self-perception is also shared among different EU actors. The EU's performance at the HRC has a key role in legitimizing its role claims as a normative power. Role performance refers to the actual behaviour of the EU, and it often differs from both ego and alter role expectations. Evaluating EU performance in different international organizations is important, but a demanding task because of its complex actorness. Chapter 6 examines EU performance along the lines of relevance, effectiveness, resource viability, and efficiency. These elements are able to capture the EU's success in relation to both HRC processes and outcomes. According to HRC participants, the EU has high relevance internally and externally, which provides legitimacy for EU participation. Effectiveness reflects the outcomes the EU has been able to achieve and can be studied through different measures. According to the data, the EU has succeeded in being internally effective and coherent, and has shown considerable external effectiveness through delivering statements and adopted resolutions. In this respect, EU records match well with its ambitious role claims. However, the EU's ability to contribute to the effectiveness of the HRC, as well as its efficiency, remains only moderate. With its enormous resources, the EU would have the potential for much more. The EU's inefficiency is related to its heavy internal dynamics, but also largely on external conditions. Chapter seven studies the external perceptions of the EU role at the HRC through 40 semi-structured interviews conducted in 2013-2014. The views of external others are able to outline the alter side of the EU's role. Studied external others include other UN member states, human rights organizations, and HRC Secretary Staff. States are classified into groups, such as EU allies, Moderates, Developing states, and EU opponents by taking into account their norm consistency with the EU and voting behaviour at the UN. The findings point to variable recognition of the EU's normative power role. The EU is seen as an important example that supports universal principles and the UN. The EU is also seen to prefer non-coercive measures against other actors. However, the EU's leadership is considered to be only issue-specific and the normative power image generally suffers from several inconsistencies. The EU's different approach is especially apparent when it is compared with the US. As a conclusion, the EU's normative power role is only partly recognized among its others, which gives reasons to reconsider the legitimacy of the normative power role. This dissertation provides an alternative approach to the EU's role as a normative power. The theoretical framework underlines how the EU's roles in the world should be studied by taking into account not only the EU s own role aspirations, but also its role performance and the alter side of these roles. The most valuable and interesting contribution of this thesis is the research interviews concerning internal and external perception of the EU role as a normative power. In general, the empirical chapters provide a comprehensive and detailed picture of the EU role in one particular institutional context, the UN Human Rights Council.Väitöskirja tarkastelee Euroopan unionin roolia YK:n ihmisoikeusneuvostossa. EU tavoittelee kasvavaa globaalia roolia ihmisoikeuksien edistäjänä ja suojelijana niin sanotun normatiivisen valtaroolin mukaisesti. Normatiivinen valtarooli edellyttää, että EU:n ajamat normit ovat luonteeltaan universaaleja ja niitä edistetään ei-pakottavin keinoin. EU:n tulisi myös kyetä suostuttelemaan muita toimijoita omaksumaan sen edistämiä normeja. EU:n normatiiviset pyrkimykset on kuitenkin haastettu globaalissa toimintaympäristössä; muut toimijat eivät välttämättä ole halukkaita hyväksymään EU:n normeja. Nämä haasteet tulevat esiin erityisesti kansainvälisissä järjestöissä, kuten YK:n ihmisoikeusneuvostossa. Rooliteorian viitekehystä hyödyntäen väitöskirja tutkii EU:n roolia kolmesta eri näkökulmasta. Ensimmäisenä tarkastellaan EU:n omaa käsitystä sen mahdollisesta roolista ihmisoikeusneuvostossa. EU:n omakuvaa tutkitaan erilaisten EU-asiakirjojen ja 23 tutkimushaastattelun avulla. Tämän jälkeen tarkastellaan, miten EU:n omakuva heijastuu toiminnassa eli niin sanottuna roolisuorituksena. Erityisesti huomiota kiinnitetään siihen, miten merkittävänä toimijana EU:ta pidetään, miten tehokas EU on ja kuinka se kykenee hyödyntämään erilaisia resursseja. Kolmantena näkökulmana tarkastellaan muiden toimijoiden, kuten kolmansien maiden, ihmisoikeusjärjestöjen ja YK:n sihteeristön, näkemyksiä EU:n roolista 40 tutkimushaastattelun avulla. Tutkimuksen mukaan EU:n näkemys omasta roolistaan ei ole muuttunut ihmisoikeusneuvoston perustamisen jälkeen. EU näkee itsensä ihmisoikeuksien edistäjänä ja puolustajana, YK:n tukijana ja kumppanina toisille toimijoille. EU:n omakuva on normatiivisen valtaroolin mukainen. Tämä omakuva heijastuu myös EU:n toiminnassa. EU on yhtenäinen, tehokas ja näkyvä toimija ihmisoikeusneuvostossa, vaikkei se kykene parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla edistämään ihmisoikeusneuvoston toimintaa ja hyödyntämään omia resurssejaan. Toiset toimijat myös näkevät EU:n tärkeänä ihmisoikeustoimijana, jolla itsellään on korkeat periaatteet ja tehokkaat instituutiot ihmisoikeuksien suojelemiseksi. EU:n nähdään myös edistävän ihmisoikeuksia pääosin pehmein keinoin ja YK:n toimia tukien. Toisaalta epäjohdonmukaisuus EU:n toiminnassa rapauttaa sen normatiivista valtaroolia. Silti Euroopan unioni näyttäytyy usein normatiivisempana toimijana esimerkiksi Yhdysvaltoihin verrattuna.
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