Engagement with regional multilateral organisations Case study: OIC and League of Arab States

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Gunn, Jeremy
Lagresa, Alvaro
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This paper will examine the contours of EU cooperation with the LAS and the OIC in the specific case of human rights. In doing so, this paper argues that this cooperation, apart from being at an incipient stage, is understood instrumentally by the actors involved, although in different ways. While the EU has a longstanding and varied record on human rights, the LAS and the OIC are, if anything, latecomers to the human rights politics sphere. In section III, the EU human rights foreign action is presented. The EU has an intricate fabric of institutions that lay the agenda, decide, and implement human rights actions. Its foreign action is not an exception, and the EEAS is now leading the interregional dialogue with the LAS and the OIC. After revising the current dialogues between the considered regional organisation, sections IV and V focus on the LAS and the OIC’s understanding of human rights respectively. In both cases, the lack of intention from member states to deposit sovereignty on their organisations is responsible for flawed declarations on human rights, full of references to respect domestic law, an attitude which affects the universal interpretation of human rights. In the case of the OIC, and to a lesser extent the LAS, religious references are numerous, limiting again the universality and indivisibility of human rights. This is fully contrasted not only when analysing their speeches and actions, but also through careful understanding of their human rights charters. It has been found, however, that in both cases, human rights rhetoric and language has been gradually incorporated in the work of the organisations, with the launching of institutions dedicated to human rights. When the cooperation with the EU is observed, other issues come to the surface. In section VI these dialogues are considered, finding that human rights are included in most communications, and that human rights are part of concrete common actions, including workshops and conferences. However, in the recently adopted Memoranda of Understanding between the EU and the two organisations at hand, no mention is made of human rights whatsoever, while other spheres of cooperation enjoy far more traction. The latter include security, counter-terrorism, migration and crisis management. As such, we conclude that EU cooperation with ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ regional organisation is not founded, on a common interest to advance human rights promotion and protection. In view of the above mentioned ‘hard interests’, human rights are left to occupy, if any, a mere rhetorical role in the dialogues.