The election of the first members of the newly created Human Rights Council (9/5) was met with skepticism in the Nordic media although most commentators acknowledge it is a step forward – albeit a small one. “This might be a huge step for the UN, but only a small step for human rights,” states the Norwegian Aftenposten. The Oslo based daily points out that figures do not look good for the composition of the newly elected members to the HRC. The number of non-democratic members has dropped from 55 to 47 percent compared to the former commission.

The media in the five Nordic countries find hard to swallow the fact that alleged human rights violators were elected. “The new Human Rights Council has got off to a bad start”, said Denmark’s Politiken in its assessment of the new UN Council (10/5): “With members such as China, Cuba and Pakistan the moral authority of the Council is strictly limited and, as the Council does not command any other resources, this will weaken its effectiveness severely”. On the other hand Finland´s Aamulehti welcomes that countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya and Syria did not get elected.

In Malmö Swedish Sydsvenskan agreed: “This is a crucial reform and a positive sign because many abusive governments are excluded, since they never even bothered to apply for a membership. It could have been worse. Meanwhile south of “Öresund” (the Sound) in Copenhagen Politiken chided the US for not seeking membership and although being sceptical it proclaimed slight optimism, stating that the Human Rights Council will still serve the important task of maintaining the global dialogue on human rights. “A permanent Council’s ability to influence values should not be underestimated. Perhaps dialogue is indeed the most important role of the UN when it comes to human Rights.”

Finland was elected into the new Human Rights Council to represent the five Nordic countries and the EU. Frank Johansson, Director for the Finnish Section of Amnesty International expressed hopes in Aamulehti that Finland, as a member of the new Council and as the future President of the EU, would ensure the good functioning of the new Council. However, Finland´s biggest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat has more confidence in Amnesty than in the UN: “Such political wizardry does not exist that could create respectable prerequisites for the UN to equally assess human rights, and this is why the task has to be left to reliable independent NGOs, such as Amnesty International.”