Well perhaps not quite, but according to the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner insisting on the creation of a post of Secretary of State for Human Rights, when he was sworn in by President Sarkozy in 2007, was a mistake. Kouchner, who is a long-time player on the international scene having helped founding Médecins Sans Frontières, yesterday told the French paper Le Parisien that an inherent contradiction exists between foreign policy and the aim of human rights. He further told the newspaper that “[Y]ou can’t lead the foreign policy of a country only based on human rights”, while discounting the objective of human rights as being too vague.
While Kouchner is right in pointing out that realpolitik will often make it impossible to adhere to just one objective, his remarks are likely to cause debate among his former colleagues in the international NGO community. In addition, given Kouchner’s background in a humanitarian organisation, his pragmatic observations will undoubtedly hit extra hard and lead to criticism. On the other hand, it could be argued that he merely recaps the plainly obvious limitations of diplomacy and international relations.