At a time when cultural relativism seems to dominate Western political discourse, it is rare to find individuals who unashamedly stand by their principles. Anne Bayefsky is one such person.
Bayefsky has emerged as one of the most trenchant critics of the United Nations, which she has called "morally depraved" and "unfit for leadership". A Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, she has written a number of scholarly texts on the application of human rights in international law, including an exhaustive study of the human rights treaty system. In 2005, she founded Eye on the UN, a joint project of the Hudson Institute and the Touro Institute for Human Rights, dedicated to holding the UN accountable to its founding principles.
Her evolution into a confirmed UN sceptic was hardly that of an isolationist right-winger. Born in Toronto in 1953, she completed her legal training at the University of Toronto and studied constitutional law under Geoffrey Marshall at Oxford. Bayefsky returned to Canada to become a professor at the University of Ottawa Law School, subsequently working as an adviser to the Canadian delegation to the UN and an advocate for women's and refugees' rights.
Bayefsky's father was an artist and an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force who visited Bergen Belsen shortly after its liberation. She maintains that her father's descriptions of the camps were a formative influence in her commitment to universal human rights. She also cites Emil Fackenheim as a key figure in her intellectual development.
This spirit of defiance pervades Bayefsky's written work, as well as her frequent testimony to UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council (UNHRC). When she attended the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001 as a delegate for a Jewish organisation, Bayefsky was disturbed to find that many of her colleagues in the human rights establishment were decidedly hostile towards the state of Israel. Following the release of the infamous "Zionism as racism" declaration at the conclusion of the NGO conference, and the official governmental Durban Declaration's singling out of Israel as guilty of racism, Bayefsky concluded: "It is now officially acceptable to use the cause of anti-racism to foment anti-Semitism."