Statement for first General Assembly meeting on review

1 December 2010

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank the Co-Facilitators of the review process, Ambassador Wenaweser and Ambassador Loulichki, for inviting me to address this informal meeting on the review of the status of the Human Rights Council by the General Assembly today.

As you already know, another part of the review on the work and functioning of the Council is taking place in Geneva, in the Working Group under my chairmanship. Even though these two processes have different mandates, they are mutually reinforcing. At the end they are aiming toward the same direction – that is to strengthen the Human Rights Council, to make it more effective and efficient in fulfilling its mandates to promote and protect human rights for all. Given this complementarity, it is very important to ensure close coordination between New York and Geneva as agreed upon in the Joint Understanding between the two sides.

Last month, we in Geneva had an opportunity to hear the views from the New York Co-facilitators during the meeting of the first Intergovernmental Working Group on the review, which was much appreciated. Today it is a great honour and pleasure for me to be here - to share with you the progress made on the Geneva side in order to facilitate closer coordination between us.

Excellencies,

To begin with, I should like to inform you about the approach we are undertaking in the review process in Geneva. First, taking from OP 16 of the GA resolution 60/251, the review by the Human Rights Council focuses on its work and functioning. It is primarily based on the so-called "Institution Building Package" (IB package) - which provides tools and mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures, Complaint Procedure and Advisory Committee, as well as Programme of Work and Rules of Procedure of the Council. And at the same time, we take into account the mandates given to the Council by the GA resolution 60/251.

The review provides a valuable opportunity for us to assess and build on what we have achieved and make improvements where we can. There is a common understanding that this exercise is a review and not a reform of the Council. And I expect the process to be pragmatic and realistic. We should be able to generate meaningful results, make improvement where necessary to enhance the effectiveness of the Council. What I hope we can focus on are:

First, how the Council can do better to make a real impact on the ground, leading to improvement of human rights for all peoples. This can be done, for example, by prioritizing implementation and enhancing technical cooperation.

Second, how the Council can do better in addressing chronic and emergency situations of human rights violations in a constructive and timely manner wherever they may occurs. We can do this by utilizing and developing the tools in our toolbox.

And third, for the Council to make the best use of the time and resources at our disposal to enhance the efficiency of the Council in fulfilling our mandates. This may involve some adjustments in the way we organize our work.

So far, we have been listening to all proposals. But at the end, the outcome will have to be based on consensus. After the first Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group in the last week of October, the compilation of all proposals made was more than 100 pages long. To deal with these proposals, I have divided them into 5 clusters and have appointed 5 facilitators to work on them, while I myself will oversee the cross cutting issues and the entire process.

In the past few weeks, a lot of informal consultations were carried out by the 5 facilitators. Convergence has emerged in some important issues such as the modalities for the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Reviews, the need to prioritize implementation and technical cooperation and the need increase time and improve quality of the interactive dialogue within the Council. But there are still a number of issues to work on.

Next week, there will be a Retreat on the review of the Council in Bangkok, during which Ambassadors from Geneva will have an opportunity to brainstorm on important issues to move forward the review process. And after New Year, the negotiation on the outcome of the review in Geneva will likely commence.

Given the timeline set by the President of the General Assembly that the whole HRC review process should be finalized by July 2011 and the Joint Understanding that the review process in New York will be finalized only after the review process in Geneva is concluded, there is a general agreement in Geneva to finalize the review of the work and functioning of the Council by March next year so that the outcome can be transmitted to the General Assembly for consideration.

Excellencies,

While resolution 60/251 clearly defines two different mandates for the review of the Human Rights Council in New York and Geneva, my presence here today gives me a very good opportunity to gain more clarity as to what falls under the scope of the review of the Council's status. Learning that the New York review will also revisit aspects related to the status at the time of the Council's establishment, such as size, composition and membership of the Council, would definitely help us in Geneva to be more focused as we already have a number of issues on our agenda which are of direct relevance to the work and functioning of the Council.     

Nonetheless, I would like to draw your attention to another issue which relates to the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly. This is one of the issues on which I believe there is an overlap between the review processes in New York and Geneva. As a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, the work of the Council, including its resolutions, decisions and recommendations, have to be submitted to the Assembly for endorsement and budget approval. However, the current arrangement, in which the General Assembly can consider the Report of the Human Rights Council only once a year, while the Council meets and comes up with new resolutions, mandates or activities throughout the year, has resulted in delayed resourcing of new mandates and activities. It has therefore yielded negative implications not only to the work of the Council but also the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Therefore, this review is a timely opportunity to address the working relationship between the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

We indeed recognize that the final decision on this issue falls within the purview of New York. But as we can see that this issue has significant implication to the work and functioning of the Council, it would therefore be appropriate for the Council to identify the problems. And perhaps we may come up with some thinking or inputs from our perspective to propose for the General Assembly's consideration.   

In concluding, allow me to reiterate my personal commitment and that of the Council to support your leadership in the review of the status of the Human Rights Council by the General Assembly. I also wish all distinguished delegates a fruitful discussion throughout the review process.

I thank you for your kind attention.