Statement for opening of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

11 January 2011

Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Madam Chairperson,
Mr. Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to meet with you again on the occasion of the opening of the sixth session of the Advisory Committee. Taking this opportunity, allow me, at the outset, to extend my best wishes to all of you as we mark the New Year and as you commence with your deliberations on the important issues on the Committee's agenda.

Madam Chairperson and Committee members,

The first time I had the opportunity to address the Committee as President of the Human Rights Council was in August last year. I would like to reiterate once again the importance the Council attaches to the work of the Advisory Committee and our appreciation for all your contributions in terms of ideas, thinking and analyses, from which the Council has benefited tremendously.  I strongly believe that Council needs to fully utilize the range of expertise and experience that the members of the Advisory Committee have to offer. At same time, I also strongly believe that the Council, on its part, needs to strengthen its interaction with the Committee in order to give greater clarity as to our expectations of the role of the Committee and the tasks that the Council entrust to you. The constructive interaction between the Council and the Advisory Committee has produced a number of meaningful outcomes which have facilitated the work of the Human Rights Council in many instances:

First, the Draft Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training developed by the Committee last year has now been finalized by the Open-Ended Working Group last week with broad support from states. The fact that the Committee undertook extensive consultations with all stakeholders was a key factor that has facilitated consideration of the Draft Declaration by the Council.

Second, the Principles and Guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members which was developed with the groundwork done by the Committee was adopted by the Council in September. And I am pleased to note that, subsequently, the UN General Assembly resolved that these Principles and Guidelines should be given due consideration by governments and other organization in formulating and implementing policies and measures related to the issue. These are indeed clear and concrete examples of significance achievement in norms and standards setting by the Council working in synergy with the Committee.

The Council has also benefited from the expertise of the members of the Committee on several occasions, such as during the panel discussion that the Council held during its last 15th Session in September on the integration of a gender perspective into its work. I still recall the thoughtful comments by one of your distinguished colleagues, Professor Decaux, who shared with us how the Committee has adopted a gender perspective in the elaboration of its numerous studies which the Council has asked it to undertake.  

And, on the basis of your deliberations this week, we expect to receive for the Council's consideration, at our next 16th session in March, the finalization of the study on best practices in the matter of missing persons and the studies on discrimination in the context of the right to food from this Committee.

Distinguished Committee members,

Allow me to take this opportunity to apprise you of the work undertaken by the Council on thematic issues since we last met.

At its last 15th Session, among the twenty-eight resolutions adopted, the Council provided for the creation of two new Special Procedures: a Working Group on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and a Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Of particular note, also, resolution 15/22 on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, envisaging the contribution of the Advisory Committee to the panel discussion on the issue, to be held at the 18th Council's session.  In the same spirit, reflecting the important value added of cooperation among all subsidiary bodies and mechanisms of the Council, resolution 15/13 on human rights and international solidarity encourages the cooperation between this body and the Independent Expert for the elaboration of a draft declaration on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity.

The Council also advanced its work on women's human rights by holding two panel discussions on, respectively, women's equality before the law, and the integration of a gender perspective into its work which I mentioned earlier. In particular, the Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective provided an opportunity to reflect back on the past 3 years and identify lessons-learned and challenges to the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Council.     

At its up-coming session next March, the Council will hold panel discussions on the enjoyment of human rights of people of African Descent, the human rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of the child, and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this stage, I would also like to take the opportunity to update you on the review process, which was formally launched last October with the holding of the first session of the Working Group on the review. I would like to thank Professor Decaux for briefing the working group on the work and challenges of the Committee. All views expressed by States as well as non-State observers on the various aspects of the review, including on the Advisory Committee, are contained in two compilations which are available on the extranet.

At the end of the first Working Group, I appointed five facilitators to assist me in the review process, on the Universal Periodic Review; the Special Procedures; the Advisory Committee and the Complaint Procedure; the Agenda and Programme of Work, and Methods of Work and Rules of Procedure. I also appointed a coordinator to assist me on the issues where there is an overlap with the review in New York.

The facilitators held a number of informal consultations in November 2010. And in order to help moving forward the review process, I, with the support of the government of Thailand, organized a brainstorming session among ambassadors in the Bangkok Retreat in December. After this, the second Working Group on the review will be held in this February with a view to completing the review process by the end of March.

On issues relating to Advisory Committee, the Ambassador of Romania, H.E. Maria Ciobanu, has kindly accepted to serve as the facilitator. So far, the role of the Committee as a think tank to provide thematic expertise to the Council has been broadly recognized. More interaction with the Human Rights Council has been identified as highly desirable.  I was pleased to learn that during this week you will have the opportunity to meet with her to further discuss possible ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the Advisory Committee.

As I had the opportunity to state on many occasions, the review should offer an opportunity to improve the Council's performance in the promotion and protection of all human rights for all. The general consensus is that the review process is a review and not a reform. But I believe that we must strive in term of the outcome to achieve a more effective and efficient Council. The work of the Council must also have impact on the ground. And importantly, the Council needs to further develop a constructive and cooperative approach to deal with emergency situation in a timely manner. I am also convinced that an important component of the Council's effectiveness is its ability to work in coherence and synergy with all its mechanisms and expert bodies. 

Distinguished Advisory Committee members,

Madam Chairperson,

The coming months will test our ability to deliver on the many expectations right-holders around the globe have placed in the Council and its mechanisms. To achieve this ambitious objective, the contribution of all is fundamental. I look forward to continuing engaging with you and counting on your views and inputs and wish you a fruitful discussion. 

Thank you.