Statement by Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director, Human Rights Council and Treaties Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the 38th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Organization of Islamic Conference, Astana, Republic of Kazakhstan, 28-30 June 2011

Asalamu alaykum
Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me the privilege to address and participate in the 38th Ministerial Session of the Organization of Islamic Conference and witness the establishment of your independent Permanent Human Rights Commission this very afternoon.

First, I would like to congratulate the Government of Kazakhstan for organizing this crucial event and Astana for its hospitality. I also commend the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, for his principled leadership and vision over the years.

Excellencies,

Your Conference is taking place at a moment of enormous historical importance, when people across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond are standing up for their fundamental civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In several countries, peaceful protesters gathered and (often at great personal risk) raised a banner demanding dignity, equity, and justice, or, in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “freedom from fear and want.” Their quest for dignity and participative democracy appears to herald a new era of freedom and hope.

Since the beginning of the current events, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has repeatedly called on the different Governments to respond in a positive and constructive manner to people’s aspirations for social justice, dignity and freedom.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

The Charter of the OIC illustrates the provision for the establishment of an Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights (IPCHR), mandated “to promote the civil, political, social and economic rights enshrined in the organisation’s covenants and declarations and universally agreed human rights instruments”. The Commission you just created is mandated to both promote and protect human rights in the member states, based on these universally accepted standards. In close coordination with OIC General Secretariat, OHCHR has organised several activities to support the OIC in its efforts to establish the Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights.

I truly believe that a clear mandate and provisions ensuring the independence of the OIC human rights mechanism are fundamental to guarantee its credibility, efficiency and effectiveness. This can be assured by the membership status, proper selection and appointment procedures, equitable gender and geographic balance. Equally important for OHCHR are consultations with civil society organizations so that the new Commission would enjoy strong legitimacy and support from within the people of all OIC members States. The OIC human rights mechanism needs to cooperate with other regional and international human rights mechanisms. Finally it must show its relevance and added value as a cross regional worldwide human Rights mechanism.

In that connection, and on behalf of the High Commissioner, I would like to reiterate OHCHR’s readiness to extend its support to the OIC and to the Commission in this new endeavour through technical assistance, staff training as well as the provision of documentation and materials.

Excellencies,

OHCHR has noted with satisfaction the increased involvement of the OIC in the field of human rights, promotion and protection, including its constructive approach to the Human Rights Council’s sessions and debates.

Together with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Outcome Document is a roadmap that includes specific measures to address multiple forms of discrimination against vulnerable groups, including racism and xenophobia. It reaffirms the positive role of freedom of expression in the fight against racism, while also deploring derogatory stereotyping of people based or their religion or belief, as manifested in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or Christianophobia.

The United Nations General Assembly will commemorate, on 22 September in New York, the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. This important event which coincides with the 2011 International Year for People of African Descent, constitutes a new opportunity for all of us to focus on how to prevent and combat racism and racial discrimination in all its manifestations.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

Partnership is critical if we want to make meaningful progress on the basis of mutual respect and in a spirit of full cooperation. We should therefore continue to enhance ties between the OHCHR and the OIC. Only a strong and strategic partnership will enable us to deliver on the human rights aspirations of all peoples across the world.

Together, we can take on the human rights great challenge so as to improve their universality, their indivisibility and the rights of all peoples without distinction, especially in these times of natural and human-made turmoil.

Shukran Jazeelan. Thank you very much.