General Assembly resumes talks on Human Rights Council

11 January 2006 –

The United Nations General Assembly today resumed closed-door talks on setting up the new UN Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights, as called for by leaders meeting at the 2005 World Summit last September.

The creation of a new Council is widely seen as an opportunity to open a new chapter in the UN’s human rights work, which, though comprehensive and respected, suffered from the tainted reputation of the Commission.

The Secretary-General, who proposed the creation of the Council last March, subsequently explained that the Commission “in its current form has some notable strengths and a proud history, but its ability to perform its tasks has been overtaken by new needs and undermined by the politicization of its sessions and the selectivity of its work.”

He envisioned the Human Rights Council as a standing body, able to meet regularly and at any time to deal with imminent crises while conducting timely and in-depth consideration of related issues. National leaders meeting at the 2005 World Summit resolved to create the Council and asked the General Assembly president to conduct negotiations on the issue.

In November, Assembly President Jan Eliasson recalled that the Summit had called for dealing more effectively with key issues, including human rights. “We are now challenged to produce multilateral solutions,” he said. “And if we do not pass that test of multilateralism, I think we are facing a very bleak future.”

At this critical juncture, governments must hammer out the details of the Council’s workings. Mr. Annan has been actively engaged in diplomacy on the issue, raising the subject whenever possible and pledging to continue advocating for progress.

The new Council is one piece of human rights reform. Together with the doubling of regular budget resources for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights over the next five years, officials said the Council signals the revitalization of the Organization’s work in the field of human rights.

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