UN Assembly President hails Nobel peace laureates’ support for Human Rights Council

Assembly President Jan Eliasson

6 March 2006 – United Nations General Assembly President Jan Eliasson is “encouraged” by support for the proposed Human Rights Council from five Nobel Peace Prize laureates and is continuing “intensive consultations” to get agreement over the body put forward to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights, his spokesperson said today.

In an Op-Ed piece published in The New York Times newspaper on Sunday, the laureates wrote that there were “many positive elements” in the draft proposal for the Council put forward by Mr. Eliasson, noting also that it was supported by the vast majority of Member States.

“Some have asserted that the proposal is just a weak compromise. We challenge this claim,” added former presidents Jimmy Carter of the United States, Kim Dae-Jung of the Republic of Korea and Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, as well as South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi.

A spokesperson for Mr. Eliasson said that he had been “encouraged” by this show of support and that he was “continuing intensive consultations with Member States, including the United States” in an effort to gain agreement on the Council.

“He is still aiming for action this week….There is unity among Member States that the text should not be renegotiated at this point, and there is growing consensus that the President himself should not make adjustments to the text,” the spokesperson said.

The laureates echoed this point, calling the draft “a very significant and meaningful improvement over the existing commission,” and warning that “to reopen negotiations would put at risk these gains and give those who would prefer a weaker system another opportunity to do mischief.”

The laureates also praised Mr. Eliasson for having found a way forward that can bring everyone on board. “Nearly 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he has finally brought us to where we can begin to put principles over politics for the betterment of all.”

This latest show of support for the proposed Council, which the European Union (EU) is also backing, comes after both Mr. Eliasson and Secretary-General Kofi Annan have made repeated calls for Member States to agree to the body, which is seen as having higher status and greater accountability than the Commission that meets yearly in Geneva.

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