UN looks for US backing for Human Rights Council despite election decision

6 April 2006 –

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he hoped the United States would continue to play an active role in defending universal human rights and support the new Human Rights Council, despite its decision not to take part in next month’s elections for the body that replaces the much-criticized Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Annan’s spokesman told reporters that the Secretary-General was “disappointed” by the US decision but said he hoped that Washington would take part in elections for the 47-member Council next year, a move that General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said the US was already considering.

In a statement from his spokesperson, Mr. Eliasson welcomed confirmation that the United States would “work cooperatively to make the Council as strong and as effective as possible, and that it will support and fund the Council.”

“He hopes that the United States will be a candidate for membership in the Council as soon as possible, and welcomes the indication that the U.S. is considering running for membership next year,” the spokesperson said.

Member States have already begun announcing their candidacies for the 9 May elections to the Council, which has several elements making it a stronger body than the now defunct Commission, and these countries are listed at: www.un.org/ga/60/elect/hrc/.

The Commission – which held just one session annually in Geneva – came in for increasing criticism over the years as being ineffective and not accountable, and so the idea of the Human Rights Council was put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan a year ago.

The Council has several elements making it stronger, including its higher status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, its increased number of meetings throughout the year, equitable geographical representation and also the voting rights associated with membership.

However, despite these improvements, the United States has said that the Council does not go far enough and it was among the four that voted against setting up the body, although last month’s resolution passed with 170 countries in favour, with only 4 against and 3 abstentions.

Despite its ‘no’ vote however, US Ambassador John Bolton has pledged that Washington will work cooperatively with other Member States to make the Council as effective as possible.

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