GENERAL ASSEMBLY ELECTS 47 MEMBERS OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL; MARKS ‘NEW BEGINNING’ FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROMOTION, PROTECTION

9 May 2006
GA/10459

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ELECTS 47 MEMBERS OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL; MARKS ‘NEW BEGINNING’ FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROMOTION, PROTECTION

9 May 2006
General Assembly
GA/10459
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly

Plenary

80th Meeting (AM & PM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ELECTS 47 MEMBERS OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL;

MARKS ‘NEW BEGINNING’ FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROMOTION, PROTECTION

The General Assembly today, in what its President called a new beginning for the promotion and protection of human rights, elected the first 47 members of the newly-created Human Rights Council.

Following three rounds of secret voting, the following members were elected: Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Ecuador, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Zambia.

The new Human Rights Council, created by General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 to replace the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights, will seek to address violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and promote effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system.  In electing the Council’s first members, the 191-member Assembly followed a procedure that significantly differed from that of the often criticized Human Rights Commission, which will be abolished on 16 June.

Adopting resolution 60/251 in March by recorded vote, the Assembly called for elections of Council members on 9 May, and an inaugural meeting of the new body on 19 June in Geneva.  By other terms of the resolution, the Council’s 47 founding members would be individually elected by an absolute majority of 96 votes by the Assembly’s members.  If the Council members failed to uphold the highest human rights standards, they could be suspended by a two-thirds majority vote by Assembly members present at the meeting.

Also in accordance with resolution 60/251, membership in the Council is open to all United Nations Member States.  Council members will serve for a three-year period and will not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.  The Assembly further decided that the terms of membership will be staggered, and that such a decision would be taken for the first election by the drawing of lots, taking into account equitable regional distribution.

In that connection, after completing today’s elections, the Assembly drew lots to select, among the elected members in each regional group, those members who will serve for one, two or three years, respectively.

Addressing a full Hall, Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden noted that, by creating the Council as a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, Member States had further strengthened the Organization’s human rights machinery and elevated the institutional standing of its human rights work.  It was now time to implement that historic achievement.  The Council’s first members would play a crucial role, as they would take its first decisions.  From the start, Member States had been guided by the letter and spirit of resolution 60/251.  The fact that all candidates for election have presented pledges and commitments in accordance with the resolution was very encouraging. 

While a further step had been taken to make the Council operational, much work remained, he added.  The elected members would now have the particular responsibility to put in place the structures and prepare the Council’s first meeting on 19 June.  The Council’s work would be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and international dialogue and cooperation.  Also by today’s election, the Assembly had, in concrete terms, implemented another mandate from the 2005 World Summit Outcome.  The process would now move to Geneva.

Speaking after the election, Zambia’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the historic elections, saying that “the serious work we all pledged of promoting and protecting human rights must now begin”.  The challenges for the elected members, as pioneers, should include the adoption of a new agenda and working methods that would reflect the importance of the realization of the right to development, as well as moral human rights issues, such as the eradication of poverty and under-development.  The newly-elected members should also formulate structures to ensure a strong Council that would be transparent and non-selective, thus avoiding the pitfalls of the much criticized Commission on Human Rights.  Notwithstanding that criticism, the Group expected the Council to take note of the positive elements, particularly in the field of norm development and standard-setting.

Council members should also support reforms of the human rights machinery aimed at creating a stronger, efficient and less politicized organization that would respond promptly in cases of human rights abuses in any part of the world, he continued.  They should demonstrate leadership in cooperating with the Council, abiding by the provision of the resolution, which called for a periodic review mechanism.  The Group was convinced that the Council would not be a “case of old wine in a new bottle”, but would fulfil the aspirations of the international community.  The African Group pledged to do its part to fulfil the objectives of the new Council in promoting and protecting human rights and ensuring that the body advanced the founding principles espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In other business today, the Assembly took note of the fact that the Dominican Republic had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. 

In an announcement on the Comprehensive Review and High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS from 31 May to 2 June, Mr. Eliasson thanked those who had expressed interest in round tables at the event, and asked remaining Member States to quickly let him know if they would like to participate in a round table, so that planning the event could proceed without further delay.

The Assembly will meet again at a date to be announced.

Background

The General Assembly met today to elect the first 47 members of the Human Rights Council.

Created by General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 to replace the highly politicized Commission on Human Rights, the new Human Rights Council will seek to address violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and promote effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system.

In accordance with resolution 60/251, 13 of the 47 seats on the Council would belong to the African Group, 13 seats to the Asian Group, six seats to the Eastern European Group, eight seats to the Latin American and Caribbean Group, and seven seats to the Western European and Other States Group.

Also by the terms of resolution 60/251, the members of the Human Rights Council were to be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the Assembly’s members.  Accordingly, for today’s election, with the membership of 191 Member States, 96 votes constituted the majority in the Assembly.  Also, as stated in resolution 60/251, when electing members of the Council, Member States were to take into account the contribution of the candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.

Consistent with the Assembly’s practice, if more than the required number of Member States had obtained the votes of the majority of its members on the same ballot, those Member States which had obtained the largest number of votes above the required majority would be considered elected, up to the number of seats to be filled.  Also consistent with past practice, in the case of a tie for a remaining seat, there would be a special restricted ballot limited to those candidates that had obtained an equal number of votes.

Results of Voting

The results of the first round of voting were as follows:

African States (13 seats)

Elected

Others Receiving Votes

Algeria (168)

Egypt (1)

Cameroon (171)

Kenya (9)

Djibouti (172)

Madagascar (1)

Gabon (175)

United Republic of Tanzania (1)

Ghana (183)

Mali (178)

Mauritius (178)

Morocco (178)

Nigeria (169)

Senegal (181)

South Africa (179)

Tunisia (171)

Zambia (182)

Asian States (13 seats)

Elected

Others

Bahrain (134)

Iran (58)

Bangladesh (160)

Iraq (52)

China (146)

Kyrgyzstan (88)

India (173)

Lebanon (112)

Indonesia (165)

Maldives (1)

Japan (158)

Qatar (1)

Jordan (137)

Thailand (120)

Malaysia (158)

Pakistan (149)

Philippines (136)

Republic of Korea (148)

Saudi Arabia (126)

Sri Lanka (123)

Eastern European States (6 seats)

Elected

Others

Czech Republic (105)

Armenia (70)

Poland (108)

Albania (31)

Russian Federation (137)

Azerbaijan (95)

Georgia (35)

Hungary (79)

Latvia (50)

Lithuania (92)

Romania (89)

Serbia and Montenegro (1)

Slovenia (91)

Ukraine (91)

Latin American and Caribbean States (8 seats)

Elected

Others

Argentina (158)

Colombia (1)

Brazil (165)

Costa Rica (6)

Cuba (135)

Honduras (3)

Ecuador (128)

Nicaragua (119)

Guatemala (142)

Venezuela (101)

Mexico (154)

Peru (145)

Uruguay (141)

Western European and Other States (7 States)

Elected

Others

Canada (130)

Greece (117)

Finland (133)

Portugal (122)

France (150)

Spain (1)

Germany (154)

Netherlands (137)

Switzerland (140)

United Kingdom (148)

The result of a second round of voting to fill three remaining seats from the Eastern European States was as follows:

Elected

Others

Azerbaijan (103)

Hungary (48)

Ukraine (109)

Lithuania (86)

Romania (95)

Slovenia (88)

The result of the third round of balloting to fill one remaining seat from the Eastern European States was as follows:

Elected

Other

Romania (98)

Slovenia (80)

Drawing of Lots

As the Assembly proceeded to draw lots to determine the terms of the elected Member States from the Group of African States, it was determined that South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria would serve for one year; Ghana, Zambia, Mali and Gabon for two years; and Djibouti, Cameroon, Senegal, Mauritius and Nigeria would serve for three years.

Among Asian States, Bahrain, Indonesia, Philippines and India would serve for one year; Pakistan, Japan, Sri Lanka and Republic of Korea would serve for two years; and China, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Jordan would serve for three years.

Out of the Group of Eastern European States, the term of Poland and Czech Republic would be one year; Romania and Ukraine two years; and Russian Federation and Azerbaijan three years.

Regarding the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, it was decided that Argentina and Ecuador would serve for one year; Peru, Brazil and Guatemala would have a two-year term; and Uruguay, Mexico and Cuba would serve for three years.

Out of the Group of Western European and Other States, Finland and the Netherlands would serve for one year; United Kingdom and France would serve for two years; Switzerland, Germany and Canada would serve for three years.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.