Five Years after Creation, General Assembly Maintains Human Rights Council as Subsidiary Body, Concluding Review of Work, Functioning
Five Years after Creation, General Assembly Maintains Human Rights Council as Subsidiary Body, Concluding Review of Work, Functioning
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
100th Meeting (PM)
Five Years after Creation, General Assembly Maintains Human Rights Council
as Subsidiary Body, Concluding Review of Work, Functioning
Resolution Adopted by Recorded Vote of 154 in Favour to 4 against;
Also Adopts Consensus Text on Action Programme for Least Developed Countries
Five years after the creation of the Human Rights Council as the United Nations’ key forum for tackling entrenched human rights concerns around the world, the General Assembly today decided to maintain the 47-member body’s status as one of its subsidiary organs, concluding a year-long review of its work and functioning within the Organization, carried out in Geneva and New York.
By a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 4 against (Canada, Israel, Palau, United States), and no abstentions, the Assembly adopted a resolution submitted by Assembly President Joseph Deiss (Switzerland), fulfilling its duty under resolution 60/251 (2006) to review the Geneva-based Council’s status within five years of its establishment as the successor to the Commission on Human Rights.
Resolution 60/251 also mandated the Council to review its own work and functioning and report back to the Assembly. With the Council’s review completed on 25 March, the Assembly’s actions today finalized the New York process. Both were to have been concluded by July 2011.
By the terms of the text adopted today (document A/65/L.78), the Assembly decided to consider again the question of whether to maintain the Council’s status at an appropriate moment and at a time no sooner than 10 years and no later than 15 years. Further, from 2013, the Council would start its yearly membership cycle on 1 January and, as a transitional measure, the period of office of Council members ending in June 2012, June 2013 and June 2014 would be extended until the end of the respective calendar year.
The Assembly also decided to continue its practice of allocating the Council’s report to its plenary and to its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), with the understanding that the President of the Council would present the report to those bodies. The annual report would cover the 1 October to 30 September period, including the regular September session.
Further, it decided it would consider, through its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), all financial implications emanating from resolutions and decisions contained therein. The resolution’s annex — which contained the outcome of the Council’s review of its work and functioning, carried out in Geneva — included provisions for the establishment of an Office of the President. That Office would be provided with adequate resources drawn from the regular budget.
Ahead of the vote, Mr. Deiss urged delegates to “look at the text for what it is”. The resolution had come as close as possible to reflecting a broad consensus. While some delegations would have liked to have seen a more ambitious outcome, others would have wished for a purely procedural resolution. For many, adopting the text today meant compromising on issues they felt strongly about.
The text contained a number of technical improvements that the membership felt was necessary on the basis of practical experience gained over the last five years, he explained. The technical nature of the improvements underlined that the great majority of Member States perceived the Council as a “strong and largely well-functioning organ” and that a major institutional overhaul was neither required, nor desirable at this stage. From the beginning, his aim had been to replicate the consensus achieved in Geneva and do his utmost to bring together different views.
Speaking about his vote against the resolution after action, Israel’s delegate said the capacity of the Human Rights Council to perform its work had been undermined by declining credibility and professionalism. He took issue with its agenda item that specifically targeted Israel, saying that his country faced institutional bias and discrimination by Council members who themselves were among the world’s worst human rights violators. Agenda item 7 targeted Israel alone, casting a dark shadow on the United Nations system as a whole. Therefore, Israel had been compelled to call for a vote on the text, and had voted against it.
Other delegates, explaining their votes in favour of the text, said that while it contained certain limitations and did not reflect all their priorities and concerns, it did represent the best possible achievement of a process that had been conducted in good faith. Liechtenstein’s delegate said that, as a co-facilitator, he had worked in an inclusive manner to bridge divergent views. He was disappointed that consensus had not been possible, especially as it was not due to disagreement over the text, but rather over the outcome adopted in Geneva.
In other action today, the Assembly adopted a consensus resolution endorsing the Istanbul Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020, adopted at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held in Istanbul from 9 to 13 May 2011.
Presenting the text, Argentina’s representative, called on all relevant stakeholders to commit to implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action, explaining that it was especially important to highlight the crucial role of developed countries as “development partners”. At the same time, it was important to bear in mind that the success of the new Programme of Action was highly dependent on least developed countries taking ownership and leadership of policy choices, each according to its own conditions and requirements.
Speaking after action, Nepal’s delegate, on behalf of the least developed countries, said the unanimous endorsement of the text represented the collective commitment to prioritize least developed country issues. The overarching goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action was to overcome structural challenges to achieving internationally agreed development goals and to help the world’s poorest nations graduate from the least developed country category. It must be carried out in a spirit of partnership to bring about a change for people living in poverty.
The representative of Turkey, which hosted the Fourth United Nations Conference, thanked delegates for adopting the resolution by consensus, saying that the vision and leadership of the United Nations would be critical in the decade to 2020. The Istanbul Declaration and Programme of Action would guide international development cooperation efforts. Thanking States for their “tireless and determined” efforts to reach a strong and ambitious outcome, he said Turkey, for its part, would allocate $5 million to monitor the implementation of the Programme of Action and stood ready to host its midterm review.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote today on the Human Rights Council text were the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Egypt, Peru, Syria, Iran, China, Switzerland (on behalf of Iceland, New Zealand and Norway), Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Costa Rica, Argentina, United States, Russian Federation, (on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries), Senegal (on behalf of the African States Group), Canada, Maldives (also on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries), Australia, Colombia, Japan, Tajikistan (of behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Pakistan, Brazil, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Morocco.
The Acting Head of the Observer Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations delivered a general statement.
Speaking in a point of order were the representatives of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
Statements in Explanation of Vote
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, Israel’s delegate said the Council had replaced the notorious Commission on Human Rights, whose capacity to perform its task had been undermined by declining credibility and professionalism. Israel had been involved five years ago in talks to create a professional and viable Council that would regain the credibility lost by its predecessor. Unfortunately, it still suffered from substantial shortcomings. General Assembly resolution 60/251 (2006), the founding resolution, stated clearly that the Council’s work should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.
Creating one agenda item addressing human rights situations throughout the world, and another item targeting Israel alone, did anything but fulfil the provisions in its founding resolution, he said. Rather, it had distorted the United Nations ideals. Israel should be subject to review and criticism on a fair and impartial basis, but instead, it had faced institutional bias and discrimination. That came as no surprise, as the world’s worst human rights violators sat on the Council. When the review started a year ago, Israel had approached that work with an open mind, hoping it would accept that it had failed to adhere to its mandate.
Regrettably, the Council had refused to remove item 7 from its agenda, he said, and only perpetuated the flaws contained in its institution-building package. When the process continued in New York, Israel had hoped an appropriate way would be found to rectify the discrimination against Israel. “Sadly, this has not been the case,” he said, noting that his Government had advocated for better implementation of operative paragraphs 8 and 9 of resolution 60/251 (2006). Sadly, the outcome did not reflect any change in that regard. Agenda item 7 targeted Israel alone, casting a dark shadow on the United Nations system as a whole. Therefore, Israel had been compelled to call for a vote on the text, and had voted against it.
Republic of Korea’s delegate, explaining that he had voted for the text, said that since the start of negotiations, his Government had worked hard to make the Council more relevant, credible and effective in response to human rights abuses around the world. He voiced concern that some elements had not been reflected in the text, such as the proposal to better operationalize operative paragraphs 8 and 9 of resolution 60/251 (2006). Omission of that proposal did not mean that those paragraphs were not important. Indeed, discussions had raised awareness about the importance of that matter.
Egypt’s representative, aligning with the African Group, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab Group, regretted that the Assembly had been forced to vote on the resolution and that the call for consensus had not been heeded by States that politicized the Council in order to achieve national gains. Egypt regretted that unity had been broken by those countries that continued to criticize the Council. Egypt’s positive vote reaffirmed its full support for the Council.
As a subsidiary organ, the Council had taken several steps to improve its work, he said, noting the adoption of its institution-building package. The lack of a reference to resolution 62/219 (2008) in the text should not be construed as diminishing its importance to the Council’s functioning. The Council should not be accorded any preferential treatment over other subsidiary organs of the Assembly. Egypt’s understanding of operative paragraphs 8 and 9 was that financial implications arising from all resolutions and decisions of the Council, as well as unforeseen and extraordinary situations, were to be considered by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and to take into account resolution 63/263 (2008).
Peru’s delegate, aligning with the Cross-Regional Group, said he had voted in favour of the text, given the importance his country attached to the strengthening of the Council. Peru would have wished that the text contained mention of the Council’s central role in promoting and protecting human rights. He hoped provisions in operative paragraph 9 would allow the Council to have appropriate financing for unforeseen and extraordinary expenses. On operative paragraph 6, he said interactive dialogue between the President of the Council and Third Committee experts would strengthen the links between those bodies.
Syria’s representative, on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the text’s adoption and expressed full support for the Council. If all agreed on the interdependence of human rights, then the international community must deal with human rights in a manner free from politicization and double standards. His delegation had voted for the text out of a belief in the importance of the Council. Since the start of the review, his delegation had participated constructively in negotiations, expressing support for a consensual final document.
Expressing regret that consensus had been broken by the same members who had voted against the Council’s establishment more than five years ago, he said the Group had backed the endorsement in Geneva of the final document to review the work and functioning of the Council. He considered the Council a reform of the Commission on Human Rights and firmly believed in the importance of the resolution, confident that it would help foster the efficient functioning of the Council.
The representative of Iran expressed thanks to the co-facilitators and welcomed their efforts to reach consensus on the text and ensure transparency during the negotiations. Iran had voted in favour of the text, although it did not reflect all Iran’s priorities and concerns. For the sake of consensus, Iran had voted for the text because it believed that the Council should be a place for all to discuss human rights in an open and transparent manner. As such, the Council should strenuously adhere to the principle of objectivity and non-selectivity. He regretted that there had been a few countries that tried to break consensus.
China’s representative said that his delegation had always viewed the United Nations as an Organization that should promote human rights and which should encourage countries to choose a path towards promoting and protecting such rights “in light of their national conditions”. The Chinese Government had long championed international cooperation in the field of human rights, and had stood for the settlement of human rights disputes through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect. It opposed politicization and selectivity on such issues.
He said the Council had been created to cure “the chronic illness” of selectivity that had plagued its predecessor. Since its creation, the Human Rights Council had “all in all” operated smoothly and played a positive role in protecting and promoting those rights. China believed that the current status and institutional arrangements met the need of its mandate. The most urgently needed improvement continued to be eliminating politicization of its work. The current resolution had failed to address that issue, although many delegations had shared that view. Nevertheless, China believed that the text, to some extent, reflected consensus and showed the political wisdom of all parties.
The representative of Switzerland, speaking on behalf of Iceland, New Zealand and Norway, thanked the co-facilitators for their efforts to achieve consensus. While such consensus had eluded the Assembly, the review processes were yielding some positive outcomes. He was disappointed that more tangible procedures on the way forward for the Council had not been agreed. At the same time, by agreeing to the text as a whole, States had been unable to make clear what recommendations they supported and which they opposed. His delegation was also disappointed that it had been unable to agree on a long-term and more stable funding mechanism for the Council. While the review had had a “modest” outcome, his delegation recognized that the Council had been increasingly acting in a speedier and more decisive manner to address human rights issues.
The representative of Chile said that his delegation had participated actively in the review process to achieve broad agreement on matters regarding the Council. Although a vote had been held on the current resolution, it was clear that such broad consensus had been achieved. At the same time, Chile believed that the Council should be transformed into a “principle organ” of the United Nations. He hoped that a decision could be reached so that more stable funding could be found to address expenses that arose as it addressed pressing human rights issues.
Mexico’s representative said the Human Rights Council had been fulfilling its important mandate for some six years. Mexico, therefore, believed that the purpose of the review process was not to renew or modify the mandate, but to strengthen its functioning and make changes that might enhance cooperation with the Assembly. Even more important was to maintain consensus on the text, in the service of human rights. Throughout the process, Mexico had always supported positions that aimed to bring delegations closer together. Mexico would have wanted the Council’s report to be presented only in the plenary of the Assembly. At the same time, Mexico understood that the President of the Council would present that report to the Assembly. Strengthening the Council was an ongoing process, and progress was achieved when delegations achieved outcomes on a broad range of issues and when dialogue took place regarding promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. Mexico would continue to work cooperatively with the Council.
The representative of Uruguay said his Government had always supported the protection and promotion of human rights, which it believed was one of the founding pillars of the United Nations. Uruguay had expected the resolution to put forward elements that would have strengthened the functioning of the Council, and in that regard, welcomed language proposing a future review of its work. Uruguay had always maintained the position that the Council should be transformed into a principle organ of the United Nations. It was also deeply concerned that no agreement had been reached on considering the report of the Council exclusively in the plenary of the Assembly. Uruguay had voted in favour of the text and would continue to support the Council’s work.
The representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that, while the Council had generally executed its mandate well, any future review of its work should focus on remaining challenges for the Council to optimize its functioning. He was pleased to note that the current resolution would institutionalize the ad hoc arrangements that had been put in place since the Council’s establishment as it related to the allocation of the agenda item to both the plenary and the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). The additional interactive dialogue with the President of the Council with that Committee would provide an opportunity for all Member States, especially those with limited representation in Geneva, to meaningfully participate in debate regarding the Council’s work.
Costa Rica’s delegate, aligning with the statement by the Maldives on behalf of a cross-regional group of States, said he had voted in favour of the text to support the Council in the promotion and protection of human rights. Indeed, the Council had made progress in using a number of tools in that work. With a broad group of countries, Costa Rica had been strongly committed to the review process, with a view to achieving the Council’s improved effectiveness. While the text included some positive aspects, the changes did not reflect substantive improvements.
Not reflected in the text was the explicit establishment, in operative paragraph 6, that the Council’s report should be submitted only to the plenary of the General Assembly, which would have been more in keeping with operative paragraph 5 of resolution 60/251 (2006). Operative paragraph 6 reiterated Assembly decision 65/503 in the sense that the Assembly — in plenary — would consider the Council’s report and that the Third Committee would consider all recommendations of the Council. It would have been more logical for the presentation of the report to take place only in the plenary. There should be a clear distinction between submitting and presenting the report. He voiced hope for continued exploration of mechanisms that would allow the Council to better protect human rights.
Argentina’s delegate, expressing hope that the Council would become a principal organ, urged keeping open the possibility of discussing that matter. Argentina would have preferred that the Council’s report be assigned to the plenary. It was imperative for the Council to have adequate funding to meet unforeseen and extraordinary expenses arising from its resolutions and decisions.
The United States delegate said that, in Geneva and New York, his Government had repeatedly urged undertaking a comprehensive review of the Council to improve its ability to meet its core mission. Unfortunately, the Geneva process had failed to yield even “minimally positive” results, forcing the United States to step back from the outcome. The New York process also had failed to address core problems and he deeply regretted that an opportunity had been missed. The United States had voted no on the resolution.
While the Council had seen achievements in recent weeks — including the passage of a resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, the Special Session on Syria and the historic creation of a Special Rapporteur to investigate human rights violations in Iran — its legitimacy would be compromised as long as one country was singled out and human rights abusers escaped scrutiny. No Member State during the review had explained how item 7 was consistent with the principles of non-selectiveness and balance.
Indeed, the review should have eliminated that item from the Council’s agenda, he said, ensuring that Israel would be treated on an impartial basis. The United States would continue to fight to remove that item and the biased resolutions that stemmed from it. Turning to membership, he said the Council diminished itself when the worst human rights violators had a seat at the table. The United States had tabled a resolution calling on regional groups to run competitive slates, but it was dismissed out of hand.
He also regretted that the United States’ proposal for an interactive dialogue between candidates for Council membership and civil society groups had been blocked. Failure to address membership issues did a disservice to those people standing up for universal human rights. Membership should be earned, not accorded to those who abused human rights. The United States had run for a seat to “strengthen the Council from within” and would continue to do that.
Sadly, today’s resolution marked a missed opportunity to right historic wrongs, he said. It did nothing to move the Council closer to the founding principles in the United Nations Charter or Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The United States would not acquiesce to perpetuate a “failed status quo” that left the Council operating below its potential. He voiced hope that the Council’s fundamental flaws would be redressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of a cross-regional group, which also included Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yemen, supported the text. Given the difficult circumstances of the exercise and the extremely divergent positions, the task, at times, had seemed impossible. From the start, the Group was committed to reaching a consensus outcome.
As a responsible negotiating party, it had been engaged, throughout the process, in consultations with partners in a “serious and genuine” effort aimed at bridging gaps and consolidating certain key positions, he said. He was satisfied that important provisions were based on the language and approaches of the Group, but not all its proposals were reflected in the text. The Group had shown flexibility and had always stressed that a potential consensus outcome was possible only if the text reflected proposals of a non-confrontational nature, to which no significant group objected.
Senegal’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African States Group, said he had voted in favour of the resolution to show commitment to the Council and to reiterate the strong support for resolution 60/251 (2006). He deplored the lack of consensus on the text. As the Council must maintain its status as a subsidiary body, it should, therefore, present its report to the Third Committee. All financial implications stemming from the decisions and resolutions of the Council should be examined by the Fifth Committee. The annual report of the Council President should also bear in mind the September session. With that, he reaffirmed the work in Geneva to review the work and functioning of the Council.
Canada’s delegate said the resolution did not adequately address the issues important for improving the Council’s functioning. The text — and the Geneva outcome — had done nothing to improve its ability vis-à-vis implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, cooperation with special procedures or its membership. It was important that those who served on the Council lived up to the criteria outlined in resolution 60/251, notably to respect human rights and cooperate with the Council. Canada was concerned at the unbalanced language used in describing the situation in the Middle East and actions listed under item 7. It was divisive when the goal should be to bring parties back to negotiation. For such reasons, Canada voted no on the resolution.
The representatives of Maldives, speaking also on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Croatia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Iceland, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Serbia, Switzerland and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said his delegation had come together in an effort to resolve the different views and regretted that those efforts had not resulted in a widely supported text.
His group had voted in favour of the resolution, but was disappointed that no consensus had been achieved on matters regarding the underrepresentation of small and developing countries in the Council’s work, “through an inclusive and equitable platform for candidate presentation of their voluntary pledges and commitments to promotion and protection of human rights”. The delegation’s priority to constructively contribute to the consensus-building effort continued to guide its actions, including its decision to join the wider membership in support of the resolution.
Australia’s representative welcomed the review process and joined others in seeking genuine improvements that would enable the Council to better carry out its substantial mandate. The Council should be one of the most important pillars of the United Nations system, but Australia had been disappointed by the inability of the Members States that made up the review’s Working Group to overcome their divisions. He also noted that the outcome document did not do justice to the “many hundreds” of good suggestions for positive change, nor the time and efforts that the Working Group had put into the review process.
Australia was also disappointed that the Council had retained its agenda item on Israel. He said that the outcome also had failed to address a host of other important issues, including ensuring the Council could use all the tools at its disposal to address the most serious, urgent or emerging situations of human rights violations wherever they occurred; increasing the participation of national human rights organizations and non-governmental organization in the Council’s work; and holding Council members to the highest standards of human rights.
The representative of Colombia said his delegation attached great importance to the Council and welcomed the progress that body had made, thus far. He regretted that the status of the Council had been questioned by adopting a resolution containing language that did not ensure that it reported directly to the Assembly.
Japan’s representative said his Government had made great efforts to strengthen the work and functioning of the Council over the past six years. The outcome reached today had contained a few of the elements Japan wished to see, but not all of them. Japan had expected that the review would lead to concrete measures in areas such as enhancing its election processes. He also found it regrettable that the resolution contained ambiguous language on the need to hold a further review of the Council’s work. Still, the resolution had requested the Secretary-General to address urgent budgetary matters with the Assembly’s Fifth Committee. In the future, it should be possible to review the work and functioning of the Council, in order to attain the goal of integrating human rights matters throughout the United Nations.
The representative of Tajikistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said his delegation voted in favour of the text, although it had been disappointed that all its concerns had not been addressed. The delegation had worked hard during the negotiations and had displayed a very constructive approach. It was, therefore, disappointed that such a constructive approach and effort towards compromise had not been shown by other delegations, thus forcing a vote on the text. The OIC had always supported the Council, especially in carrying out its work as mandated in its founding resolutions.
He was concerned that the text contained language that sought to institutionalize the Council as a principle organ without taking the proper procedures to that end. Even though the Council had remained a subsidiary body of the Assembly, the Council was not to be accorded preferential treatment in presenting reports. The Council’s annual report should continue to be considered by the Third Committee. Further, all financial implications, including any unforeseen expenses, would continue to be considered by the Fifth Committee, according to the rules of procedure. Such decisions must also take into account recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The Group voted in favour of the resolution to ensure the Assembly sent a message of strong encouragement to the Council.
Pakistan’s delegate, aligning with the OIC and the cross-regional group represented by the Russian Federation, welcomed the adoption of the resolution, believing that the Council would be strengthened by the text. Indeed, the resolution reflected the desire of almost everyone that the Council should be a subsidiary body. It also had fixed technical issues, including the financial aspects of the Council, which would help strengthen its functioning. He regretted that a vote had been called on that balanced text, purely on political grounds. While he respected the diversity of views, Pakistan believed that everyone stood to gain from the text and recognized the constructive spirit that had prevailed in negotiations.
Brazil’s delegate expressed full support for the resolution, explaining that, while it contained certain limitations, it represented the best possible achievement of a process that had been conducted in good faith.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it was unfortunate that the text had not been unanimously adopted. However different the views, there was a possibility of narrowing them. He had voted in favour of the resolution, but that did not mean he was happy with the way the Council was working. Selectivity, double standards and discrimination were hallmarks of its predecessor, and that behaviour continued in the Council. Some countries had been targeted and attacked, which reflected the “political purposes” of other countries. He urged that work continue to improve the Council.
Liechtenstein’s delegate said that, as a co-facilitator, he had worked in an inclusive manner to bridge divergent views. Even when they seemed far apart, he had always counted on the active engagement of Member States in discussions. Consensus had been his goal in carrying out his mandate, as that would have sent a signal that the Council had the backing of the Assembly’s membership. Until late in negotiations, he had been confident that a consensus was within reach.
He was disappointed that consensus had not been possible, he said, especially as it was not due to disagreement over the text, but rather over the outcome adopted in Geneva. He was grateful that States had rallied behind the text. With modest goals, the Assembly had been only partially successful. Nothing was decided on candidatures, but perhaps the exercise had planted the seed for discussions that could take place in a broader, more channelled context.
Morocco’s representative, one of the facilitators of the negotiations on the text, said the resolution had been the result of two processes – one in New York and one in Geneva - that had been carried out and implemented thanks to the ongoing efforts of many concerned parties working together. The success of that coordination had been largely due to the efforts of the President of the Council. Also welcomed was the Assembly President’s unwavering support towards ensuring the best conditions possible for the adoption of the current text.
He also thanked all delegations that had participated in the negotiations for the compromises they had made in the effort to achieve consensus. That process had been carried out in an open manner to ensure that all delegations that wanted to could participate and could have an input in the result. The co-facilitators were not supposed to include or consider matters that had not been brought to the table. The process had been open and fair, consensus could have been reached, and he regretted that “at the last minute” a vote had been held on the text.
The resolution was not meant to completely “solve all the thorny questions”, overhaul the Council or change its functioning; it served as one step in an ongoing process to strengthen the body’s working methods. “Make no mistake, the Council is showing through its work and its special sessions that a new culture of human rights protection is being set up, slowly but surely,” he said, hailing an era which was not antagonistic and in which all fundamental rights were respected and protected. It was, therefore, incumbent on all nations to take ownership for the text and work together to implement it.
Making a general statement, the Acting Head of the Observer Delegation of the European Union said the review had been meant to provide an opportunity for assessing the performance and results of the Human Rights Council. While the action taken today “marks the end of the Council’s founding stage,” the European Union was disappointed that the outcome of two years of hard work had resulted in little beyond the recognition of the Council’s existing framework. The Assembly had, therefore, missed an opportunity to strengthen the Council’s capacity on the ground, or enhance its ability to act in emergency situations. Indeed, the decisions agreed today had not strengthened its practical ability to take decisions or respond to urgent situations.
Moreover, he continued, no effort had been made to redress the issue of maintaining one country situation as a standing item on the Council’s agenda. In addition, no action had been taken to ensure that Council members upheld the highest human rights standards, either to be elected or during the course of their membership. He also regretted that some regional groups had not agreed to present competitive slates for candidates seeking election to the Council. In view of such shortcomings, the European Union had supported the text only as it became clear that consensus could not be achieved. The European Union believed that many changes could be made to ensure the Council met the expectations that had been placed upon it. He was pleased to note that it had taken a leading role to take action on the Middle East and elsewhere, and hoped that positive trend would continue.
In concluding remarks, Assembly President JOSEPH DEISS joined all delegations in hailing the work of the co-facilitators and he thanked the Assembly for adopting the text he had presented. Indeed, he had seen the completion of the review of the Council’s work as one of the main goals of the sixty-fifth session.
Taking the floor on a point of order, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that when the CARICOM delegation had requested to speak, it had been informed that the only statements being allowed were “explanations of vote after the vote”. Subsequently, the statement delivered by the representative of Barbados on behalf of CARICOM had been re-fashioned to accommodate that procedural restriction.
“We are all aware that the European Union would not be able to speak after the vote since it had no vote,” he said, adding that the Assembly President had given the floor to the European Union to deliver a general statement, while CARICOM had been prevented from doing so. Member States had adopted a resolution governing the European Union’s participation, and while not questioning the Assembly President’s decision, CARICOM considered that that text set out “the absolute outer limits” of the Union’s interaction with the Assembly. He said that CARICOM would not like to see what happened today become a precedent whereby Member States were not allowed to make general statements, but observer entities were given that privilege.
Assembly President DEISS took note of that statement.
The representative of Venezuela said her delegation supported comments made by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Vote on Human Rights Council
The draft resolution on Review of the Human Rights Council (document A/65/L.78) was adopted by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 4 against, with no abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Canada, Israel, Palau, United States.
Absent: Angola, Armenia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Libya, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mozambique, Nauru, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
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