HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESS BRIEFING BY BRENDEN VARMA, SPOKESPERSON FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT MIROSLAV LAJČÁK
PRESIDENT REGRETS U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
- The following statement was issued yesterday evening:
- The President of the General Assembly regrets the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Human Rights Council.
- Created by the General Assembly in 2006, the Human Rights Council is the main body of the United Nations entrusted with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
- Through its various mechanisms, procedures and resolutions, it gives a voice to people everywhere, including the most vulnerable. The success of the Universal Periodic Review is one example of how the Council effectively serves to advance all human rights.
- The President of the General Assembly recognizes the central role of human rights in the founding of the United States, as well as the strong human rights advocacy role the United States has traditionally played across the world.
- Given today’s global challenges, he believes that our collective work to ensure a better world will benefit from more dialogue and collaboration – not less. In that regard, he encourages the United States to remain engaged in the work of the Human Rights Council.
- Asked about procedures for filling the United States’ seat in the Human Rights Council, the Spokesperson said that General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, by which the General Assembly established the Human Rights Council, does not contain any reference to a possible ‘withdrawal’ by a member of the Council. Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, no member of the Council has withdrawn, and therefore, there is no past practice.
- The Spokesperson added that General Assembly resolution 60/251 specified the manner in which the forty-seven seats in the Human Rights Council are to be distributed among the five regional groups. In that regard, the vacancy would be filled through an election in the General Assembly from among the candidate States of the Western European and Others Group.
- The Spokesperson said his office was now looking into possible next steps. In response to additional questions, he confirmed that the President had not received any official notification from the United States on its withdrawal.
- Asked about reports that the Russian Federation would seek to fill the vacancy, the Spokesperson said that his understanding was that the seat would be filled by a State from the Western European and Others Group. Asked if the President had received any official communication from the Russian Federation on this matter, the Spokesperson said he had not.
- Asked for more details, including on the President’s role, the Spokesperson said that notifications about candidatures normally went to the United Nations Secretariat, specifically the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM). The President, in coordination with the Secretariat, would decide on the date and conduct of the elections.
- Asked when the elections would be held, the Spokesperson said there was no set timeline at present.
- Asked if the President agreed with any of the rationale provided to the media by the United States for its withdrawal, the Spokesperson said that the President’s response to the U.S. announcement had already been made clear in his statement. The Spokesperson reiterated the President’s strong belief in multilateralism and in the principle of Member States working together to address common challenges. In that regard, the President would always wish to see the spirit of multilateralism maintained.
- Asked if there was a connection between recent criticism of the United States by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, the Spokesperson said it was not for him to speculate on why the United States had made its decision.
CHILDREN’S BEST INTERESTS SHOULD BE AT CENTER OF MIGRATION TALKS
- Asked if the United States’ “family separation policy” would be considered by the General Assembly, the Spokesperson said the topics of children and detention of children were being discussed in the intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
- He added that, over the course of these talks, the common position had emerged that, while respecting the sovereignty of States, the best interests of children should always be at the center of any policy discussions.
- He said that situations like the one currently developing illustrated the urgency and significance of the Global Compact process. It was important to ensure that the rights of migrants — particularly children — were protected.
PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS REFUGEES’ RIGHTS ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY
- Today is World Refugee Day. On Twitter, the President said refugees are people who have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as everyone else.
- With over half of them being children, we must stand with them to uphold their rights and dignity. We must leave no one behind, he said.
PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN GREECE
- The President has arrived in Rhodes, Greece.
- Tomorrow he will attend and address the opening of the third Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability, entitled: “The spirit of Rhodes: Shaping a positive agenda for stability and prosperity”.