I am pleased to join you.
I commend the High Commissioner for launching this crucial initiative in 2009 and for seeking the views of all stakeholders in an open and transparent process.
States parties, treaty body experts, national human rights institutions, civil society actors and United Nations entities have all been consulted on the future of the treaty body system.
They have made concrete proposals on how to enhance its sustainability and efficiency, and their ideas will enrich the High Commissioner’s report to be published in June 2012.
The High Commissioner’s initiative is timely.
Recent years have seen a rapid growth in the number of international human rights treaties, with a corresponding expansion of rights holders protected under international law.
However, the systemic growth of the treaty body system has also created increasing structural difficulties for the treaty bodies themselves, most notably a heavy backlog of reports and individual communications.
At times, we see also a lack of coherence in the system itself in spite of ongoing efforts to harmonize the working methods of the various treaty bodies.
The global financial crisis has had profound consequences for countries’ economies and budgets.
Yet, if we want future generations to benefit from an efficient, robust and protective human rights system, current efforts to strengthen and harmonize the treaty body system need to be supported by a substantial increase in resources.
The treaty bodies can be effective only if properly funded.
This is important not just for the effectiveness of the treaty body system, but for the indivisible core pillars of this Organization: human rights, peace and security and development.
The treaty bodies constitute a unique framework for dialogue and debate on changes in policy and law that are necessary to improve social justice and equitable development.
They guide and assist States to achieve those goals through greater human rights protection.
And, through their rigorous and comprehensive analysis of country situations, they can act as early warning tools.
States created these bodies to ensure that the rights of individuals did not remain as empty ideals and commitments.
They are the indispensable link between universal standards and the individuals they were designed to empower and protect.
Civil society actors, legislators, UN country teams, national human rights institutions and government ministries rely on the work of the treaty bodies to improve human rights at the national level.
Victims reach out to them for redress and reparation.
As the creators of the UN human rights system, you have a responsibility to the populations under your jurisdictions -- and under the Charter -- to ensure this framework for protection survives.
It may entail short-term costs, but the long-term gains will be greater by far.
In February, the General Assembly resolved to create an intergovernmental process for strengthening the human rights treaty body system.
It is important that this process will complement the Geneva-based efforts by financially supporting the expansion of the treaty body system and, at the same time, preserving its independence.
As we anticipate the High Commissioner’s report, I trust that this forum will give due consideration to these important questions.
Human rights are at the heart of the UN system, and treaty bodies are at the heart of the UN human rights machinery.
We cannot afford to undermine these critical engines of the human rights protection system. We must strengthen them.
I wish you a productive meeting.