UN human rights official says rights commission must reform

21 June 2005
Louise Arbour

The top United Nations human rights official strongly advocated change in the international system for the enforcement of such rights, as the UN Commission on Human Rights held a day of informal consultations in Geneva on the reform recommendations recently made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"Our world is changing at a dramatic pace. We must change with it if we are to succeed in our solemn mission to promote and protect all human rights for all," said High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in an opening statement at yesterday's consultations, during which she indicated that she intended to put forward for discussion her options for the reform of the system at an intergovernmental meeting in 2006.

The High Commissioner drew attention to the Secretary-General's proposal to replace the Commission with a high-ranking Human Rights Council elected by the General Assembly. In his paper, the Secretary-General proposed that the Council, based in Geneva, would oversee the compliance of Member States with their human rights obligations through fair, transparent and non-selective procedures.

Ms. Arbour also outlined a plan of action drawn up by her office to address current human rights challenges, which called for, among other measures, a more unified system of enforcement bodies for human-rights treaties.

Over 50 delegations, including a dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs), took part in today's informal consultations. All delegations agreed that the work of the Commission had become politicized, applying criteria selectively, and that reform was therefore necessary.

The idea of turning the Commission into a standing Human Rights Council was supported by the great majority of speakers. Some, however, said that the current system must first overcome the problems of selectivity and politicization that had been identified. A new body was not necessarily required for that purpose, they said.

 

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