United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today that the newly created Human Rights Council should build on the achievements of its predecessor in addressing abuses wherever they occur.
As the existing Commission on Human Rights met in Geneva today to elect its officials for the 2006 session, Ms. Arbour said she hoped the defining role that the 53-member body has held in the human rights field over the past six decades would be embodied in the proposed Council.
“The new Council should rightly build on the achievements of the Commission, particularly in preserving and nurturing a particularly close relationship with civil society through national institutions and non-governmental institutions,” Ms. Arbour said. She added that the creation of a universal review system could be a valuable tool to reduce the potential for polarization and politicization.
The new Council is widely seen as an opportunity to open a new chapter in the UN’s human rights work, which while comprehensive and respected, has suffered from the Commission’s tainted reputation.
In March 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed the Council’s creation and envisioned it as a standing body that could meet regularly and at any time to deal with imminent crises. At the same time, it could carry out timely and in-depth reviews of related issues.
Ms. Arbour also endorsed the concept of a more flexible meeting schedule, as opposed to the Commission, which has an annual six-week meeting, scheduled this year for the 13 March to 21 April, and occasional special sessions.
Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros of Peru, the incoming Commission Chairperson, voiced hope that the transition between the two bodies would “enhance the human rights protection system, make it more effective and close to the victims, and distance it from any kind of political manipulation.”
Also elected at the bureau meeting in Geneva were Vice-Chairpersons Roger Julien Menga of the Congo; Zohrab Mnatsakanian of Armenia; and Paul Meyer of Canada. Sunu Mahadi Soemarno of Indonesia was elected Rapporteur.
Global leaders meeting in September at the 2005 World Summit agreed to create the Council and asked the General Assembly president to begin talks on modalities. Closed-door consultations are currently ongoing.