Calling on Member States to transcend their national positions and forge global solutions, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said today that it was crucial to get speedy agreement on setting up a new United Nations Human Rights Council, the body put forward to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights.
Mr. Eliasson, who is still consulting with Member States over the blueprint to set up the Human Rights Council, told reporters that he hoped to see it agreed upon “as soon as possible” and preferably before the Commission is due to open its annual session in a little under two weeks time.
“I would hope that we will all be able to move in this direction, and find that in a situation like this, the national positions have to be put in second place, and we now have to look for international solutions,” he said, adding that “on human rights, we need to be united in this world.”
“I have always said that I want to proceed as soon as possible. I have said earlier that the beginning of the work of the Commission on Human Rights is a crucial date – the 13th of March…And as President of the General Assembly, I would also hope that we would move to action and have a consensus decision on this very crucial matter.”
Mr. Eliasson said that the blueprint for the Council, which he unveiled last Thursday, “constitutes the best basis for the continued work of human rights, which has to be maintained in the United Nations.”
“What is at stake is the establishment of a Human Rights Council within the body of the United Nations…The human rights dimension is the soul of the United Nations, and we have to preserve that very important element of our Organization,” he said.
Earlier this week, United States Ambassador John Bolton said that Washington opposed the proposed text.
That draft resolution modifies the original proposal put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has called the draft “a solid basis to move forward,” while cautioning against “line-by-line negotiations” of the text.
“If at this stage we get into line-by-line negotiations or discussions, I am afraid it will lead to major delays and can cause a serious problem. I would appeal to Member States to understand that it is not a perfect world,” Mr. Annan told reporters on Monday, urging approval of the text.
Mr. Annan said that he hoped Member States would approve the proposal for the Council this week, “adding that the longer you let this sort of thing slide, the more precarious it gets.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has also called for speedy approval of the body, warning that failure by the General Assembly to do this could immeasurably damage the cause of human rights, and saying that there was no reason to believe that further negotiations would produce a better mechanism.
As envisioned in the blueprint that Mr. Eliasson unveiled last week, the Council will have a higher status and greater accountability than the Commission that meets yearly in Geneva.
Mr. Eliasson has also said that another major improvement of the proposed Council is the requirement that its members, elected individually by the Assembly, would be judged on their human rights records with the proviso that they can be suspended if they themselves commit gross and systematic violations.
Mr. Eliasson also said that the new Council would have a higher standing as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, would meet year round as opposed to the six-week annual session of the Commission, and would conduct a “universal, periodic review” of all States’ adherence to human rights norms, starting by scrutinizing its members.
Concluding his comments to reporters today, Mr. Eliasson called for consensus on the Council, and again warned against further prolonged discussion.
“I have stated several times that I can see grave difficulties with renegotiation, and I can see grave difficulties with changing the text. And therefore I would hope that we would come to closure on this before the Human Rights Commission begins,” he said.