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Annan confident US, despite objections, will work with Human Rights Council

Annan confident US, despite objections, will work with Human Rights Council

Kofi Annan
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed confidence that the United States will be able to work with the new United Nations Human Rights Council despite its opposition to a draft framework for the body that he has called an essential element in reforming the world organization.

“My understanding is that the US, even though they may not be able to vote for the Council as it is now currently proposed, it will be able to work with the Council,” Mr. Annan told reporters in South Africa just hours before the General Assembly was to vote on setting up the body to replace the much-criticized UN Commission on Human Rights.

“I think in a normal democratic process, if you can get unanimity, well and good,” he said in Johannesburg after meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela during a two-week visit to Africa. “But if you can’t, and an overwhelming majority of the members go for something, I think it should work…

“And I am sure the US, which has done so much for human rights, will find a way to work with the other Member States to make the council what it ought to be.”

The United States feels that as proposed the Council does not go far enough and has called for renegotiation, a move that Mr. Annan has said “chagrined” him, warning that the new body could “unravel” in renegotiations.

As proposed, the Council would have a higher status and greater accountability than the Commission that meets yearly in Geneva. It would be a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, meet year round as opposed to the six-week annual session of the Commission, and its members would be elected by a majority of all 191 UN Members.

In presenting his proposed reforms a year ago, Mr. Annan wanted election to be by a two-thirds majority, and failure to achieve this has been cited by the US as one of the main elements in its opposition.

But while conceding his inability to reach this goal, he has repeatedly stressed that the Council as proposed by General Assembly President Jan Eliasson after months-long consultations with Member States could be a basis for more effective human rights protection.

“The President of the General Assembly has done a great work, working with all the member states to come up with a document that gives a credible basis to move forward,” he said today.