UN rights council making ‘significant progress,’ General Assembly told
“In 2013, the Council adopted a total of 107 resolutions, decisions and President's statements,” Remigiusz Henczel, current president of the Human Rights Council, said as he presented its annual report to the Assembly.
Syria continued to be high on the Council’s agenda throughout the year, with the extension of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria which is mandated to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the conflict.
The 47-nation Geneva-based body, which serves as the UN’s foremost inter-governmental institution tasked with boosting the promotion and protection of human rights globally also extended mandates of committees working on topics related to the Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Eritrea, Iran, and Myanmar.
In addition, the Council two interactive dialogues on the Central African Republic (CAR) and the other on Somalia, and reviewed numerous reports, including on Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Haiti, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen, among others.
Mr. Henczel added that the number of cross-regional initiatives has continued to increase, affirming the capacity of the Council to take action on important human rights issues by overcoming different political positions. These include resolutions on the elimination of early and forced marriages, the question of the death penalty, as well as the role of freedom of opinion and women’s empowerment, among other topics.
In addition, during the past three regular sessions, the Council held 13 panel discussions and a high-level event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which included an address by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Council President noted that the body’s budget has not kept pace with the increasing number of mandates stemming from the Council’s decisions.
“Although I am fully aware of the current financial situation, I would like to seek cooperation and support from all Member States to address this issue, through the Fifth Committee, by positively considering options on how to address the funding of new mandates arising from resolutions and decisions of the Council,” Mr. Henczel said in reference to the UN committee overseeing the Organization’s budget.
Also in his address, Mr. Henczel noted the importance of participation of civil society organizations which makes the Council “a unique forum” among other UN intergovernmental organs.
“It is therefore essential that representatives of civil society operate in a free, open and safe environment that protects and promotes their own human rights,” he urged.
“I have personally condemned acts of reprisals in the context of Council and UPR [Universal Periodic Review] sessions and have repeatedly stated that any acts of intimidation or reprisals against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations and its representatives are unacceptable and must end,” stressed Mr. Henczel.
His briefing comes one day after the General Assembly elected 14 countries to serve on Council for a period of three years beginning in January: Algeria, China, Cuba, France Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Viet Nam, Russia, and United Kingdom.