Council Review: will the minimum outcomes be met?

16.02.2011

The next meetings of the second open-ended intergovernmental working group on the review and functioning of the Human Rights Council (the Council) will be held on the 17 and 18 of February, and 23 and 24 February. The ‘negotiating text’, which will form the basis of the remainder of the meeting, was released by the President of the Council on 14 February.

 

The next meetings of the second open-ended intergovernmental working group on the review and functioning of the Human Rights Council (the Council) will be held on the 17 and 18 of February, and 23 and 24 February. The ‘negotiating text’, which will form the basis of the remainder of the meeting, was released by the President of the Council on 14 February. Disappointingly, this text does not address the significant shortcomings of the previous compilation of proposals circulated by the President during the last session of the working group.

The most difficult debates have taken place on the issue of the Council’s responsiveness to emergency and chronic human rights situations. Egypt (on behalf of the NAM) and other States have been outspoken against attempts to strengthen the Council’s response in this regard, while European States, the US and some Latin American States have made it clear that a failure to improve this aspect of the Council’s work would make it difficult for them to join consensus on the final text. The current text proposes a loose mechanism, by which the President would – at the request of one or several States – consult member States and the concerned State. These consultations would define the modalities of developing the Council’s response to the situation. In the current proposal, the consent of the State concerned would be a necessary part of that decision. That, and the suggested ‘intergovernmental’ nature and therefore unclear participation of human rights defenders calls into question whether the proposal would go far enough in addressing the Council’s lack of adequate, well-informed responses to human rights situations.

Other critical issues include suggestions to further limit the independence of special procedures, the weak provisions on follow-up to the UPR and failure to develop an adequate institutional response to the issue of reprisals against persons cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms. A cross regional group of NGOs have issued a series of minimum outcomes against which the outcome of the review should be measured.

The programme of work for the session of the working group on the 17 and 18 February is organised thematically. The UPR will be discussed in the morning of 17 February, with the special procedures section scheduled for discussion in the afternoon. The morning of the 18 February will see discussion on the Advisory Committee and Complaint Procedure together with the Agenda and Programme of Work, which will be followed by the section on Methods of Work in the afternoon. NGOs will be able to speak under each agenda item, following the practice of the first session of the working group.

See previous ISHR updates on the review here, here, here and here.