Human Rights Council review: gearing up for the final stage

03.02.2011

On 3 February 2011, the President of the Human Rights Council (the Council) convened an organisational meeting on the further process of review of the Council. On Monday, 7 February, the Working Group on the review of the Council will hold the first part of its second session. The President also circulated a compilation of the reports of five of the six facilitators he appointed to lead various strands of the review process.

 

On 3 February 2011, the President of the Human Rights Council (the Council) convened an organisational meeting on the further process of review of the Council. On Monday, 7 February, the Working Group on the review of the Council will hold the first part of its second session. The President also circulated a compilation of the reports of five of the six facilitators he appointed to lead various strands of the review process. The meeting on 7 February will be an opportunity for member States and observers of the Council, including NGOs and NHRIs to present their views on the compiled reports of the facilitators.

On 17-18 and 23-24 February respectively, the Working Group will convene for the second and third part of its second session. In the two periods in between, the President is likely to conduct informal consultations with States and observers on the various aspects of the review, with the facilitators continuing to play some role. The President's ambitious timeline is to finalise an 'supplement to the institution-building text' by the end of February, and a report on the review process by the end of March. Once adopted by the Council at its March session, both documents would be forwarded to the Council's parent body, the General Assembly. 

All six facilitators presented an update on their work. With the exception of the cluster on relationship of the Council with the General Assembly, facilitated by the Ambassador of Algeria, the substance of those updates is contained in the compilation.

The approaches taken by the different facilitators varied. While some included proposals that had not yet achieved broad support, others took a more minimalist approach. The Moroccan Ambassador chose to present only those proposals that had achieved consensus during the informal consultations he facilitated on the UPR, resulting in a rather limited package of recommendations. More substantive proposals made during the informal consultations, such as the appointment of legal experts to ensure consistency of recommendations made with international human rights law were not included in the compilation. It remains to be seen whether such proposals will be raised again during the Working Group sessions in February.

The Ambassadors of Finland and Brazil, respectively facilitators for the consultations on special procedures and working methods, chose to include within their presentations proposals that had not achieved consensus, but where they still felt there was room for further discussions. These proposals include the requirement that States should cooperate with special procedures. The proposal made by several States, that a legal or ethics committee should be created to ensure that special procedures do not ‘overstep’ their mandates, was not included in the compilation.  Nevertheless, it may be raised by States during the Working Group.

The Brazilian Ambassador included an appendix to the main report, outlining her proposal on a new initiation mechanism for discussing country situations. Under the new mechanisms, the President would be empowered to convene an informal open-ended, intergovernmental consultation in response to a formal letter from either the High Commissioner or a member States. UN agencies and other stakeholders would be invited to present their views to the meeting, along with the concerned State and the High Commissioner. The meeting would then decide on the course of action to be taken. The scope of NGOs and NHRIs participation in this ‘consultation’ was unclear. According to the Brazilian Ambassador, one option discussed was that they could ‘be present and listen’. Despite the failure of States to agree on her proposal at the current stage, she felt that the Working Group could discuss it further.

In the short debate that followed the presentation Egypt and Nigeria felt that without more convergence of views, the new initiation mechanism should not be included in the President’s compilation. These States, together with Pakistan and Cuba, also expressed general concerns about the status of the proposals in the document. The President responded that the proposals simply represented the outcome of the consultations held by the facilitators and not the negotiating draft. Beginning from the comments made by States on 7 February to these proposals, work will begin to develop a draft text as the basis of negotiations.