States set out their vision and commitments as members of the Human Rights Council

16.07.2014

An event held jointly by ISHR and Amnesty International in New York has provided a platform for States seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council to articulate and be scrutinised on their visions and commitments as members of the Council.

(New York) - Ahead of elections to the UN Human Rights Council in November, seven candidate States have subjected themselves to public questioning, and set out their visions and commitments if elected, at an event hosted at UN Headquarters by Amnesty International and ISHR, in partnership with the missions of Tunisia and Uruguay.

Albania, Bolivia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Latvia, The Netherlands and Portugal elaborated on their pledges and were questioned on how they would work as members of the Council to challenge human rights violations and uphold the credibility of the Council.

'Seven out of 17 candidates for the Human Rights Council were brave enough to present their vision of membership and their pledges,' said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, who moderated the event.

The terms of 15 out of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council conclude in 2014. Whilst some States  – such as Botswana and Costa Rica  - are standing for a second term, others are stepping down, creating space for new candidates in their regional groups. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the Council, outlines a competitive procedure to select its members, and stipulates that States' human rights record and pledges should be taken into account. 

‘This event was an opportunity for States to present their credentials to stand as Human Rights Council members, committed to promote and protect human rights and to fully cooperate with the Council’, said Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York.

‘This annual event is an effort to encourage transparency and and to uphold the integrity and credibility of the Human Rights Council as the UN's principal human rights body,' Ms Bjerler said.

The protection of human rights defenders featured prominently in the discussion, with the Netherlands' Human Rights Ambassador, Lionel Veer, describing human rights defenders as 'agents of change' and calling for stronger recognition and protection of their work under both national and international law.

Building on this, all speakers affirmed their State’s commitment to the protection of defenders, with Albania and Bolivia committing to support and strengthen civil society engagement with the UN and Costa Rica pledging to support the right of peaceful protest. Botswana was explicit about its commitment to prevent and ensure accountability for reprisals and to work for the endorsement of Human Rights Council Resolution 24/24, adoption of which by the General Assembly would provide for the appointment of a high-level UN focal point to combat reprisals.

'We welcome the statements and commitments made by States to protect the work of human rights defenders and support robust civil society engagement with the UN,' said Eleanor Openshaw of the International Service for Human Rights.

'This is a recognition of the crucial role played by defenders in holding States to account for their human rights obligations at both the national and international levels.'

A number of States pledged to use their seats on the Council to tackle discrimination, with Costa Rica and Portugal saying they would support action to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and Latvia emphasising that gender equality, women's empowerment and combating violence would be central to their agenda as a Human Rights Council member. The Netherlands spoke of the importance of the Universal Periodic Review in encouraging human rights change at the national level and, complementing their pledge to promote women’s rights at the Council, also pledged to strengthen efforts to combat domestic violence and promote gender equality at home.

As per General Assembly resolution 60/25, Members of the Council must commit to uphold the 'highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights' and are expected to cooperate fully with the Council. Reflecting this, Botswana pledged to issue a 'standing invitation' to all Special Procedures of the Council, enabling them to undertake country missions to the State. 'We welcome this pledge,’ said Ms Openshaw. ‘We would expect standing invitations to be a minimum requirement of Council membership’. 

This is the third time that Amnesty International and ISHR have co-hosted a Human Rights Council membership event. ‘We are delighted to see more and more States prepared to participate in what is becoming an annual event,' Ms Bjerler said. 'We encourage all State candidates to see this as an opportunity to speak about their vision and commitments as members of the Council and, through their participation, to demonstrate the kind of transparency and accountability that should be expected of all Council members.'

A webcast of the event is available here.

Contacts:

Amnesty International: Nicole Bjerler, + 1 212 867 8878 ext 4 or Nicole.Bjerler@amnesty.org

International Service for Human Rights: Eleanor Openshaw, + 1 646 549 9729 or e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Category:

Mechanism
  • UN Human Rights Council
Country
  • Albania
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Costa Rica
  • Latvia
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal