Press Releases

    24 July 2002

    Assembly Approves Appointment of Sergio Vieira de Mello as High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Members Also Elect Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka to Four-Year Term as Executive Director of UN-Habitat

    NEW YORK, 23 July (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this afternoon approved the appoint- ment of Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazil) as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for four years beginning on 12 September. It also elected Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka (United Republic of Tanzania) as Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), at the Under-Secretary-General level, for four years beginning on 1 September.

    Mr. Vieira de Mello's appointment, said Brazil's representative, augured well for the continuation of outstanding United Nations work in promoting and protecting human rights. His important achievements in East Timor and at the helm of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs were only the latest examples in a long career devoted to the realization of values enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

    He also praised Mary Robinson for the invaluable work she had done as High Commissioner for Human Rights. During her five years in office, she had helped to heighten awareness of the plight of victims of abuses and human rights violations.

    The representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) and the United States also paid tribute to Mr. Vieira de Mello and to outgoing High Commissioner Mary Robinson.

    The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking following the election by acclamation of Ms. Tibaijuka, expressed his hope that the Assembly would continue to provide her with every assistance and support possible to ensure the mandate of UN-Habitat and its programmes. Kenya's representative also paid tribute to Ms. Tibaijuka, who he said had helped to raise the profile of the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

    In other action this afternoon, the Assembly decided that accreditation and participation of non-govern- mental organizations (NGOs) in the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities should be granted to all NGOs enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.

    Also by that text, the Assembly decided that other NGOs, not accredited previously to the Ad Hoc Committee, may apply to the Secretariat for such accreditation. Applications should contain all the relevant information on the competence of the organization and the relevance of its activities to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

    Regarding those applications, the Assembly further decided that the Secretariat shall circulate to all States members of the Committee a list of new applications for accreditation received from NGOs no less than four weeks prior to each session of the Committee, except for its first session, for which the Committee will consider applications received up to the beginning of and during the session.

    In addition, accreditation shall be granted in advance of the session in accordance with the procedures and time limits set out in resolution 1996/31, on a non-objection basis, except for the first session of the Committee, for which the time limit for the raising of an objection by a State member of the Committee shall be no later than seven days from receipt of each list. Further, the Committee at the beginning of each of its sessions shall consider and take decisions on new applications against which a State member of the Committee has raised an objection.

    The Assembly also decided that representatives from NGOs accredited to the Committee may participate in the Committee's work and that the modalities of that participation would be decided by the Committee during the first week of its first session.

    Introducing that text, the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union) and Mexico underlined the importance of the participation of NGOs, whose contribution was indispensable, in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. Canada, Croatia, Luxembourg, Japan, Italy, Egypt and Suriname had also joined as co-sponsors of the text.

    Speaking before the adoption, Egypt's representative said that, while he would not block consensus on the text, he did object to the process that led to its drafting. His delegation had presented several amendments to the current draft, many of which had not been reflected and had actually been ignored. Not everyone trying to regulate NGO participation was against it, he said.

    By a decision on the participation of persons with disabilities in the Ad Hoc Committee, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to make reasonable efforts to facilitate the participation by persons with disabilities in the meetings and deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee.

    Such efforts may include, but are not limited to, the facilitation of entry into United Nations premises by individuals serving as guides, personal assistants or interpreters for persons with disabilities, and the holding of meetings in conference rooms that are better equipped to facilitate the participation of persons with mobility-related and other physical disabilities.

    Other efforts include the adoption of a practice whereby documents distributed in the course of one meeting or shortly in advance of a meeting will not be discussed before the next scheduled meeting, thereby affording persons with visual disabilities sufficient time to convert those documents into a format readable by them, as well as measures to enable persons with hearing disabilities to participate in the deliberations of the Committee.

    The representative of the United States, introducing that text, said it was important to recognize that talk of equal rights and opportunities for the disabled and their full participation in society was meaningless, unless the international community was also willing to adopt a flexible approach to its "normal" practices and to make the reasonable accommodations necessary to enable people with disabilities to play their part and make their contribution.

    He added that, while the decision might at first glance seem procedural in nature, it was, in a very real sense, substantive and particularly germane to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

    The following States had also joined the list of co-sponsors: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.

    Prior to the adoption of that text, the Assembly was informed that should it adopt the decision there would be no programme budget implications, on the understanding that persons with disabilities wishing to participate in the Ad Hoc Committee would inform the Secretariat of their intention to participate sufficiently well in advance, so as to enable the Secretariat to inform those participants of the special services which were currently available and could be provided to them during the meetings of the Committee.

    The next meeting of the Assembly will be announced.

    * *** *