16 March 2006

True Test of New Human Rights Council Will Be Use Member States Make of It, Secretary-General Says

NEW YORK, 15 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, issued today in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on the Human Rights Council:

Today, by this historic resolution, the General Assembly has established the new Human Rights Council that world leaders resolved to create at the summit last September.  This gives the United Nations the chance -- a much-needed chance -- to make a new beginning in its work for human rights around the world. I congratulate General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, and thank him for his patience and tenacity in bringing this sensitive matter to a conclusion.  No country will be wholly satisfied with every paragraph in the resolution, but such is the nature of international negotiations.  It preserves important strengths of the Commission on Human Rights, such as the system of special procedures and the participation of non-governmental organizations, while also setting forth important innovations to address the Commission's weaknesses.  Taken as a whole, the resolution gives us a solid foundation, on which all who are truly committed to the cause of human rights must now build.  I believe they will succeed in building a framework within which Governments from all parts of the world can work together to promote human rights, more effectively than ever before.

This is only the first step in a process of change.  In the coming weeks, States wishing to be elected to the new Council will put forward their pledges and commitments to protect and promote human rights.  It will be up to their fellow Member States to evaluate these promises, and to hold the successful candidates to them.  The General Assembly will vote on all candidates, and thereafter will have the responsibility to suspend any of the Council's members that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights.  The members will have committed themselves to uphold the highest standards of human rights, cooperate fully with the Council, and have their own human rights records reviewed during their term of membership.  The universal review mechanism will allow the Council to hold all Member States to their human rights obligations fairly and equally, without selectivity or double standards.  The Council will meet regularly throughout the year, and can hold special sessions when needed.  This should enable it to deal with human rights crises immediately, whenever they arise.

Now the real work begins.  The true test of the Council's credibility will be the use that Member States make of it.  If, in the weeks and months ahead, they act on the commitments they have given in this resolution, I am confident that the Council will breathe new life into all our work for human rights, and thereby help to improve the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

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