Beneficiary and donor countries meet for the first time to boost LDCs and SIDS participation in Human Rights Council
Building synergies, sharing experiences, active engagement, unique insights, these are just some of the sentiments expressed at an event held in New York this week to support the OHCHR-backed Trust Fund on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Addressing the special event hosted by the Dutch Permanent Mission to the United Nations, some 40 diplomats gathered to discuss why the increased participation of LDCs and SIDS and in Human Rights Council meetings was essential and the challenges facing these States in realising this.
“It is extremely challenging for SIDS and LDCs not present in Geneva to participate in the Human Rights Council, this is largely due to limited finances and resources. I hope the Fund will help overcome these challenges”, remarked Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations and Chair of the Third Commitee, whose country co-organised the meeting.
The Trust Fund, designed to enhance the institutional and human capacity of LDCs and SIDS, was established through Human Rights Council resolution 19/26 of March 2012 adopted unanimously by the Geneva-based body in order to enable delegations from Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States “to participate more fully in the work of the Human Rights Council”.
The participants, who included representatives of SIDS and LDCs, as well as donor countries, also discussed the measures necessary to ensure these States can bring value to the human rights discussions in Geneva and how to raise awareness about the Fund, more generally.
“There is clear recognition that all States need to be present in the Human Rights Council on equal footing. The Fund is indispensible and charts a two-way street; we can profit from the participation of these States and they can indeed profit from their own participation”, remarked Joachim Ruecker, President of the Human Rights Council.
Since it became operational in January 2014, the Trust Fund has enabled 32 delegates from 19 Least Developing Countries and 13 Small Island Developing States to travel to Geneva where they actively participated in Council meetings and the Fellowship programme, engaged with other government representatives, civil society and UN staff, and ultimately share their experiences with those back in their countries.
“These States can obtain practical information and network with a host of delegations in Geneva, and in turn they help build capacity back in their countries. We see this as a long-term investment, but one worth making”, remarked Mahe’uli’uli Sandhurst Tupouniua, Chair of the Pacific Island Developing States and Ambassador of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Noting the “unfortunate vacancy” in Geneva due to a number of empty seats in the Human Rights Council chamber, Eric Tistounet, Director ad interim of the Office of the High Commissioner, remarked how the Fund has allowed its beneficiaries and other Council participants to explore and build synergies and initiate new activities. “It also allows us to hear from participants on their visions and expectations of the Council”, he said.
“Facts that cannot be quantified are the invaluable interaction and networking opportunities made possible by the Fund”, remarked Fatou Camara Houel, Coordinator of the Trust Fund in the Office. “There is an increasing demand on the Trust Fund. We hope that other donor countries will join this effort to enable more SIDS and LDCs to participate effectively in the Council”, she continued.
“There are not many good stories. The Trust Fund is an excellent one. It hence needs to be supported fully” stressed the Ambassador of the Solomon Islands. The representative of Austria noted that “We were not of aware of the existence of the Trust Fund. The money that we give has a face.”
Participants also referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council next year and the opportunity that provided to bolster support for the Trust Fund and spell out the achievements of the Geneva-based body.
“One of the marks of success in the Human Rights Council would be through universal participation. This could only be realised through the participation of all Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, remarked Ambassador Ruecker. “This is indeed possible thanks to the Trust Fund.”
“I hope that today’s meeting will inspire other States to contribute to this important project”, stated Karel van Oosterom, Dutch Permanent Representative to the UN.
For more information on the Voluntary Technical assistance Trust Fund to support the Participation of LDCs and SIDS in the work of the Human Rights Council, please refer to the following links: www.ohchr.org/sidsldc
20 November 2015