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Statement by H.E. Remigiusz Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council at the opening of the tenth session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

18 February 2013

Chairperson,
Mr. Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the tenth session of the Advisory Committee, and I would like to begin by congratulating the new members, Mr. Saeed Mohamed Al Faihani, Mr. Mario Coriolano, Ms. Katharina Pabel, and Mr. Imeru Tamrat Yigezu, on their election at the last session of the Human Rights Council in September. It is an honour to have you with us here today.

Let me start with an overview of the issues that the Council has considered since you met last August.

For the first time in September 2012, the Council held an interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee on the occasion of the presentation of the Committee’s annual report. I welcome that the review of the Council introduced this missing institutional link between the two bodies. The interactive dialogue is an important opportunity for the Council to engage in an exchange of views with the Committee, and I trust that this practice will contribute to a greater complementarity between the work of the Council and the Committee. I also believe that this dialogue will contribute to reinvigorating the interactions between our two bodies and generate new requests from the Council for the Committee’s expertise and research-based advice. In this connection, I would also like to acknowledge the active role of my predecessor, H.E. Ambassador Dupuy, in engaging with the Advisory Committee and I look forward to working with this subsidiary body during my tenure as President of the Council.

The Council also devoted a significant part of the last session to thematic debates, including panel discussions covering a broad array of issues, such as access to justice for indigenous peoples as well as the panel discussion to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s values in the promotion of human rights through reconciliation, peace, freedom and racial equality. Another panel was devoted to the issue of reprisals and intimidation against individuals who cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. As a matter of fact this important topic was one of the prominent themes of the past session. In addition to the strong appeal made by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner as well as my predecessor also condemned such conduct at the opening of the session. Moreover, during the debate, delegations also called for an end to threats or acts of intimidation or reprisals against those individuals. The establishment of an UN mediator on this issue was one of the suggestions made during this panel.

Also last September, the Council considered women’s economic, social and cultural rights in the context of the annual discussion on integration of a gender perspective. During this panel, speakers noted the impact of the economic crisis, as well as the continuing feminization of poverty. Gender inequality was identified as one of the principal barriers to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. For the first time, a panel, which was not focused on disability issues, was made accessible to persons with disabilities through live international sign language interpretation and captioning. This is part of the Council's efforts to break down barriers and facilitate the participation of persons with disabilities in its work, and is also in line with the recommendations of the Council task force on this issue.

A number of country issues, including Syria and Mali, were also discussed and remain under consideration at the Council’s upcoming 22nd session. As you may be aware, for the first time since the establishment of the Council’s confidential Complaint Procedure, the Council adopted a resolution on Eritrea deciding to put an end to the confidential consideration of a situation in order to take it up publicly and transmit confidential communications to the recently established Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

The Council also adopted thematic resolutions dealing with maternal mortality and safety of journalists and endorsed the guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights. I would also like to highlight the adoption of the resolution on human rights and international solidarity. The study prepared by your Committee will serve as an input to the process of elaborating a draft declaration on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity, and to the further development of guidelines, standards, norms and principles with a view to promoting and protecting this right. In this regard, I wish to acknowledge the contributions of Mr. Seetulsingh and the Committee’s former member, Mr. Chen, who both participated in the workshop on human rights and international solidarity held in June 2012.
The human rights of older persons were also on the Council’s agenda at its September session. Further to resolution 21/23, an inter-sessional public consultation on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons will be held prior to the 24th session of the Council, with a view to receiving information and sharing good practices on the matter.

As regards follow-up to the draft declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas prepared by the Advisory Committee, the Council established an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate of negotiating and finalizing this draft declaration. I am pleased to note that the resolution includes a provision to invite the Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee drafting group to participate in the first session of the working group, which will be held from 15 to 19 July 2013.

The Seminar on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field human rights, which was held last Friday, also built on the work of the Advisory Committee, and I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Ms. Boisson de Charzournes and Mr. Seetulsingh who actively participated in the Seminar.

As we speak, the Working Group on the Right to Peace is holding its first session. Likewise, the draft declaration, which is being negotiated by this open-ended intergovernmental working group, is based on the work of this Committee. One of the expert members, Ms. Zulficar, was therefore invited to participate in this first session, to contribute to this important undertaking.

Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to now briefly turn to the upcoming 22nd session of the Council.

As the first event of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action commemoration year, the Council will, at the beginning of its session, hold a high-level panel discussion that will provide a multi-stakeholder perspective on the VDPA, in particular its implementation since 1993 and the challenges ahead. A number of you were present in 1993 and contributed to this collective new vision for human rights that guides us today. This Panel will also be made accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Council will also hold a panel on human rights mainstreaming which will focus on human rights and the post-2015 development agenda. We are honoured that the UN Secretary-General has confirmed his participation in the panel. As you will be discussing the issue of access to justice and the fight against corruption, you will be interested to note that a panel discussion on the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights will also be held at the forthcoming session. OHCHR will prepare a summary of the discussion to be submitted to the Council’s 23rd session this coming June.

Other panel discussions to be held in March include the annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities, which will deal with the work and employment of persons with disabilities; the annual full day meeting on the rights of children; and a panel on promoting technical cooperation for the strengthening of the judiciary system and administration of justice in order to ensure human rights and rule of law.

A number of final studies that the Advisory Committee submitted on the promotion of the human rights of the urban poor, the right to food of rural women and on promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind, will also be considered by the Council at the March session. Regarding the latter, taking note of the work done by this Committee, the Council at its 21st session, requested OHCHR to collect information from States Members and other relevant stakeholders on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity, and to submit a summary thereon to the Council before its twenty-fourth session in September 2013.

Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

During your session, you will in particular be working to finalize the study on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking mandated by the Council. I would like to invite observer delegations to be present and interact with the Committee members throughout this week and to provide views and comments on this important topic. I also wish to strongly encourage the active participation of delegations in the discussion on areas for future research which the Committee identified, to ensure that this body is being used in an appropriate manner and to its fullest potential.

In conclusion, I wish you all a successful session, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.

Thank you.