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Opening statement by President of the Human Rights Council at the Inter-regional Seminar on the UPR for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries

Mauritius, 30 July 2013

Dr The Honourable Arvin Boolell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade
Mrs K. O. Fong Weng-Poorun, Senior Chief Executive at the Prime Minister’s Office
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to be here to address you on the occasion of the opening of this interregional seminar. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Government of Mauritius for offering us such a wonderful hospitality in this beautiful place, to thank staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as of the UNDP office in Mauritius, for all their work for several months to making this event possible.
As just highlighted by Mr. Ndiaye, Representative of the High Commissioner, this is the very first time that a seminar is organised and focused on facilitating the participation of small-island developing states and least developed countries in the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review mechanism. In my capacity of the President of the Council, I am very honoured, together with the Vice-President of the Council, H.E. Ms. Adam, Ambassador of Maldives to the UN in Geneva, to be resource persons for the seminar.

As a part of the UN reform undertaken by the UN Summit in 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided to establish in 2006 the Human Rights Council by its resolution 60/251, to succeed the former Commission on Human Rights. The creation of the Universal Periodic Review is widely considered as one of the most prominent innovation of the Council. UPR is a cooperative mechanism based on the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, as well as equal treatment with respect to all States. The methodology used in reviewing the various countries does not vary from one country to the other and all are treated in a fair and equal manner. Preserving these fundamental principles is a fundamental condition for the success and integrity of the UPR. During the first cycle of the UPR (2008 – 2011) all 193 UN Member States were successfully reviewed. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists.
As you may know, the second cycle of the UPR, commenced last year, is focused on the follow-up to recommendations from the 1st UPR cycle, and sharing of good practices and challenges.

In this respect, I would like to seize this opportunity to salute the extraordinary efforts made by Least Developed Countries and Small Islands States, including those represented by you today, to participate constructively in the UPR and engage with the Council. This itself has demonstrated the commitment of your governments to international cooperation in the field of human rights.

I hope that all these efforts have been supported by the technical assistance extended by the Office of the High Commissioner through the existing UPR Trust Fund and the newly-established Fund dedicated to support LDCs/SIDs to participate in the work of the Council. At this juncture, allow me to highlight the important role played by Mauritius and the Maldives through their representatives at the Council in Geneva for taking and pursuing the initiative for the establishment of the Fund to support LDCs/SIDs in the work of the Council.

I should also stress that, the UPR, as part of the international human rights machinery, is not an end itself but a process through which to contribute to the change on the ground by translating the commitment made during the review into laws, policy and action for people to realise their human rights -civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now, allow me to say a few words about the Council itself.

The Council plays actively its role as the only UN body solely dedicated to human rights, one of the three pillars of the UN, by its increasing political significance and expanding mechanisms and tools. This growing political importance is best reflected by the increasing number of the dignitaries participating in the Council’s meetings – just almost 90 dignitaries participated in the high-level segment of the Council’s last March session.

Over the past few years, the Council has become increasingly proactive and responsive to human rights situations worldwide, wherever and whenever they require the attention of the Council and the international community. The Council has responded to the Arab Spring by holding special sessions and urgent debates, with the outcome to establish investigative mechanisms including the commissions of inquiry or Special Rapporteurs to monitor more closely the situation on the ground; furthermore, the Council has also been actively addressing a number of thematic issues covering a wide range of areas.

Allow me just to mention a very few examples of specific interest for LDCs/SIDs. The Council holds the annual full-day discussions on women’s human rights and gender equality, the rights of the child, persons with disabilities and of indigenous peoples and human rights mainstreaming in the UN system, as well as interactive dialogues with Special Rapporteurs during each session. For instance, the Council has established the new mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, held a panel discussion on human rights and climate change in addition to actively advocating for the integration of human rights in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

As the main intergovernmental body dedicated to human rights and pursuant to General Assembly resolution establishing the Council, the Council offers a platform for States, National Human Rights Institutions, civil society and human rights defenders to dialogue on human rights, promote the full implementation of all human rights obligations undertaken by States and follow-up on the goals and commitments related to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Needless to say, participating meaningfully in the work of the Council can be challenging for many States, especially to LDCs/SIDs. Substantively and effectively involvement in the work of the Council requires knowledge, tools and capacity. I am mindful of the capacity and knowledge gaps, in addition to the geographical distance from Geneva.

As Ambassador Adam would agree with me, this first seminar organized by the Office of the High Commissioner with Mauritius as host government is highly appreciated. It is a significant outreach step and capacity-building effort to support and enhance the capacity of LDCs/SIDs so that all States, regardless of its size and geographical location, can participate in the work of the Council.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before concluding, once again, I thank Dr The Honourable Arvin Boolell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, and Mrs K. O. Fong Weng-Poorun, Senior Chief Executive at the Prime Minister’s Office for his warm welcome addressed to us.

I look forward to our exchange in the next two days and wish you all a successful seminar.