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Distinguished members,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you this morning. I am happy in particular to address myself to the new member elected on 8 December, Mr. Mehmet Sevim (Turkey). I would also like to congratulate those Committee members (Mr. Brillantes, Mrs. Dieguez, Mr. Kariyawasam and Mr. Taghizade) who have been re-elected for a new mandate and express to all of you my deepest acknowledgement for the work you have done for the Committee.

I should like to briefly inform you of developments since I addressed you at the opening of your session in December 2005.

As you are aware, following the preliminary exchange of views that you had last December on the High Commissioner’s proposals regarding a unified standing treaty body, the Chairperson addressed a letter to the High Commissioner, drawing her attention to the views of the Committee. We are grateful to the Chairperson and the Committee for this contribution.

I am very pleased to inform you that, after initial consultations with the treaty bodies and other actors, the High Commissioner has now finalized her concept paper for a unified standing treaty body, which has been shared with all of you. The High Commissioner would very much welcome any reactions and suggestions you may have on her paper. A first brainstorming on the concept paper took place on 5 April with member States and on 6 April with non-governmental organisations.

The issue will be discussed during the fifth inter-committee meeting and eighteenth meeting of chairpersons from 19 to 23 June 2006. The Government of Liechtenstein will host a brainstorming meeting on the paper from 14 to 16 July 2006. It is envisaged that up to six representatives of regional groups, two representatives of each treaty body, and representatives of the UN system, NGOs and NHRIs will attend this meeting. Finally, a two-day intergovernmental consultation of States parties will be convened towards the end of 2006 to discuss options for this reform.

It is my hope and firm commitment that with all those contributions, and in particular with your input and unique expertise, the reform engaged will reach its main goal, namely to enhance the protection of rights holders.

While discussions of the High Commissioner’s proposals on a unified standing treaty body are on-going, efforts to strengthen the human rights treaty reporting system initiated pursuant to the Secretary-General’s 2002 reform proposal are continuing. As you know, the treaty bodies have been considering harmonized guidelines for reporting. The High Commissioner's Plan of Action emphasizes the need to finalize and implement the harmonized guidelines so that the treaty bodies can begin to function as a unified system. As you know, the Inter-Committee technical working group on harmonized reporting guidelines met first in December last year, when your Committee was represented by Mr. Gakwandi. A second meeting was held in February, which Mr. Alba attended. I trust that Mr. Alba will report to you about this meeting during the session.

As your Committee will be considering for the first time in public an initial report, that of Mali, it is my pleasure to inform you that, following the report of Mexico received at the end of last year, a further initial report has been received, the one of Egypt. I should also like to inform you that the secretariat organised a training workshop in Bosnia Herzegovina on the preparation of the initial report under the Migrant Workers Convention.

As you are well aware, many meetings are being organised, both within and outside the UN system, on the issue of international migration and development, which will be the subject of the General Assembly’s High Level Dialogue in September this year. Your Committee had a very successful Day of General Discussion on this topic at your last session, and I am looking forward to the written contribution in this respect which you will adopt this session. I am happy to inform you in this connection that the General Assembly has expressly requested the Secretary General to make available a summary of your discussion at the High Level Dialogue.

I am pleased to report that OHCHR is actively involved in the preparation of the High Level Dialogue and intends to make available a compilation of relevant observations by treaty bodies and special procedures mandate holders on human rights of migrants.

Distinguished Committee members,

You have a very busy session ahead of you. Tomorrow you will be having your first public consideration of a State report, which marks the beginning of the exercise of your monitoring functions as meant by the Convention. You will also be meeting with NGOs, the National Human Rights Commission and UN agencies in preparation of the consideration of the report of Mexico, and you will be adopting your contribution to the General Assembly’s High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. A heavy programme indeed for a one- week session, and I wish to assure you that you can count on the support of the office to assist you in your important work.

I wish you a very successful session.