Farewell address by the 12th President of the Human Rights Council, Vojislav Šuc (Slovenia), at the organizational session of the Human Rights Council


3 December 2018

3 December 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset, let me congratulate the newly elected President of the Human Rights Council, H.E. Ambassador Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal and the new Vice-Presidents and members of the Bureau for the Thirteenth Cycle.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to everyone for giving me the opportunity of being able to serve you as the President of the Human Rights Council this year.

When taking up this office I have set out a number of priority issues that have been guiding my work during this Presidency. Making the Council’s work more efficient and effective has been at the top of this list.

At the beginning of the year we have embarked on the process to find durable solutions in making our work more efficient and effective. It was our common effort, and with dialogue and trust, we have managed to make a step further in building upon the work already started by the previous Bureaus. Important progress, which I hope we will be able to take even further in years to come.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and extend my sincere gratitude to the co-facilitators and their teams since this would not have been possible without their tireless work: Ambassador Cristobal Jurado, Ambassador Evan Garcia, Ambassador Juan-Eduardo Eguiguren, Ambassador François Ngarambe, Ambassador Khan and Ambassador Janis Karklins. I would like to pay special tribute to them, to their excellent work and dedication. They have shown immense amount of patience and creativity.

One of the reasons for our efforts to improve the efficiency of our work has also been to address the request to provide more space for genuine dialogue. This year we have already made important improvements in this regard. With the reduction of number of meetings and resolutions more space was provided to discuss issues at hand. Delegations had more time to talk to each other and find common ground on some difficult issues which contributed to bridging the divide in the Council’s debates.

Moreover, we have held several informal dialogues outside the usual formal setting which helped build trust and bridge our differences. In August we have engaged in an informal dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we have exchanged views with the Chair-elect of the Third Committee of the General Assembly and in October we held a very fruitful and frank discussion on some important and forward looking questions at the retreat in Ljubljana. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia for providing us with this opportunity and organizing the retreat. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, in this interconnected globalized world, the challenges we face are not challenges of just one State or one region but of the entire world. Dialogue and cooperation also between the Human Rights Council and regional mechanisms is essential in order to effectively confront these challenges and ensure the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all.

Therefore, I have reached out to different regional organizations raising awareness among members states about the work of the Council and their role in the promotion and protection of human rights in the regional context. Throughout the year I have tried to engage with regional organizations either here in Geneva or at their headquarters. I firmly believe that building such partnerships is beneficial to the Council as well as to the regional organizations.

In this regard I have built upon the practice established by the previous Presidents and visited Council of Europe and European Union. Moreover, a week ago I have travelled to Georgetown, Guyana, to participate at the first workshop for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) mandated by the Human Rights Council. This was also the first time that a sitting President of the Human Rights Council visited the CARICOM region. It was my great privilege to be able to hear first hand about the specific human rights issues that member states of the CARICOM are tackling. Furthermore, engaging in the discussions at the workshop provided me with a better understanding of the difficulties that the Small Island Developing States are encountering with regard to their participation in the Human Rights Council sessions.

In this respect I urge delegations to take their time and study the Georgetown Declaration towards 2022 that the former beneficiary delegates of the Trust Fund to Support the Participation of LDCs and SIDS in the work of the HRC and fellows from Caribbean region negotiated and adopted at the workshop and has been circulated to all delegations last week.

This year cooperation and collaboration has been in the forefront of our efforts. In this context we have spent considerable time discussing the need for better cooperation within the United Nations system as well as looking for tangible solutions for bridging the disconnect between the three pillars.

I firmly believe that in the face of a fracturing world where human rights and multilateralism are under threat, we need now more than ever a strong United Nations. Fragmented approaches and working in silos seriously hinders the work of the organization.

For that reason, when I visited UN Headquarters this year my efforts have been focused on inserting our discussions here Geneva also into the work of the United Nations in New York. I have therefore regularly engaged informally or formally in the exchange of views with the Third Committee, briefing delegates on the on-going work in Geneva. I have engaged in discussions about the work of the Human Rights Council with colleagues from the Fifth Committee and representatives of SIDS and CARICOM states, particularly those that do not have representation in Geneva. I met with senior officials of the United Nations, the Presidents of the General Assembly and had interesting discussions with the Secretary-General on the important role that the Human Rights Council has within the United Nations. Last but not least, I have met with members of the Security Council for a productive informal discussion on how the Security Council could use the mechanisms and information provided by the Human Rights Council in order to better inform its work on peace and security.

In the twelve years, the Council has established itself as a leading forum where concerns and views on human rights issues and situations can be voiced in a constructive manner. It has many good stories to tell.

In my encounters with the media, I have shared the good stories and kept an open ear for the questions and concerns of the rights holders. We have published more products and engaged in more media encounters this year than ever before. As a result, the Council has been covered in close to 30,000 English, French and Spanish news articles. And in the social media, followership has increased drastically, strengthening our engagement with the younger generation. I believe this enhanced visibility and proactive engagement with media in New York and around the world, led to a wider and more accurate coverage of the Council’s work.

This year the Council launched its new website providing not only a visually more pleasing experience but increasing user-friendliness and accessibility. This effort will be pursued even further in order to strengthen the Council’s visual identity.

I am pleased to note that civil society participation continues to increase year after year, providing us with first-hand accounts of the human rights situation on the ground and keeping us connected to those we aim to serve. Moreover, civil society plays an important and effective role in supporting implementation efforts of recommendations stemming from the Council and its mechanisms.

Unfortunately, also this year cases of reprisals against individuals who cooperate or seek to cooperate with the Human Rights Council have continued. And I have addressed these cases. This is unacceptable, and we need to further strengthen our efforts to ensure that the Council remains a safe and inclusive environment for a constructive dialogue where representatives of the civil society can freely express their views on the situations of human rights around the world.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It has been a challenging year for the Human Rights Council, but I sincerely believe together we have taken these challenges and turned them into opportunities. This year I have witnessed delegations coming together in the spirit of compromise and cooperation for the benefit of human rights. And as my term is coming to an end I truly believe that I leave behind a stronger Human Rights Council. 

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the Vice-Presidents, members of the Bureau of the 12th cycle for their invaluable assistance and support in leading the Council through this challenging year: Ambassador Cristobal Jurado of Spain, Ambassador Evan Garcia of Philippines, Ambassador Juan-Eduardo Eguiguren of Chile and Ambassador François Ngarambe of Rwanda, as well as Ambassador Antje Leendertse and Ambassador Martha Maurás.

I would also like to thank the Regional Coordinators, members of the Consultative Group and Members of the Working Group on Situations for their important work throughout the year.

A special gratitude goes also to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, in particular Secretariat of the Human Rights Council, UPR Branch and Special Procedures Branch for their hard work and dedication in providing invaluable support to the work of the Council.

Let me also thank Director General and UNOG, in particularly conference services, interpreters, translators, editors, security officers and others whose dedicated work is essential for the smooth running of our deliberations.

I am also thankful to my staff in the Office of the President for their hard work and dedication throughout the year.

Last but not least, I would like to thank all of you for your support and cooperation throughout the year.

In conclusion, let me say that I am extremely proud to have been given this opportunity to lead the Human Rights Council this year. It is my sincere desire to see the Council strong and successful in its work to improve lives of the people around the world.

My term is coming to an end, but I am convinced the Council will continue to thrive and write good stories in years to come. I wish the next President and his Bureau every success in leading this Council through its 13th cycle.   

I thank you.