Human Rights Council adopts decisions to pave the way for its work in 2021


7 December 2020

Postpones Elections of its Bureau for Next Year to 16 December 2020

GENEVA, (7 December 2020) – The Human Rights Council held its customary year-end organisational session today to discuss its methods and activities for 2021, which will mark the human rights body's 15th annual cycle, adopting two texts to foment its work for next year.

Speaking at the onset of the meeting, presided over by Human Rights Council President Elisabeth Tichy Fisslberger of Austria, and in connection with the Council's long-term efficiency process, the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya, delivered an update on the actual and envisaged resources for conferences services provided to the 47-member Council. Noting that the Human Rights Council was the only Geneva-based UN organization that was able to complete its work for 2020 despite severe COVID-19 restrictions, Ms. Valovaya stated that a number of factors, chiefly those stemming from the global pandemic, exacerbated the current financial crisis. "The situation is going to remain very difficult next year, yet we will continue to find solutions that will allow us to go on with our programme of work next year", the Director-General declared.

Following the update by the Director-General, co-facilitators and focal points for the efficiency process provided updates concerning the implementation of measures laid out in the Council President's statement of 6 December 2019. These measures addressed the rationalisation of Human Rights Council initiatives, presented by Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera of Mexico; the financial and time constraints in relation to the Universal Periodic Review, presented by Ambassador Yackoley Kokou Johnson of Togo; and measures to address the challenges faced by delegations from small and developing countries, in particular Small Island Developing States and the least developed countries, presented by Ambassador Umej Singh Bhatia of Singapore.

At the conclusion of the oral updates, the Council adopted a follow-up President's statement extending the measures adopted last December enabling the Council to pursue its long-term efficiency into the coming year. Through the unanimous decision, the Council also decided to hold an informal stocktaking meeting to assess the impact of the efficiency measures following its 48th session in the second of half of next year.

The Council then adopted a decision to postpone the 21st session of the Working Group on the Right to Development to next year (dates to be confirmed), as the session for the Council's subsidiary body could not be held as planned this past November due to COVID-19 measures.

Following the adoption of the two texts, general comments were delivered by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The human rights body considered a draft statement by the President concerning the methods of work of its Consultative Group – a five-member body charged with making recommendations on appointments for the Councils' independent experts known as the Special Procedures. Given a lack of consensus on the draft text, consultations on the draft text will continue.

The following States delivered statements during the action on the draft statement: Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC), the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Germany (on behalf of the EU).

At today's meeting, the Council also heard from its task force on accessibility for persons with disabilities, presented by Ambassador Liera of Mexico who presented an oral update as a follow up to Council resolution 37/22 on "Equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities and the right of persons with disabilities to access to justice".

A subsequent oral update was delivered by Ambassador Margarida Rosa Da Silva Izara of Angola who outlined her activities as the first ever Gender Focal Point of the Human Rights Council for 2020.

The Council next decided that the theme for its annual high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming, scheduled to take place in late February 2021, at the onset of its 46th regular session, would be "The state of play in the fight against racism and discrimination 20 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and the exacerbating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these efforts".

The last item of the agenda for the Human Rights Council at today's meeting was the election of its five-member Bureau for 2021. Speaking on behalf of the Group of Asia-Pacific States, who will hold the Council presidency next year, Ambassador Idris bin Abdul Rahman bin Issa Al Khanjar of Oman, the regional coordinator of the Group, requested for more time to conduct further consultations on the nomination of next year's president.

While emphasizing the importance of having an agreement this year, upon the request of the regional coordinator, current Council President Tichy-Fisslberger proposed that today's meeting be suspended until 16 December 2020 at 3 pm when the Council may reconvene to elect its president for next year, along with its four vice presidents.

Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger also announced that the next organizational meeting of the Human Rights Council would take place on 12 January 2021 for the selection of members of troikas for the 37th, 38th and 39th sessions of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group; she noted that the 37th session would take place from 18 to 29 January.

The following States and regional organization delivered general comments at the conclusion of today's meeting (in order): Cameroon, Burkina Faso (on behalf of the African Group), Nepal, the European Union, Indonesia, Peru, Switzerland, China, Uruguay, Argentina and the Philippines.

The following two non-governmental organizations also took the floor for general comments: Action Canada for Population and Development and the International Service for Human Rights.

Following the resumption of today's organisational session next Wednesday, 16 December, the Council will meet on 18 December to hear oral updates by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situations in Ukraine.


Media contact: Rolando Gómez, HRC Media Officer, OHCHR; +41 22 917 9711 or

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