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Statement by Her Excellency Ms. Nazhat Shameen Khan, President of the Human Rights Council, to the Third Committee of the General Assembly

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29 October 2021

New York, 29 October 2021

Mister Chair,
Excellencies,  
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to present the annual report of the Human Rights Council to the Third Committee.

The 15th cycle of the Council has been one of breaking boundaries and setting new standards. The Council has not only completed its mandated tasks, but it has led the way for other UN bodies, and those outside of the Organization, by showing great flexibility and innovation through the strengthening of its working methods to ensure there was no human rights protection gap in the time of global crisis. 

When in-person meetings were not possible, the Human Rights Council became the first UN intergovernmental body to take formal decisions in a fully virtual manner, first through a virtual roll-call voting approach, followed by the use of the ‘e-Recorded votes’ module on the e-deleGATE platform. Moreover, the use of the Zoom platform and the UN webcasting in the six official UN languages enabled the Council to hold all of its debates, dialogues and discussions in a mostly virtual format that closely resembled in-person meetings. 

The many achievements of the Council in 2021 testify not only to its flexibility in relation to working methods but also its responsiveness in addressing human rights issues and situations all over the world.

The Council sharpened its focus on the numerous rights challenges posed by COVID-19 by considering numerous reports, holding five panel discussions and adopting four resolutions  to further highlight the link between COVID-19 and human rights. The Council also served as a forum to receive and examine recommendations on how to ensure human rights are respected in the face of this devastating virus.

In addition, this year, the Council continued to promptly respond to emerging human rights emergencies. Indeed, the Council convened three special sessions to address the urgent human rights situations in Myanmar, the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, and Afghanistan.

The Council’s continuing ability to address urgent human rights emergencies is matched by its ability to continue addressing a wide range of human rights issues.

Indeed, through its three regular sessions, the Council adopted a total of 84 resolutions, decisions and President’s statements, many of which were cross-regional initiatives .

I will give just a few examples of the human rights issues the Council has considered this year.

In July, the Council established an international independent expert mechanism, comprising of three experts with law enforcement and human rights expertise, to drive transformative change for racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement globally.

And, just earlier this month, the Council adopted a resolution establishing a new mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, and a resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. These resolutions are the culmination of years of work and a result of strong political will and commitment to address a global environmental crisis and achieving environmental justice.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

In addition to its regular and special sessions, the Council also held two sessions of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and will be holding the third Working Group session of this year during the next two weeks, from 1 to 12 November. Like the Council’s regular sessions, the UPR Working Group sessions have benefited from virtual working methods, which has allowed for many States under review to be represented by high-level delegations participating from their capitals. 

I am pleased to report that this year the LDCs and SIDS Trust Fund supported the participation of a total of 19 delegates in the Council’s regular sessions. Passing yet another milestone, at its 46th session in March, the Council adopted a consensual decision with a record number of 160 UN member States sponsoring, calling for a high-level panel discussion to take place during the high-level segment next February, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Fund.

As a national of a small island developing state, I am deeply grateful to those who have contributed so generously to this important initiative, which allows delegates from around the world to participate in our meetings and take their unique experiences back home.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

The Council would not be complete without the invaluable role played by civil society. Their voices speak to the conscience of the Council and their contributions bring truth to power. This year alone, civil society representatives delivered over 900 statements and some 260 civil society organizations participated in our meetings throughout the year, sometimes at great risk to their own personal safety. It is imperative that we continue to remain inclusive and representative.  It is also imperative that we continue to build strong relations with civil society and ensure that we maintain a safe space for them.   To that aim, I am pleased to report that at its last session, the Council adopted by consensus for the first time a resolution on cooperation with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. 

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Friends and colleagues,

The work of the Human Rights Council is vital to the work carried out here in New York, and vice versa. We have seen many discussions transcend across the various UN bodies and forums, reinforcing the pillars upon which the United Nations is built – human rights, peace and security and development. It is therefore essential that we continue to strengthen our cooperation, to build more bridges, to listen to each other and work collectively towards achieving our common goal of guaranteeing human rights worldwide.

I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your comments and questions.


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