Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to make some concluding remarks as outgoing President.
At the outset, I wish to congratulate the newly elected President, H.E. Mr. Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina, and the members of the Bureau for the 16th cycle of the Human Rights Council. 2021 has been a year of both significant challenges and of important achievements. 2022 promises much of the same. You will be our pathfinders through the challenges ahead; this is an immense responsibility and we draw inspiration from your courage to step up to the bridge, take that wheel, and steer this ship; navigating through the storm that is the pandemic and any other storms which we may encounter. There is no doubt that your leadership will carry this Council forward and I offer you my full support in the year ahead. I wish you every success.
Nearly one year ago, you honoured me by entrusting me with the responsibility of taking the Chair of this august assembly. It was both an honour and a mission, but the task has not been an easy one and I sincerely hope that I was deserving of the faith you put in me.
As I reflect on the work we have done, the outcomes adopted, and the manner in which we have proceeded, I feel a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. Not as President, but collectively as the Human Rights Council. Our tireless efforts, our debates representing a rich diversity of views, and our willingness to continue these constructive discussions with a view to reach an understanding, even if not an agreement, is admirable. It gives credence to the importance of the work that we do here. At the office of the Presidency, we are ever inspired by the compromises struck by members of this Council in their efforts to move forward our important work. We are proud to have been a part of this and to have served the Council this year.
This year started with the pandemic and ends with the pandemic. We have had to retain the virtual format for our sessions and adopted extraordinary modalities to ensure that our work proceeded unhindered. It has been a complete year with the standard three regular sessions of the Council and the three UPR sessions. We have also had four special sessions. It has not been smooth sailing. We have all had our own share of frustrations with technology, I know my office has and I am certain many delegations here have, as well as the Secretariat. Nevertheless with those challenges, we have also witnessed an unprecedented level of participation and inclusivity with the use of remote communication. This has particularly been so with the Universal Periodic Review meetings.
If there is a lesson for us to take away, let that be resilience. Undoubtedly, we are a resilient Council. We thrived in 2021, and we should continue to thrive in 2022,and onwards. From my observation, two factors have enabled this resilience; firstly, flexibility and secondly, adaptability. Such is the story of the evolution of our modalities this year, where the flexibility and adaptability of this Council saw us emerge fully equipped to overcome the challenges and obstacles that came our way. We did it. We accomplished that. And we should be proud.
In terms of these challenges, perhaps an accounting of what we have overcome is in order. The pandemic ranks high on the list of challenges, as we adapted so too did the pandemic with different variants emerging throughout the year. Yet, the meetings of the Council continued. We also had technology challenges, the occasional “please unmute yourself”, the occasional “you are still muted” and finally, the “we can now hear you but we cannot see you”. Yet, the meetings of the Council continued, including for the first time, a new modality for virtual voting. As it should be, in the best spirit of multilateralism, we did our work with many opportunities to practice patience, empathy and constructiveness. I thank you all for demonstrating these qualities at a time when we needed your patience, your empathy and your constructiveness. Without you, your efforts and leadership, this year would not have been the success that it is.
I wish to thank you all. I thank you for your support and your encouragement. I thank you for your patience and cooperation.
I thank the members of the Bureau. The Ambassador of Bahamas, Keva Lorraine Bain, the Ambassador of Bulgaria, Yuri Borissov Sterk, the Ambassador of Sudan, Ali Ibn Abi Talib Abdelrahman Mahmoud, the Ambassador of Somalia, Ebyan Mahamed Salah, the former Ambassador of Netherlands, Monique T.G. Van Daalen, and the Ambassador of Netherlands, Paul Bekkers. It has been my great pleasure and honour to work with you. You have been the cross-regional pillars of support that held true and firm during a challenging year. I thank you and commend you for your exceptional work, dedication and service to this Council.
I would also like to thank the Regional Coordinators as well as the colleagues who served in the Consultative Group and the Working Group on Situations.
I further extend my appreciation and gratitude to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office for their unwavering support throughout this year. I thank the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council and the UPR, particularly Eric Tistounet and Gianni Magazzeni, and all of their staff – as well as the staff members of the Special Procedures Branch, for facilitating the efficient running of the Council and for carrying out their work with professionalism and dedication.
I also express my deep gratitude to the Director-General Tatiana Valovaya and the Division of Conference Management, whose conference officers, interpreters, translators, editors, technicians and other staff, have supported us in keeping the Council running throughout this year. I thank you especially for your flexibility and tireless efforts, in a year where almost nothing went according to plan and a great degree of accommodation was needed. Accommodation that you and the Division provided time and time again, without fail. I thank you.
I also wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Department of Public Information, the press officers, the photographers, the staff of United Nations Radio and Television. You play an important role in disseminating the important work of the Council beyond Geneva to the rest of the world. We expected your best work, and you have delivered exceptionally.
I am also grateful to the colleagues from the Security and Safety Service for their constant commitment in ensuring that the Council's proceedings take place in a safe environment. We appreciate your continued efforts to keep us safe, even as we sit today. We also appreciate the friendly and resounding “Bula vinaka” that some of you greet us with.
I also thank civil society representatives for their patience, flexibility and continued cooperation in the course of the year. As I have said on many occasions in the past, you are the conscience of this Council and I value your interventions and your voices.
I wish to acknowledge and thank our host country of Switzerland for its continued support for the work of the Council throughout the year.
Finally, I thank my staff in the Office of the President –Luke, Kristen, Pape and Robyn for their hard work and commitment to supporting my role, and the CDA of the Fiji Mission in Geneva Anare Leweniqila and his staff for the unfailing support of the Mission and of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Fiji. This has been the year of the first small island developing state and the first Pacific Island State to have the opportunity of leading the work of the Council. In that regard, this year’s presidency is a testament to the value of multilateral institutions and bodies for small states, and to the value and weight of their voices in the shaping of the decisions and direction of global diplomacy.
My dear friends,
The sun sets on the 15th cycle of the Human Rights Council but it is soon to rise again with the 16th cycle, with renewed energy and commitment, and with strong and visionary leadership.
I wish the next President and his Bureau every success in the year ahead. I wish this Council and you all, the very best.
It has truly been an honour.
Vinaka vaka levu
Thank you all.
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