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Collectively confronting our challenges through pragmatic action", Op-Ed, Universal Rights Group

H.E. Mr. Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council

22 February 2017

Since my election as President of the Human Rights Council, I have been immensely proud yet humble to be stepping into this esteemed position. I have served as an Ambassador for my country, El Salvador, for many years – thirty-three years to be exact. Throughout my many years of professional experience, I have witnessed first-hand how human rights play a prominent role in all aspects of our lives, and I have seen the positive effects of putting human rights first.

My country, like many, has faced some difficult times in recent years. In addressing challenges, the Government and the people of El Salvador have made human rights a priority in our efforts to overcome the difficulties. As a result, my country steadily grows stronger each day.

The current situation around the world, especially in terms of human rights, is deeply concerning, with thousands of people suffering injustices daily. Cases of violence, discrimination, inequality, and grave violations of human rights are affecting the lives of people around the world. These are problems that simply cannot be solved through domestic, or even regional, efforts, but rather those which require concerted efforts by the international community as a whole.  It is thus essential that our focus and our efforts remain steadfast on the preeminence of human rights in all circumstances.

The Human Rights Council is made up of member States and observers from all parts of the world, coming together to confront our common challenges, improve the human rights situation around the world and make a tangible impact on people’s lives.

The promotion and protection of human rights is the foundation of the work of the Human Rights Council, and as President of the Council, I am committed to the advancement of human rights around the world. That is why my mission during my Presidency will be to ensure the continued importance of human rights in a cooperative system where the primary interest for human rights prevails in any circumstance. My daily work will be guided by transparency and an open door policy, ready to listen to all, and I will also strive for consensus, by seeking inputs from all stakeholders.

My vision for the Council in 2017 has three main points of focus:

First, to strengthen the institutional integrity of the Council and enhance its visibility as the United Nations premier body on human rights and an essential part of the human rights pillar.

Second, to continue strengthening cooperation and dialogue between and among all stakeholders in the Human Rights Council while striving to reach consensus.

And third, to finish our programme of work for this year, while complying with Council’s institutional framework.

The troubling times in which we are living not only demand but deserve great attention and effort by the Council. Unfortunately, however, while the situation around the world leads to an increased workload not only in the Council but across the entire United Nations human rights system, resources being directed towards human rights are decreasing. When we speak about human rights, we do not speak about numbers but about people. And we will never achieve peace, security and development without ensuring the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. We thus cannot afford to allow the work of the Human Rights Council to be limited by lack of resources. This is why I am dedicating myself this year to working with all stakeholders of the Council to address the issue of resources, and I call on the international community to strengthen their support of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations human rights system as a whole.

As the primary United Nations body on human rights, the Human Rights Council stands as a beacon of hope for many around the world. This is a great responsibility, but one that we, the members and observers of the Council, have the duty to embrace and fulfill. To do this, pragmatic and thoughtful action is needed. As is constructive dialogue and genuine cooperation, not just between Member States, but between and among all stakeholders of the Council.

As the Human Rights Council enters into its eleventh year, it faces a myriad of challenges. But we cannot lose our optimism and drive. We must keep working to fulfil our mandate to promote and protect human rights, for the good of all humanity. And we must work collectively to address the challenges that we are facing. Through cooperation and dialogue, we can come up with the solutions together.