Opening of the 13th session of the Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, the principal UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights, opened its 13th session in Geneva on 1 March for a month of review and discussion on thematic and country specific human rights issues.

The Human Rights Council opened its longest regular session of the year - UN Photo/Pierre VirotThe session started with a High Level Segment where some 60 Member State ministers and heads of intergovernmental organizations will take the floor over a course of three days. The first discussion was dedicated to the impact on human rights of the global economic and financial crises.

The Human Rights Council already debated the financial and economic crises during a special session in February 2009 where it called upon States to “ensure that those at risk of being most affected by the global economic and financial crises are protected in a non-discriminatory way.”

In her statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that at that time, the global economy was on the verge of collapsing. Today, the outlook for the economy has changed.

“There is growing hope that the global economy is slowly recovering. Nonetheless, the full impact of the crisis on individuals, and in particular on human rights, is yet to unfold”, said the High Commissioner.

The discussion on the financial and economic crises aims to raise awareness of the centrality of the human rights dimension in the crises and ensure the Council’s sustained input to the international community’s debate and efforts to address and mitigate the impacts of the economic meltdown.

The UN Human Rights Chief stressed that “an urgent shift is needed, so that stimulus packages designed to rescue banks, financial institutions and large-scale employers go hand in hand with policies that directly address how individuals are being affected in their every day lives, in their access to employment and to essential social services such as education and health.”

She added that she firmly believes that “a human rights perspective brings tremendous value in building a sustainable recovery across the world.  Ensuring that the poor and the marginalized have access to basic services and social protection is a critical component of crisis responses”.

The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia also part of the panel discussion said that “We cannot consider there is a recovery without employment recovery and stable access to social protection”. He added that in the future, employment will have to become a key macro economic goal to come out of crises and that every society should have a basic social protection floor.

The views of the panel will be submitted to the Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly, which was mandated to follow-up on issues contained in the outcome document of the 2009 Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.

“I regard poverty as one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time”, the High Commissioner said. “Consequently, my Office strongly supports the integration of human rights into poverty reduction efforts that recognize the importance of protecting the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the poor as a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.”

The 13th session of the Human Rights Council takes place from 1-26 March at Palais des Nations in Geneva. More information is available on the webpage of the session, which is also webcast live.

2 March 2010