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Concluding Remarks of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order

Distinguished Chair, Excellencies, hermanas y hermanos:

I thank the Delegations that have taken the floor and promise to consider your thoughtful comments in my final report to the Human Rights Council, to be presented, Deo volente, during its 37th session in March 2018.  Your comments will no doubt provide impulses to my successor, who shall be appointed at the same session of the Council.

Allow me now a few thoughts by way of farewell from the mandate and expression of gratitude to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.  This is an opportune moment to address a call to government lawyers – I know you are diplomats, but you still must rely on legal advice from your ministries … Indeed, government lawyers should cease acting like "escapist actors" and instead see their role as that of facilitators of enforcement of just laws both domestically and internationally. They should devote their efforts to translating international commitments into concrete action and crafting the necessary measures to comply with treaties and rules of international judicial bodies. Alas, many government lawyers mistake their vocation for that of defence lawyers, paid to get their guilty clients off the hook ... It is not their function to look for ways to dodge responsibility by concocting specious interpretations of the law, making bogus distinctions or inventing loopholes. Would it not be more sensible if lawyers would endeavour to make human rights law implementable -- and not constantly try to drill holes into the vessel of human dignity?

I wish to reaffirm my commitment to strengthening the Special procedures of the Human Rights Council, which have proven their worth over past decades.  As mandate holders we are required to be independent, this means always ready to listen to all stakeholders, keeping an open mind, conducting our research objectively and without ideological prejudices, consistent with the principle audiatur et altera pars, and impervious to pressures of self-censorship and political correctness. The essence of an independent expert is not merely his/her expertise—which must be considered a given—but the faculty of thinking inside and outside the box, while rigorously respecting the terms of reference laid down in the resolution establishing the mandate, and observing the code of conduct. While inevitably belonging to a certain cultural and educational background, the rapporteur must be able to jump over his own shadow and get at the facts.

Naming and shaming is not always the best strategy to remedy violations of human rights. Naming and shaming is doomed to failure when the party doing the naming lacks moral authority and has skeletons in the closet. A better strategy would be to persuade the targeted State that it is in its own interest to reform, for which advisory services and technical assistance should be provided by OHCHR.  Pointing fingers is not always useful.  Instead, quiet diplomacy and mediation through the good offices of the Secretary General would be more effective in advancing human rights and international solidarity.

More important is to help uncover the root causes of violations, such as endemic inequalities, the persistence of privilege and the culture of violence. Important too is the provision of recourse and redress for the victims. With this in mind, I have endeavoured to formulate recommendations that entail more than "band aids" and require paradigm changes. I frankly believe that a mandate holder must have the courage to break the silence about taboo topics. The rapporteur should give impulses and speak clear language, tear down pretences and double-standards. The rapporteur must not be the guardian of the status quo, a fig leaf for the international community, so that everybody pretends to have a good conscience and continue "business as usual".

Hence, let us rediscover the spirituality of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and revive the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Malik and Rene Cassin. We owe it to ourselves and future generations.  With God’s help we will build – together – a better world.

Pax vobiscum