Statement by Václav Bálek, President of the Human Rights Council, to the Third Committee of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly
1 November 2023, United Nations Headquarters, New York
It’s a real pleasure to present to you the annual report of the Human Rights Council.
During the reporting period, the Council adopted a total of 154 resolutions, decisions and President’s statements. Among the adopted texts were a number of cross-regional initiatives, and 76 per-cent of all of the texts were adopted without a vote.
Among the thematic areas considered by the Council this year was the new topic of centrality of care and support from a human rights perspective. Another new theme discussed by the Council was the role of digital, media and information literacy in the promotion and enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Moreover, the Council established a new Working Group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.
The Council also advanced in the area of the right to development.
The promotion of human rights education as well as the right to education were also considered by the Council. A new resolution on ensuring quality education for peace and tolerance for every child was adopted, as was the resolution on the realization of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl.
I was also pleased to see the increased participation of children and youth in the Council this year.
The issue of climate change was also prominent in the Council’s work during the reporting period.
Concerning the 2030 Agenda, in January, the Council held its fifth intersessional meeting on human rights and the 2030 Agenda. And in April, it adopted a follow-up resolution.
The Human Rights Council also continued to respond to urgent issues around the world. In late November 2022, the Council convened a special session addressing the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And in May of this year, the Council convened a special session concerning the human rights impact of the ongoing conflict in the Sudan.
Moreover, during its 53rd session in July, the Council held an urgent debate “on the alarming rise in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred as manifested by the recurrent desecration of the Holy Qur’an in some European and other countries”.
The Council also considered a number of other situations throughout the year and extended 18 mandates of investigative mechanisms and country-specific special procedures.
New resolutions stemming from countries seeking technical assistance and capacity-building were also adopted.
For example, the Council requested OHCHR to support Haiti, Colombia and Honduras through capacity-building and technical assistance.
The Council additionally adopted a resolution presented by the Caribbean Community on the establishment of an OHCHR regional office for the Caribbean Community, hosted by the Bahamas, to undertake technical assistance and capacity-building activities.
I am also pleased to inform you that we have seen broad participation by the Council’s stakeholders throughout the year.
The Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund for LDCs and SIDS supported a total of 41 beneficiaries from 34 different countries, including 6 without permanent missions in Geneva, to participate in the Council’s regular sessions. And the LDCs/SIDS Trust Fund Fellowship Programme was relaunched in September. Let me seize this opportunity to thank all of the donors for their contributions.
Moreover, the Council continued its efforts to be more accessible to persons with disabilities and promote their full participation in its work.
Civil society continued to play a crucial role in bringing a wide range of voices to the Council by delivering over 2,400 oral statements and holding 227 side events. This participation is particularly empowering for the victims who share their personal experiences with us.
The Council continued to keep civil society high on its agenda by adopting without a vote its resolution on reprisals. Moreover, the Council adopted its resolution on civil society space and renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.
Regrettably, throughout the year I have received allegations of intimidations, threats and reprisals against individuals who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the Council and its mechanisms. I raised the allegations with the countries concerned and followed up on developments. We must ensure that the space for civil society's involvement remains truly safe, open and inclusive. In this regard, I reiterate my call on all States to take the necessary measures to prevent acts of intimidation and reprisal against NGOs cooperating with the Human Rights Council
I thank you kindly for your attention.