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Taking stock of the Human Rights Council at 10

15 June 2016

The Council was established by the UN General Assembly in June 2006, with a mandate to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights across the world. It provides a multilateral forum to address human rights violations, themes and country situations, responds to human rights emergencies and makes recommendation on how to better implement human rights on the ground.

A decade later, the current and former council presidents were joined by members of civil society and a special rapporteur, in a round table discussion grading the job the Council has done in its ten years.

The event, which took place on the opening day of the Council’s 32nd session, was noted for its firsts: it was the first time that nearly all the former presidents of the human rights body attended a Council meeting and it was also the first time that all 193 Member States attended a Council session.

“Human rights builds societies in which people are able to make choices, develop opportunities, peacefully resolve disputes and resist threats with confidence and unity,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The Human Rights Council has set up unprecedented processes for scrutiny of human rights issues and situations.”

Zeid called on States, as well as NGOs to continue to affirm their commitments to human rights as well as their support for the Human Rights Council. He made his comments during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Human Rights Council.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore moderated the event. She asked the panel what kinds of marks would the Council receive on a report card of its first 10 years and what would they see as its successes and challenges.

The discussion was attended by eight of the former Council presidents :  Joachim Rücker, 9th president, Baudelaire Ndong Ella, 8th president, Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, 7th president, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, 6th president, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, 5th president,  Alex Van Meeuwen, 4th president, Martin Uhomoibhi, 3rd president, Doru Costea, 2nd president. The Council’s first president, Luis Alfonso de Alba Góngora made a statement via video message.

In addition to the presidents, panellists also included Laila Matar from Human Rights Watch and Catarina de Alburquerque, former Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Panellists characterised the Council’s impact in various ways, pointing out that while initiatives like the universal periodic review (UPR) and mandates like commissions of inquiries and special rapporteurs are great signs of success, there were still many challenges facing the council, including timeliness in decisions and the number of mandates and recommendations made at the end of sessions.

Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who as the then-President of the UN General Assembly attended the opening session of the Council, reminded States that their work on the Council continues as human rights problems grow in the face of political, social and economic instability. The Council has a number of tools at its disposal to use, including the embedding of human rights based approaches in all the work the UN undertakes.

“As we look forward to the next ten years and beyond, for the Council, let us continue to place the victims and the vulnerable at the heart of our efforts,” he said. “Let us place in the center of our policies, resource and actions the freedom, security and dignity for all men, women and children who want to see and deserve a better future.”

More information about the impact of the Council of the last ten years can be viewed on this film.  You watch view the full discussion on the anniversary on the webcast.

15 June 2016