My priorities as the 18th President of the Human Rights Council
I am deeply honoured and humbled to have been elected by members of the Human Rights Council as the Council’s 18th President. Ever since its establishment in 2006, Morocco has been a staunch and active supporter of the Council. I am likewise a firm believer in the Council’s crucial mandate, as well as of our collective ability, as representatives of the Member States of the United Nations, to fulfil that mandate, and strengthen respect for, and the promotion and protection of, human rights around the world. It is clear to me that only the multilateral human rights system, led by the Council, has the potential to reach all people, in all countries, to help realise their fundamental human rights, and – ultimately – ensure they can enjoy futures free from fear and want.
I am aware that I take up the mantle of Council President at a challenging time for the international community. Yet, I am optimistic that if we hold to the principles that govern the work of the Council and the wider UN human rights system – universality, non-selectivity, equality of nations, dialogue, mutual-respect and mutual-understanding, and cooperation – then the Council will play a fundamental role in finding sustainable solutions.
I believe in the power of the Council to bring States together and to find common solutions that ultimately serve to benefit rights-holders around the world. And this belief will inform my priorities as President of the Council over this year.
- Foster dialogue, build bridges, and mitigate the impact of geopolitical tensions on the Council’s work
The tense contemporary geopolitical situation has the potential to act as a serious obstacle to deeper international cooperation on human rights. This adds to longstanding divergent views on some human rights concerns.
In some – though certainly not all – cases, divergences are caused by insufficient space for dialogue between delegations, especially ahead of sessions and especially, I would argue, at ambassadorial level. Indeed, this was one of the key conclusions reached by participants during October’s Council retreat in Prague.
As a key priority of my Presidency therefore, I intend to do all I can to expand opportunities for dialogue and consultation between States, across and between all political and regional groups, and to provide ‘good offices’ to bring delegations together (especially in advance of Council sessions), better understand one another’s views and positions, build trust, and – where possible – find common ground.
Addressing situations of human rights violations requires a greater focus on bringing together all parties concerned, including the concerned country and region, well in advance of open informal consultations on, for example, a draft resolution, or on the convening of a special session. It is my hope that by creating more space for informal dialogue and through the President’s ‘good offices,’ we can limit, as much as possible, the tabling of amendments and other procedural manoeuvres when the time comes to take action on relevant draft resolutions.
- Play a facilitating role in preventing human rights crises, by using ‘good offices’
With paragraph 5f of resolution 60/251, the General Assembly decided that the Council shall, inter alia, ‘contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies.’
Prevention is better, and cheaper, than the cure. During my time in office I therefore intend to work with the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the GA, and others, to explore what role the Presidency and its ‘good offices’ might play, in accordance with the mandate of the President as set out in the Council’s Institution-Building Package (resolution 5/1), in promoting dialogue and cooperation between all relevant parties, including the concerned State(s) and regional group, in order to prevent further human rights violations and/or a deepening of crises.
- Reflecting on and strengthening the Council’s efficiency and effectiveness
In March 2006, the General Assembly (GA) established the Council as a subsidiary organ of the GA and decided that ‘the Assembly shall review the status of the Council within five years.’ The GA also called upon the Council to ‘review its work and functioning five years after its establishment and report to the General Assembly.’
In March 2011, after the Council completed the requested review of its work and functioning, the GA decided to maintain the status of the Council as a subsidiary body. It further decided ‘to consider again the question of whether to maintain this status […] at a time no sooner than ten years [i.e. 2021] and no later than fifteen years [i.e. 2026].’
I consider that it is of crucial importance for ‘Geneva’ to contribute to and help inform the GA’s current review. After all, knowledge and expertise about the way the Council works and the obstacles being confronted reside in Geneva, and it makes little sense for a review of the Council to proceed without our input.
The years 2024 and 2025 will be critical in terms of formulating such a contribution. A flagship action of my Presidency will therefore be to launch an inclusive process of consultations, with the support of co-facilitators to collect and consolidate the views, proposals and voices of the members and observers of the Human Rights Council.
The Council could take this opportunity to undertake a ‘self-reflection’ exercise to consider how well it has been able, since 2006, to fulfil the various core parts of its mandate.
Such a self-reflection exercise would hopefully produce an important and constructive contribution to the GA’s review. It would also represent a useful exercise for the Council itself – helping us assess how efficient and effective we have been in fulfilling the mandate given to us by the GA, and, by extension, suggesting ways in which we might strengthen our efficiency and effectiveness in the future.
In addition to the foregoing, it is also my hope to pursue a number of other objectives during the course of 2024, namely:
- Develop outreach and strengthen cooperation with regional organisations, and regional human rights systems, to ensure that our work is complementary and mutually-reinforcing, strengthen our collective impact on-the-ground, reduce tensions in the Human Rights Council, and help build consensus on common human rights concerns.
- Maintain an inclusive and constructive dialogue with civil society, given the leading role it plays in the protection and promotion of human rights.
- Engage closely with journalists/media correspondents in Geneva and at international-level, and leverage social media, to enhance transparency, boost public interest in and awareness of the Council and its work, and bring the Council closer to the people it ultimately serves – rights-holders. This will be done in close coordination with the Council’s media team.
- Prioritise thematic issues of interest, in particular, the questions of food security and health security, and the impacts of climate change and of new technologies on the enjoyment of human rights (including, in the case of the latter, the issues of artificial intelligence and of the ‘digital divide’).
- As part of the aforementioned goal of improving dialogue and cooperation, and building trust, I will work to reduce divisions over terminologies as much as possible, including by improving understanding of different national and cultural contexts.
Based on these and other priorities, I look forward to working with everyone over the coming year to help build a Council that delivers for all stakeholders, and – most importantly – delivers for all rights-holders in all countries and regions of the world, in conformity with our common and very important mandate to promote, respect and guarantee human rights.
Photo credit: Ambassador Omar Zniber, President of the 18th cycle
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